The main difference they identified was that men felt less effective when forced to contain their anger, while women seemed better able to control immediate impulsive responses to anger. Some have suggested that these gender differences are rooted in underlying differences in brain biology. One study, by Ruben and Raquel Gur , a husband and wife team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that while the amygdala is a similar size in men and women, a second region, called the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in controlling aggressive impulses, is much larger in women.
They suggested this could help explain why women seem to be better at keeping the lid on explosive outbursts. The jury is still out on the extent to which brain biology explains gender differences in terms of anger, but also other behaviours, and there is also compelling evidence that societal expectations play a part.
They also often lack the language skills to explain what they want. So missteps as trivial as slicing a piece of toast incorrectly can trigger a nuclear intensity meltdown. For parents, tantrums are a source of utter dread.
But Michael Potegal, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota , decided to treat them as natural phenomena, rather like thunderstorms or volcanic eruptions, that could be analysed and understood. Potegal and colleagues recorded toddlers in their everyday lives, capturing the audio of more than a hundred tantrums.
They found that tantrums followed a predictable trajectory that could be boiled down to a combination of two emotions: anger screaming, yelling, throwing things and sadness crying, whining, lying on the floor. Sad sounds were found to be a constant undercurrent throughout the tantrum, while anger tended to build up to a peak and then vanish, the researchers found. The trick to ending a tantrum, the scientists concluded, is to get the child over the anger peak as quickly as possible and the trick to that was Even intervening to ask what was wrong appeared to prolong the process.
Our response to angry feelings depends on finely balanced communication between several brain regions.
It makes these feelings more manifest and the way of expressing it can become really impulsive. Passamonti said this is likely to be a mixture of losing the ability to inhibit automatic responses to frustration, but also finding it harder to contextualise emotions and understand why you are feeling a certain way. The way we process angry feelings also contributes to our mental wellbeing.
Passamonti said that in some people, high levels of inhibition — an unusually active frontal cortex — can prevent expressions of anger, but result in people feeling depressed. Finally, life experience also shapes the way people experience anger. But they were less likely to trust people, even when they had behaved generously.
That constant feeling of threat means anger and aggression can be triggered far more easily. In the future, Baskin-Sommers said, interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy could help people overcome early life experiences such as exposure to violence. Anger: a user's guide. When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms.
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She is met with aversion, perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent, and unlikable — the kiss of death for a class of people expected to maintain social connections. The same people who might opt to work for an angry-sounding, aggressive man are likely to be less tolerant of the same behavior if the boss were a woman. When a man becomes angry in an argument or debate, people are more likely to abandon their own positions and defer to his.
For some of us, considered angry by nature and default, the risks of asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, or speaking out in support of issues that are important to us can be significant. For men, anger is far more likely to be power enhancing. A sk yourself why a society would deny girls and women, from cradle to grave, the right to feel, express, and leverage anger and to be respected when we do?
Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder.
Six ways to make anger work for you
It bridges the divide between what is and what ought to be, between a difficult past and an improved possibility. Anger warns us viscerally of violation, threat, and insult.
Is it healthy? Does it enable us to protect our interests, bring change to struggling communities, or upend failing systems? Mainly, it props up a profoundly corrupt status quo. As women, we often have to bite our tongues, eat our words, and swallow our pride.
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Where we might, for example, throw plates. I had the distinct sensation of being alien to myself — which was ironic, since the real inauthenticity was in my denying anger, not my recognizing it. Now I write and write and write. I write my rage onto paper and into bits and bytes. I write anger out of my head and my body and put it out in the world, where, frankly, it belongs. This can cause deep discomfort in the people around me, and at times it has brought personal or professional costs.
But it also leads to richer and more productive experiences, relationships, and life outcomes. This response to women expressing anger happens on larger and larger scales: in schools, places of worship, the workplace, and politics. Women around the world are clearly angry and acting on that emotion. There is real urgency behind these questions. We are living in what feels like an age of pronounced rage and near-constant outrage. Then the survey from the aggrieved wife arrived. Other replies soon began flooding his mailbox, so many that Averill had trouble reading them all.
They were so pleased to talk about being angry. But how dare he show her the new car first? Other respondents described more mundane arguments, over who ought to take out the trash, or curfews for teenagers, or snappish tones at the dinner table. People were eager to talk about their daily indignations, in part because they felt angry so frequently.
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Most surprising of all, these angry episodes typically took the form of short and restrained conversations. They rarely became blowout fights. Instead, they tended to make bad situations much, much better. They resolved, rather than exacerbated, tensions. When an angry teenager shouted about his curfew, his parents agreed to modifications—as long as the teen promised to improve his grades.
People reported that they tended to be much happier after yelling at an offending party. They felt relieved, more optimistic about the future, more energized. Even the targets of those outbursts agreed that the shouting and recriminations had helped. They served as signals for the wrongdoers to listen more carefully and change their ways.
Anger, Averill concluded, is one of the densest forms of communication. It conveys more information, more quickly, than almost any other type of emotion. And it does an excellent job of forcing us to listen to and confront problems we might otherwise avoid. Subsequent studies have found other benefits as well. Anger motivates us to undertake difficult tasks.
In the years after his survey, Averill watched as anger studies became the focus of academic specialties and prestigious journals.
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