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Thursday, June 17, 2010

T3 - Five Payoffs of Anger...Or Not

Why does your character holds on to his or her anger?

There are several reasons, so as you read through, try to pinpoint the ultimate motivation behind your character's.

1) Anger reduces stress. Everyone has stress, and no one person's stress is the same. But everyone's stress creates a physiological arousal in the body that is felt as tension. The more stress the person has, the more tension.

The payoff is that a person can blow up and ease this tension temporarily. It's like they feel oddly relaxed, or that they can breath easier. Popping your top can be very reinforcing because the person can just take a break from everything that overwhelms them. Of course, the tension returns, and usually greater than it was before, which is why getting angry as a coping mechanism is ineffective.

2) Anger hides emotional pain. I did a post here on how anger is a secondary emotion. When a person gets angry, the payoff is not having to deal with that primary emotion, whether it's fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or jealousy.

The problem with this payoff is that the primary feeling will get worse when it's not dealt with. This means that a person will have to get angrier and angrier to eclipse that emotion. Using anger in this way also becomes habitual, and even the slightest hurt or criticism can set a person off. (For example, you're a little worried/paranoid about your partner not being as into you as you hoped. When you see the partner smile at another person while waiting in line at the grocery store, you pop your lid.)

3) Anger gets your attention. You can blow off steam by yelling and screaming, and some people will sit up and take notice. They might get alarmed and try to calm you down. But not everyone responds to angry people that way. Many will tune out a person an a tirade, or they will get defensive, start avoiding you, or hold a grudge against you. Plus, the people who do respond eventually become seasoned and hardened to the angry person. When at first they were alarmed and listening, later they get disgusted and resentful.

4) Anger can be used for punishment and revenge. When we're hurt or let down, it's human nature to want to inflict as good as we get. So we carefully plan out our revenge or we boil over unexpectedly in the moment, and it feels good. But the problem with acting on this impulse is that you make enemies...usually out of the very people you love the most, because so often it's those we care about who hurt us the most.

5) Anger helps you manipulate others. Anger can be used to extort things from others. The fear of a blow up can coerce someone into complying with a demand (often used by abusers). In the long run, these people will usually turn away from the angry person, because who wants to be controlled by fear?

What's not so often understood is that the angry person is in pain and is placing the responsibility to change that painful situation outside of themselves. This can leave the angry person feeling helpless when others don't "fix" their problems, which can lead to depression.

So why does your character revert to indulging in their anger? Is it one of these 5 reasons, or something else? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wordle: signature


Karen Lange said...

Hmm, good food for thought! I need to consider my characters in light of this.
Thanks and blessings,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. It's really hard to get into the head of an 'angry' character if I'm not myself angry. This is a great reference. :-)

- Corra

the victorian heroine

Linda Glaz said...

I have a character right now that shows this anger so he won't have to get close to anyone. Nice article...

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.