Monday, 09 July 2012 08:03

Questioning Our Cultural Lifestyle Anger in People

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By realizing that anger is one of those things that all persons experience, we make haste to say that anger in itself doesn't have to dominate us without us complicating it. Anger happens to us all, but there are times when the anger or rage in people will certainly turn to be out of control. When anger goes too far, it frightens us, and then we start to look at ways to understand what specific anger is as well as how to manage our cultural lifestyle anger.

On my mind now is the word "anger" (iwe, onuma, ahu ufu, obi mgbawa, azuzu obi). What is anger all about, its meaning, its way, its showing, its use, its application, and its consequences? Were the Igbo of Nigeria right when they posit in their culture that anger is hell and close to evil and that a spirit of anger lives? Why is anger attributed to the devil, nmuo ojo – bad spirit? To what use is anger put? Gini na-ewe gi? (What is bothering you? Why are you angry? What is upsetting you?).

Apparently, one is upset when one is displaced from being calm, happy and cool to being in the opposite. We will not answer all of these questions raised here. But we will set out to reflect on anger and attempt to capture in a literal way what anger refers to as we experience it in our day to day lives and in the realities we face in our complex societies.

A child, adult and all persons irrespective of one’s age and sex-gender is prone to anger. Anger is a universal show and outcome of transitory mood from good to bad. In bad mood of the oneself, anger is a possession which takes over the one's thinking and acting or behaving. A child will display childish ways of angry experiences much like an adult will do in adult tendencies of getting upset. When angry takes possession of our sense of self and ratio, we tend to act irresponsibly most of the time and only to turn around and regret. People kill or get killed; hurt or get hurt, due to anger.

Once, I worked as a Team Supervisor in a company in human services field with a lady from Angola in Africa. Time came when I needed to issue a verbal warning to correct some shortcomings as described by the company policy to improve performance. First I set up a one-on-one meeting. When I tried to go through all the issues that have not been going well and asked what she can promise and do immediately to work on her weaknesses and terrible concerns, she came saying this: "Sir, I am so sorry I have to cause you and our team all this pain. Permit me not to say words now as I am likely to go weired if I do. Give me a week to calm myself down and get back to you. But again thank you for your time and understanding." I said, is it all you can say for the moment? She said, please let me hold to my needed calm now or I will misstep again. Still in anger but trying to hold off, we can see the force power of interior anger bursting into the exteriority of this lady person-self. Anger is not a remorse but a crude mannerism. It is an attitude symdrome. Anger is a disturbance, a frustration of its own type in a driven perculiar circumstances.   

So what do people do with anger? Leaders of all categories have used anger as a way to approach political decisions and implementations. Choices have also been made and assigned to development by way of anger. When people generally feel they are ignored, anger is demonstrated or applied to win attention. Public demonstration, for example is described as ngaghari nke iwe in Igbo parlance. And it makes sense in capturing the idea of anger and why it is a part of our acute emotional drives for social transaction.   

According to Drs. Les Carter and Frank Minirth (1992), when most people think of anger, they picture a person in a rage. Slamming doors, yelling, communicating harshly, swearing, abusing, insulting, throwing objects, hitting, and so on are points of interest in this. But anger is not that one dimensional - emotional and physical transaction. Anger is multifaceted. It can be found in any temperament and need not be stereotyped. Anyone can show anger since it is wired in our homonal beings to measure our state of calm and provocation.  Thus, anger is an emotion, a feeling, and it is usually short-lived or long-lived. Mostly Anger has levels - rise in anger, decline in anger and fall down in anger degrees. Each stage or level should be watched and relative responses offered to tame the accompanying implications.

One thing critical about anger and being angry is that some people like to get angry, and enjoy being angry. These are people who would not like to bring their anger under control. It matters to these people to get angry. Being angry and not positively responding to cues to control it will surely enable them to manipulate others.

I want you to know that angry people who refuse to yield to anger management steps have the ability to not only manipulate, but also intimidate, use power, and create emotional distance as has been argued by Dr. Les Carter. An unhealthy anger approach seeks to control others, and not necessarily express our own feelings. Anyone who chooses to live a life of anger is choosing to do so. It is likely to be a lifestyle choice made and held onto to get around people and things. But when anger is deemed excessive and risky among some people, we begin to talk of psycyiatric dangers and risks. Safety and security for the angry person, and indeed, all those around the disturbed person become an issue. Frustration is therefore a common challenge that we need to be schooled in. Hopefully, this small discussion is providing a baseline insight. 

It continues to be interesting in anyway one will turn it to get poised to say what anger is all about! Also one will continue to try to situate that anger in us, you and me is part of our being human. At the same time, one further question begging for an answer is to understand why people get angry as well as how anger is a function of human need. Think so, anger is a way to let out and communicate our needs, to get attention, engage in manipulation and power struggle. Overall, anger shoots out a moment to ask what is going? And it is critical at that moment to get mastered in the field of anger that we live with. Anger as we will always allude to it pertains to our hurts and what getting angry entails in the context of living and relating. Have you ever been angry and you subsequently turn around to say, no, not anymore? Such a situation can be challenging not only that it will help us understand the pains of anger but also to continue to explain what is anger as well as attempt to read some critical meaning into the concerns and consequences of anger.

Systematically, Dr. Les Carter said that “when a person is angry, the person is saying, “Notice me, notice my needs!” In that way, the angry person is telling something. He or she is, perhaps, and I do agree, indicating that the one in angry state, the one taken over by anger is different from us and is bothered by something we need to capture and respond to. Anger that draws a person to be different suggests that a call, a request, an invitation for help, to get a measure of understanding and treated with dignity and respect is in a territorial psychological pulsation and place. What this means is that one with anger is distanced from, spoken to calmly or jumped back in anger to notice and tamper with what is going on.

By and large I want to strongly point out that a person who is emotionally upset can do one of two things or do more of both things at the same time, including becoming even more upset. In other words, the following state of anxiety and vexation will occur.

1. An upset person can become more upset – rise higher in thick shame to show off, get in dislodge, perturbation, and indeed, get madder.

2. The second thing that follows is increased verbal aggression, verbal attack, swearing and hauling of soul and body tormenting insults.

3. Thirdly, we will notice a serious physical aggression that comes along with aggressive verbalism.

All that said, these instances manifest in response to the aggrieved and angry person’s internal or external environmental conditions. Anger is therefore a function of relating to personal, environmental and maddening circumstances of our realities, being and existence.

Anger turns an angry individual to stand up for oneself. By standing up, the individual may or may not be able to explain the whole lot going on. But the individual is certainly raising alarm for those who are observing and involved to take quick recognition that something needs to be addressed, changed and conditioned better. It is important to state at this point that anger is neither good nor bad – and both situations are appraised on how people try to use their anger that may make anger get charged out to look negative or positive. It is a language of communication in itself. That is why, again, Dr. Carter argues that “in its pure form, anger is an emotional signal that tells a person something needs to be changed.”

Anger and angry moments show how something going on about the angry person and ourselves as family members, colleagues, support workers, friends and lovers is displayed for attention. Since anger is loaded with emotional force, opportunity to enable the venting out of anger should be imperative.

To manage anger for oneself and for another, it involves learning how to manage oneself as the most important part of communicating and taking control. What this signifies is that we cannot control others or help others come along the road of positive behaviour, change and continuity if we are not prepared with the right attitudes, skills and resources to respond effectively.

All of us have difficulty controlling behaviours of concern that touch our lives. I discern that the importance of understanding the true nature and process of anger as a medium of communication is obvious. As such, what do you do when you are angry? What do you communicate through anger? What helps you to calm down after an angry experience – when your need or trigger of your anger is met or unmet?

To be continued.

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Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.