5 internal contributions to anger

1-Self-esteem

People who try to be self-sufficient are easily frustrated and angered when they see evidence of their dependence on others. They get angry at themselves for needing others and they get angry at other people for “keeping” them in this weakness.

2-Desire for Power in Relationships

Some people feel threatened by the need to give up power in love relationships. For instance, a batterer may use anger to intimidate others in a quest for power. It’s a way to caution the abused person against using their own power. To avoid rousing their anger, spouses end up tiptoeing around the other to avoid confrontation because the price is too high to pay.

3-Desire to be Perfect

Unrealistic standards must be met for the person to feel worthwhile and accepted.

Whenever there is a perceived loss of perfection, the person becomes depressed (angry with themselves) for small failures. The student who gets a B-plus instead of an A, etc. These people also set up high standards for others to achieve and are quickly judgmental. They are hurt by others who do not join them in the quest for perfection. Even though they may be chronic confessors, but growth comes slow because they don’t want to accept their limitations.

4-Guilt

Unresolved guilt can lead to irritability. People have trouble admitting their faults.

5-Rejection

Rejection leaves people feeling hurt and worthless. When significant others disdain our contributions or act as if we are inferior and unimportant we bolster self-esteem by rejecting others ourselves, using the weapons of anger and hostility.  Since it does not heal the relationship or self-esteem, it is a temporary fix. 

Priming People to feel Powerful

You can prime people for power in a number of ways (according to a new book, “Friend and Foe”, by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer). You can get them to remember a time when they had power over other people. You get them to adopt a power posture—putting their hands on their hips or thrusting out their chests like gorillas (a technique developed by Dana Carney of the University of California, Berkeley). Or you can get them to listen to power anthems such as “In Da Club” by 50 Cent. This is a technique favoured by sports stars such as Serena Williams, a tennis player, who often wears headphones when she walks on court.

Making people more self-confident is good. But power also makes them more self-centered. In one study, researchers asked people to draw a capital “E” on their foreheads. People who had been power-primed were almost three times as likely to draw the E backwards—that is, from their own perspective rather than the perspective of onlookers—than those who had not.

Researchers asked people to roll a set of dice to determine the number of lottery tickets they would receive—a roll of two would earn two tickets—and then report the roll of their dice to the invigilator. People who were primed were more likely to over-report their scores. Finally, power turns people into hypocrites: not only are powerful people more likely to cheat, they are also more likely to condemn cheating or other forms of moral failure in other people.

The most important thing firms can do is to make sure they appoint somebody who can handle power. Messrs Galinsky and Schweitzer recommend a simple test: watch carefully how a prospective boss addresses powerless people such as security guards and waiters.

Bosses themselves need to recognise that power can be a poison as well as an aphrodisiac. They should spend as much of their spare time as possible with their families rather than hobnobbing with other powerful people. They ought to establish a relationship with a mentor who is licensed to speak to them frankly.

The Economist,  Sept. 5, 2015