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Subject:  Re: On Anger Date:  2/19/2007  10:38 PM
Author:  GusSmed Number:  2483 of 116931

Anger is just your body telling you there is something you don't yet understand.

I really don't agree with this. I think it completely mischaracterizes what anger is about.

Anger is your hindbrain getting you ready for aggressive behavior. Fighting, dominance displays, and negative reinforcement.

Lots of things provoke it. Fear and injury are often a common sources, because they trigger basic fight-or-flight behavior. If you're a plains ape dealing with a dangerous predator, a burst of anger and the accompanying adrenalin can be the difference between life and death.

More common in today's world is emotional injury. Being lied to often generates anger. Being betrayed by a spouse is another stereotypical source of anger. If the person doing the injuring is simply being callous or dishonest, understanding doesn't particularly help the anger.

When your child does something dangerous and life-threatening, it's common to get very angry after the danger has passed. The anger and dominance display that follows greatly magnifies the impact of the "don't do that" lecture. Your child may not really know why playing in the street is dangerous, but she'll certainly grasp right away that it makes you angry and upset.

To take your specific example, I doubt your daughter understands why you don't want her coloring on the door. She doesn't really have the mental tools to grasp that yet. But I'm sure she understands that it made you angry, and your anger is something she doesn't want.

Not that I'm particularly recommending anger as a parenting method, but that's why it's there. It's functional.

Misunderstanding can lead to anger, but it's not the misunderstanding that causes the anger directly. Rather, it's the injury or threat that causes the anger. The injury isn't real, but it is the proximal cause, not the misunderstanding that led to the perceived injury.

- Gus
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