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What Makes Us Angry?

I’ve been working with clients to help them identify what makes them angry in order to reduce emotional eating. I don’t mean why specifically—becoming angry when a spouse is late for dinner or getting mad because a friend blabs a secret shared in confidence. I mean recognizing that reasons for anger fall into broad categories and knowing which ones trigger you in order to avoid emotional eating. (“Parenting: helping kids manage relationships” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 11/26/18, accessed 11/28/18).

According to Stahlmann and Hagaman, we get angry for five reasons (they provide no source for them). Let’s look at how anger might be dealt with appropriately for each one.

  1. Pain: When we’re physically uncomfortable, we’re vulnerable to feeling irritated.

Hence the term “hangry” (hungry plus angry). When we’re tired, we set ourselves up for life getting on our nerves and for being reactive. And, certainly if we have physical pain or discomfort, a small thing can set us off. The antidote is to watch your hunger and fatigue levels and try to reduce pain as much as possible to lessen vulnerability.

  1. Interruption: It makes sense that when we’re engrossed in doing something,

especially if it’s important, that we might become annoyed at having our focus broken. The key in this situation is to set clear, firm boundaries about interruptions as well as to assess the importance of it versus that of what you’re doing. Finishing a report on deadline is different than playing a computer game. Alternately, some interruptions are more important than others.   

  1. Expectations: When people fail to meet our expectations our disappointed might get

channeled into anger. The larger the gap between what we hoped for and what we received, the more anger we might experience. If someone disappointments you repeatedly, anger is justified, but disappointment and anger also can come from setting expectations too high and unrealistically.

  1. Injustice: Feeling angry when we believe that we’ve been treated unfairly may be an

innate, appropriate response for self-protection and survival. However, though we ardently insist we’ve been treated unfairly, it may not be true. Some folks personalize every wrong and walk around with a permanent sense of injustice, seeing it everywhere.

  1. Fear: We may not realize that underneath our anger we’re frightened which is an

automatic response to an immediate threat of physical or emotional danger. But fear may also come from unconsciously reacting to similar situations when we had reason to be scared but don’t need to be now. Just because we feel fear, doesn’t mean we need to. Fearful people may be more prone to anger and need to monitor this reaction.



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