Doest Thou Well to Be Angry?

“Doest thou well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4).  The following information presents historical, philosophical, spiritual, and scientific information about the negative passion that leads to hurt feelings, arguments, and violence. The negative emotion influences everyone, everywhere. Understanding today’s learning about the topic is the beginning of self-control which is discussed in another article.

Today’s definition of the word by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “Having a strong feeling of or showing annoyance, displeasure, or hostility; a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism or belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.”


Men sought to understand anger from their beginnings but do not seem to agree on its value, source, or “cure”. Early Gods of Greece and Rome displayed anger and revenge. The reactions to negative situations often caused trouble for humans. Other basic beliefs follow-

>Early Gods of Greece and Rome displayed anger and revenge. The reactions to negative situations often caused trouble for humans. Other basic beliefs follow:

>Islam defines anger as coming from Satan or Shaitan. Selfishness, arrogance, and ambition are factors leading to anger. Suppression of anger is considered a worthy action. Controlling one’s anger is thought to help regulate other emotions like jealousy, envy, and pride. Common Islamic quotes include: “A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves a thousand moments of regret” and “Anger begins with madness, and ends in regret.” 

>Buddhists view anger as an exaggeration of aversion. Anger is thought to be a destructive emotion as are greed, hatred, and delusion. Anger brings confusion and misery. Buddha considered anger self-defeating. The religion urges people to identify anger and its source. By transforming one’s thoughts, anger is cured.

>The Hindu religion equates anger with sorrow. Some object prevents an individual from gratification. Anger is considered more evil than desire. Anger from frustration is commonly addressed. For instance, a materialistic view of life is blocked by the ineffectiveness of a person’s strategies. The individual ends up frustrated and angry.

>Andrew Lester presented a different approach to anger when he said, Anger can be “a spiritual friend, a spiritual guide, and a spiritual ally.” Protestants believe that God is worshiped through honest expressions of anger to God. The old testament provides examples of man’s anger with God. Jonah, Moses, Naomi, Eilijah, and Jeremiah expressed their anger.

>Catholics believe wrath is a deadly sin and yet anger is listed as a passion which is neither good nor evil. Some Christian writers support anger against injustice as righteous. In Judaism anger is a negative trait. “Who is strong? He who subdues his evil inclination.”

>Early philosophers were not concerned with the suppression of anger or with gender differences. Albert Ellis, a modern writer suggests beliefs about anger relate to meanings of “transgression”. Modern writers do not differentiate between gender approaches to anger.

>The scriptures frequently discuss anger: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 16:32 

“A gift in secret pacifieth anger, Prov. 21:14.

“Make no friendship with an angry man, Prov. 22:24.

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, Prov. 27:4.

“Anger resteth in the bosom of fools, Eccl. 7:9.

“Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, Col. 3:8

The definition of anger may not be as important as 1. Avoiding angry feelings, 2. Stopping or blocking the feeling, or 3. Dealing with others who are angry.  

Seneca, a Roman, was an early writer on the topic. He suggested avoiding angry people, controlling one’s speech, becoming reluctant to believe negative statements, putting yourself in the shoes of others, and staying calm when dealing with angry people. Children should be taught early in life how to deal with personal anger.

Biologists state that anger is a primitive emotion even animals experience. They believe anger is a “hard-wired” emotion meant to help avoid threatening situations. At times there is a mismatch between what we expect and reality. The brain’s reward circuit sounds an alarm and activity is triggered in a small almond-shaped organ called the amygdala. Anger triggers the fight or flight response. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline, and testosterone in preparation for physical aggression. The prefrontal cortex then weighs the advantages and disadvantages of perceptions before making plans and decisions.The definition of anger may not be as important as 1. Avoiding angry feelings, 2. Stopping or blocking the feeling, or 3. Dealing with others who are angry.

How we feel alters our risk management. Anger influences risk taking and impulse control. Seeing or hearing angry people sways judgement of others. People who state they are angry are often judged as more successful.  The reason for the perception is not yet understood.

Could people think of anger as an expensive emotional choice? In other words, do people think that only individuals who are popular, rich, and pleasing have enough resources to not be damaged by anger? Do self-assessment end in judgments of emotional poverty? Are people afraid they do not have the power to express negative feelings without retribution? Angry people are short sighted, unpleasant, and unattractive according to research. What constitutes the cursory judgment of anger and success? Research is needed.

Research indicates women and men experience anger equally but demonstrate it differently. Women report feeling less effective when demonstrating anger than men do. Men hate controlling their anger. Ruben and Raquel Ger found that the orbital frontal cortex is larger in women than in men perhaps explaining why women are less explosive than men. Society seems to be the main influence on tantrums and melt-downs. 

Toddlers experience two main emotions during a tantrum. Anger-by screaming, yelling and throwing things, and sadness-through crying, whining, lying on the floor. Management of children’s anger improved by doing nothing. The child passes the anger crisis quicker than when adults intervene.

Degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia, result in damage to the brain’s frontal regions. This inhibits instinctive responses to frustration and anger. Other neural breakdowns between frontal regions and the amygdala can play a different role in anger management. 

Luca Passamonti, a  University of Cambridge neurologist and researcher said: “On average we know that people with frontotemporal dementia will become more aggressive, angrier, grumpier. The feelings become more manifest and the expression becomes impulsive.” He reasoned this was due to a mixture of losing the ability to inhibit automatic responses to frustration and difficulty in contextualizing emotions or understanding the source of feelings. He found people with high inhibition abilities could control their feelings but often felt depressed by their actions.

Baskin-Sommers finds that romanticizing anger and aggression increases its frequency. Children who experienced violent trauma at young ages were less likely to trust people. Children always felt on edge and were unable to navigate the social world. These conclusions relate to media presentations of horror, crime, violence and aggression. News and entertainment thus enhance angry expressions.

Cognitive neuroscience states reactive aggression is triggered by a frustrating or threatening event and involves unplanned, enraged attacks on the object perceived to be the source of the threat/ frustration.

Individuals placed within threatening environments exhibit higher levels of anger and irritability.

There are data indicating an increased risk for reactive aggression in patients with post traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, anger and rage are prevalent emotions in individuals experiencing post traumatic stress disorder, so prevalent that they are considered part of the clinical description of the disorder.

Data suggests that patients with borderline personality disorder show elevated amygdala responses to threat related cues . a predisposition to anger has been positively associated with an increased amygdala response to masked fearful expressions and even the presentation of the word “no.





The brain has several centers to mediate anger. Orbital, medial and ventrolateral frontal cortex areas help regulate responses to threat. The systems may work together. The regions send connections to the amygdala to suppress the emotional response to threat and anger response. If these centers are overcome by anger signals, individuals feel out of control and sense a reduced efficiency in dealing with anger.  People can present with symptoms of “acquired sociopathy” and the inability to regulate emotions.

Even psychopathy is related to these sections of the brain. The risks for increased or hypersensitivity to frustration based anger and reactive aggression produce hyper-responsiveness. Basic threats do not trigger their responses. Research indicates the amygdala is flawed. (aversive conditioning, passive avoidance learning, hyper startle reflex, hyper reactions to fearful faces. Reduced amygdala responses are symptoms of psychopathy not increased threat responses. Psychopathy can be defined as increased risk for reactive aggression based on frustration or threats but there is not yet significant research to determine the cause. 

Not receiving a reward expectation produces anger. People with psychopathy do not learn new reward contingencies well. For instance, if a child expects that candy is given for a certain action, he will react with anger when the rules change to a different reward or the stopping of the candy for any reason. This also reduces trust levels. Individuals respond with reactive aggression. The ability to function in a changing situation is impaired and produces danger to others.  Work with monkeys and humans show impaired behavior extinction and reversal learning. The various areas of the frontal cortex are involved with rewards and expectation. Lesions in these areas demonstrate impairments in predicting change of reward or conditions for reward. People appear more impulsive because of the impairments. They are more frustrated because of their inabilities to manage change in reward or the rules for reward. They are less likely to make decisions that will achieve their goals successfully.

“Individuals who are particularly prone to frustration/ anger show increased responses following the omission of reward within dorsolemedial, lateral and inferior frontal cortices. These areas are important for orchestrating immediate changes in behavioral response. This might suggest that activity within these regions relates to experienced anger.


In short, anger appears when there were 1) previous threat, violence, and anger experiences; 2) deficiencies in the amygdala, frontal cortex systems, or hypothalamus and periaqueductal gray areas of the brain 3) frustration triggers anger 4) when people act unexpectedly or a social situation turns out unexpectedly. 


Each of these conditions impacts child-rearing and societal consequences for using anger and violence in child rearing.

Parents find their bodies respond anger feelings with a racing heart beat, increased blood pressure and increased adrenaline levels. This is preparation for the fight or flight response. The body is prepared to: suck more oxygen into the blood system, increase/improve physical reactions for a short time, and enable short bursts of “fight or flight”.

Anger is never supportive of the body or mind over long periods of time. Anger is harmful to health and cannot be used frequently or for extended periods. The anger response is an involuntary reaction. The body cannot discern whether there is a threat of danger or a pondering of something that already occurred. Anger produces bodily reactions that are harmful to individuals.

Emotions causes immediate and profound physical changes.  The autonomous nervous system, controls the cardiovascular and endocrine systems. The brain is also impacted. Emotions activate the frontal and temporal lobes. The liver releases cholesterol into the blood stream. This means a frequently angered person is at risk for sudden heart attack and stroke due to long term self abuse. Stress chemicals are released and the physical reactions are set for emergency response; not for contemplation, problem-solving, service, etc.

Scientists suggest the left frontal region of the brain is involved in experiencing positive emotions, whilst the right is more related to negative emotions. The left frontal region is involved in experiencing emotions related to closeness, whilst the right is associated with the emotions that provoke withdrawal. The positive emotions, like happiness, are usually associated to a motivation of closeness, and the negative ones, like fear and sadness, are characterized by a motivation of withdrawal. 


The studies show the brain responds to thoughts and releases chemicals to influence the body according to its thoughts. For this reason, early abuse (pre-natal and first years) impact the health and well-being of children. Children can experience PTSD, sociopathy and psychopathy based on early experiences. 

Anger is Like Drinking Poison so that Someone Else Will Die.

“Anger is like drinking poison so that someone else will die.” Forgiveness, or the changing of one’s mindset from anger to release of negativity is the cure for anger.  Forgiveness benefits only the hurt and angry person-not the instigator, the enemy, or the perpetrator.  People who hang on to angry feelings are killing themselves and not others. Since the body cannot determine when the hurt occurred but just activate the fight or flight system, one can die from a grudge 30 years post injury.



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