Anger is a natural and mostly automatic response to pain of one form or another (physical or emotional). Anger can occur when people don’t feel well, feel rejected, feel threatened, or experience some loss. The type of pain does not matter; the important thing is that the pain experienced is unpleasant. Because anger never occurs in isolation but rather is unnecessarily preceded by pain feelings. it is often characterized by a ‘second-hand’ emotion. 

Pain alone is not enough to cause anger. Anger occurs when pain is combined with some anger-triggering thought. Thoughts that can trigger anger include personal assessments, assumptions, evaluations, or interpretations of situations that makes people think that someone else is attempting (consciously or not) to hurt them.

In this sense, anger is a social emotion. You always have a target that your anger is directed against (even if that target is yourself). Feelings of pain, combined with anger-triggering thoughts motivate you to take action, face threats and defend yourself by lashing out against the target you think is causing you pain. For in the moment we’re driven by a deeply felt need to hurt the other back. Our efforts are geared toward fighting back, to safeguard ourselves from any additional pain they might inflict on us.

When we’re distraught, we should not let our emotions get the better of us as it shows we really haven’t evolved much beyond childhood. Just like kids unable to count the cost of their acting-out behaviours, our own pained reactions prompt us to respond to the one who hurt us in ways likely only to further harm the relationship. When you feel angry, think about the consequences. To deal with anger, you actually need to stop and deal with it because such a strong emotion is one of the  biggest enemies of self-control. 

Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D.

Riya Jadhav



IRIANS – The Neuroscience Institute


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