Anger and aggression are not the same, but aggressive people have core anger

While normally quiet, well-adjusted, people can behave aggressively if sufficiently provoked, aggression can be expected from those with toxic anger. It is also part of domestic violence. In the criminal world aggression is used inspire fear. Even the elderly are not spared in violent burglaries and the results are seen in the wounds and bruises of these unfortunate victims. Researchers call this instrumental aggression as against emotional aggression, and some suggest that such violence can be done without anger. Perhaps so, but there is little doubt that such criminals are by and large angry people. We sometimes read about families being held prisoner as a way of robbing an institution. These tiger kidnappings are well planned and seem cold and calculated without any anger. We can portray them as motivated by greed for money and a determination to get it, but I have little doubt that these perpetrators are angry individuals, because they show little compassion in their behaviour and are willing to hurt and terrify others. We may not always see the anger in such criminals, but, surely it would be a contradiction for a non-angry person to deliberately inflict pain on another, even under serious provocation. If we look at people who behave in a criminal and violent way, and if we look at their background we will generally see the seeds from which the anger and the aggression were bred. Childhood!
Frequently, prior to the aggressive act of injuring another the culprit indulges in verbal aggression or loud threats. Emotional aggression is a different subtype and can also be part of the criminal outlook. It normally occurs when anger reaches such a level that the individual will react aggressively, irrespective of the cost in terms of prosecution. Again, some researchers suggest that this subtype can occur without anger, and may be perpetrated from boredom or for a thrill or from a sense of adventure. My belief is that aggression is always cushioned in anger.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Chronic (continuous and long standing) anger damages your physical as well as mental healh

It is easy to see that anger can degenerate into hatred. There is no satisfactory explanation of the difference between anger and hatred. Hatred is depicted as an intense, long lasting and overwhelming anger. Some researchers maintain that anger does not last as long as hatred, but chronic anger lasts for a lifetime and may never degenerate into hatred. Neurobiologists have discovered that part of the hate neuro-circuit is connected to aggression and the desire to destroy. This is clearly an unwanted and dangerous trait, and applies as much to women as to men, although aggression by males is generally more lethal. Psychologists tend to differentiate between anger and aggression. Some argue that aggression is a behaviour in response to anger. Research shows that anger is only followed by aggression about ten percent of the time. It is probably more true to say that being really angry brings on thoughts of aggression and violence, but that these thoughts are not generally followed through. One of the similarities between toxic anger and aggression is that they exclude empathy, which has been stifled at a very young age through neglect.
Not all aggression is direct (striking or attacking another person). Indirect aggression might include damaging a person’s property. This would, for example, include breaking the windows of someone’s house, stealing property in retaliation for some slight or insult, or perhaps, stealing and deliberately crashing someone’s car. There are many examples of indirect aggression, which should also be distinguished from verbal anger.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Passive Aggressive Anger Wounds Others and Creates Anxiety in them

If those who are on the receiving end of passive aggression understand how it operates they can somehow distance themselves from the person who is causing them discomfort, perhaps even feel sadness for them, although this is not easily done. I find that some people who are subjected to passive aggressive behaviour often step into the child’s shoes and operate from there, becoming fearful or angry, confused and uncomfortable.
You can imagine how this type of insidious anger can be very damaging to employees. It creates a very unpleasant environment where co-operation and friendliness are damaged. Communication becomes hostile and the atmosphere is soured. One of my clients, Olive, wrote an unsent letter to her boss who was guilty of explosive and passive aggressive anger. This letter is in my book on abuse in the chapter on workplace bullying and is worth reading to see how a passive aggressive individual operates. This girl, who was college educated, had to ask permission to go to the toilet, and was fearful of taking her lunch break. She was afraid to take sick days and her life was a misery until she wisely decided to leave. It was a question of her health or her job. The office where she worked was filled with fear, favouritism, hypocrisy, and unspoken resentment. Friendliness, when it was shown, was false and soon turned to hostility. Psychologists argue that hostility is not necessarily the same as anger. Anger is an emotion, but hostility is a frame of mind, a rational or thinking concept that harbours enmity, blame, a desire to punish, and ill-will. Psychologists make the point that hostile people are capable of torturing others in a cold calculated way without any apparent feeling of anger. But, Olive’s boss was deeply angry, yet his hostile intention of getting rid of her to make way for a friend was cold and calculated.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Passive Aggressive Anger can by used by controlling employees to thwart a manager and vice versa.

Initially, I saw Jason’s passive aggression as assertiveness, which it was to some extent, so there may be an underlying connection between assertiveness and healthy passive aggression, although I think it is better, if possible, to openly state your anger. He also had the cushion of his decision to pursue a profession in a different area. What follows after such intense and sustained provocation is a clear cut and excellent example of reactive passive aggression.

“My attitude towards work completely changed. I pretty much gave management the two fingers. I decided I wouldn’t give a toss about work and just concentrate on preparing for my new direction. This was going to be my career, and not just a job like in the building society. I would go to work each day and do my work and head home. I wouldn’t get involved in anything that wasn’t to do with my immediate work and do the bare minimum. If I was loaded with a heavy timetable I would tell management that there must be some mistake, that surely I couldn’t possibly be expected to do so much work. If they said I was, I would just say that’s fine but expect things to be late. Things that I mostly knew how to do, I now looked for proper training, or told them I didn’t know how to do that work because I was not trained in it. This created a bad relationship between me and management, but I didn’t care. I had given them my all before and I felt it was thrown back in my face, so this was my new tactic. I took a back seat in areas where I was the leader before; tasks that I had a sound knowledge of. I would do my bit and help some of the lads, but that would be it. At one stage, one of the girls on the same level as me, who was anxious for promotion, was asked by a new Assistant Supervisor to train the rest of us on a few tasks. Months earlier I had trained her on these, but I just sat there, not even hiding my disinterest as she tried to teach me things that I had done many times before. I didn’t give a toss and made my disinterest and displeasure towards work known with my body language. It came to a stage where management were nearly afraid to ask me to do work, which suited me just fine. Because I was still one of the strongest members of the team, they couldn’t get rid of me, especially as others on the team had made a few high profile mistakes. In fact they tried to accommodate me more, as long as I worked harder. I told them I would, but continued my laissez faire approach to work. This continued for months with my distain for management clear…. I had the odd meeting about my attitude and not doing enough, but my response was always that I was still doing more than everyone on the team and my standard of work was good. They couldn’t argue with this so there was a stalemate. It suited me fine because it was just a wage to me now. The lads would slap me saying I was the enfant terrible of the office, but I didn’t mind”

In some cases passive aggressive employees in key positions withhold particular expertise from management, who are normally unaware of what may be happening. Occasionally employees may use a so-called illness to express passive aggressive anger in the workplace, and can, for example, refuse to attend meetings because of a particular ‘illness’. But, managers or proprietors are more likely to subject others to passive aggressive anger, because they have power.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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passive aggressive anger can be useful at times.

Passive aggressive anger is often seen in the workplace, where work expectations and requirements are undermined on a regular basis. Sometimes it is reactive and healthy and sometimes ancient and toxic. An employee, boiling inside, may subtly thwart the efforts of co-workers, especially managers, to advance a company or an organisation. Let us take Jason as a good example of someone using passive aggressive anger against his bosses. His passive aggression was not toxic or core, but was a reaction to the bullying of his superiors, who tried to overwork him and sought to thwart his efforts to get an appropriately early train home. This is how he describes dealing with a toxic workplace.

My trainer still really intimidated me and I hated when he corrected my work. Because I was afraid to ask him questions, I would take risks with my work. I would be sick with worry, hoping that it would work out for me. On the days when things weren’t going well for me he would often come over and ask me for my work. It was code for hurry up, in my book. It just made things worse and in my rush to get things done, I would make mistakes. It destroyed me when he would call me over. I knew there was something wrong and I’d dread making the walk to his desk. He would ask me questions about the work, knowing that I wouldn’t know the answer. It was soul destroying saying I didn’t know as he looked in disgust at me. At the time I just thought it was all part of the job and it was all my fault. But as I grew more confident and competent with the work, I realised he was a bully.
I was under immense pressure one day when the Assistant Supervisor put me looking for meaningless ad hoc reports. I told her I was too busy with the daily stuff and they would have to wait. She said she didn’t care and ordered me to get them done. I told her that this wasn’t possible and reminded her of my timetable. There was 1 or 2 sick (probably due to the stress of the job) so I was doing 3 people’s work. She told me to talk to my manager if I wasn’t happy with the workload to start staying later. This angered me as we didn’t get paid for overtime and I felt I was giving too much of myself already. I wanted to tell her to back off, grab my coat and head for home. Again my natural instinct was to always to head home in times of stress. I went to management for a meeting and told them my grievances. They backed her up and maintained that I had to stay later to finish work if that’s what it took. I told them if they distributed the work more evenly that I would be able get the work done. I was adamant that because I was good at my job, I was getting punished with huge workloads. I would have been better off being no good I maintained, because such workers were given little work or responsibility. They eased my workload for a few weeks but things went back to the same story again. This wasn’t good for my mental health. As well as the fears and anxieties I already had, stress and pressure were being added to the mix. The final straw was when I was due a wage increase, but this wasn’t given to me as they maintained there was a freeze across the company on increases.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Passive Aggressive Anger

It is relatively rare for a person with implosive anger to become explosive, but if they do they can unleash torrents of anger for all the years they have swallowed their rage and turned it in on themselves. Some psychologists tend to label implosive anger as passive aggressive anger and others view it as covert psychological control. Passive aggressive anger leaves the targeted person confused, feeling guilty, wondering what is going on, and sometimes irritated. Passive aggressive people may not even realise that they are showing anger, but they are beset by troubled personalities, and are irritable, sarcastic, quarrelsome, cranky, embittered and moody. They may not even understand what anger is. They possibly learned it as children in a home where a controlling parent would not allow others to express their feelings or their anger, sometimes seeing it as disobedience or a threat to their control. The lethal result of such control is that the anger becomes contained internally and expresses itself in a masked way. While passive aggressive people may seem pleasant and greet you with a smile, their anger flows beneath, and they put the knife into you in an indirect way. It has been described as sugar-coated hostility. Mike Fisher calls it the velvet dagger. Passive aggressive people are often ‘winder-uppers’ and provoke anger in others by their sarcasm. One writer describes them as harbouring vindictive intent beneath a seductive veneer. Passive aggressive people are neither able to show aggression nor assertiveness openly, but cannot always conceal their burning anger.
It is helpful to know at least some of the behaviours of people with passive aggressive anger. They use long periods of silence, where communication is replaced by sourness, withdrawal and angry expressions. They are frequently uncooperative in helping with household chores causing irritation in partners and creating an atmosphere of tension, which is detrimental to children. They can be deliberately forgetful and even apologise for this, causing doubt and confusion in others. Being deliberately late is sometimes used. This gives them a sense of control over others and points to the irresponsibility of passive aggressors, who prefer to blame other people for their own mistakes. They have an unerring instinct to press the most sensitive buttons arousing rage in others. Many are manipulative, devious, co-dependent, insincere, gossipy, dishonest and false. This is only a brief summary of passive aggressive behaviours, which are dealt with in more detail by Cathy Meyer and Mike Fisher.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Explosive and implosive anger

If you wish to get a deeper insight into the damaging impact of anger on your body, you might like to consult Garry Chapman’s book, Anger. Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. He explains that as the angry feeling emerges and intensifies, the heart pumps faster and drives adrenaline through your body. The adrenal glands produce two hormones that in turn affect your heart rate and blood pressure. Anger has similar physiological symptoms to panic attacks as adrenaline is released and courses through your body. Normally adrenaline in the system serves a useful purpose, but chronic (toxic) anger keeps the adrenaline activated and the body in high alert. What happens is that a neurotransmitter or hormone called acetylcholine ceases to be effective. This hormone is a mechanism with many functions in your nervous system, one of which is to ease the effects of adrenaline. If that is disabled your health is in danger, because the body’s major systems such as the heart, the nervous system and breathing functions are affected as ongoing anger keeps our bodies in constant arousal and disrupts its proper functioning. Toxic Anger can lead to liver and kidney damage and increased cholesterol, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Studies show that those with the highest level of anger have twice the risk of heart disease and three times the risk of heart attack. Anger arousal affects the sympathetic nervous system, which mobilises the flight or fight response and affects most of the body’s internal organs. Other illnesses that may arise from chronic anger are type 2 diabetes, lowering of the immune system, premenstrual syndrome, erectile dysfunction, lowered libido, headaches, backaches, allergies, asthma, arthritis, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, being prone to infection, slower wound healing, ulcers, migraine and high risk of a stroke.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Be aware of the type of anger you have

Anger can also be categorised as explosive or implosive and someone who is constantly angry without good reason, carries the burden of toxic anger. Explosive anger is a violent outburst and can also vary in intensity, ranging from mild annoyance to a very strong feeling of rage, where it is expressed by shouting, banging things, throwing objects, sulking, glaring, gritting the teeth, shaking the head, waving fists, looking away, making sour comments and hitting or punching some unfortunate person. If you are chronically angry you should realise that it not only damages other people, but is destructive to yourself. Silent or implosive anger is as destructive, if not more so, than the explosive type. One is like a bomb blowing up around you, and the other is like a bomb blowing up inside you. Implosive anger is never digested and burns on.
Why, you might ask, do people keep a lid on their anger and keep it hidden? Partly because they have a fear of offending others, partly because they want to be liked and partly because their self-esteem is low. There is evidence of the damage done by suppressing anger in the context of employees, who have to stifle anger rather than confront customers, whereby their company would lose business. Research on types of work where showing anger would lose custom is very insightful. A study of flight attendants brought up some interesting results. This was carried out by David Kemper a specialist in human emotions. Flight attendants have no option but to remain calm and suppress any anger or irritations when confronted by the offensive behaviour of some passengers. The study showed that the attendants reported feeling numb and came to have considerable emotional problems. We can assume that the same happens to others, who have to please the public or their customers. The basic lesson is that suppressing our anger leads to mental and physical health issues. The problem is made greater if their anger is toxic.
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We cannot help having toxic anger, but it is our responsibility not to vent it on others

While we can explain the creation of toxic anger and see it as a burden, we must also realise how harmful it is to those who bear the brunt of it. It is the engine which drives abuse of all kinds -verbal, psychological, physical, sexual, or financial. Abuse may be about power and control, but it is fuelled by anger and shame. In a sense anger and shame are in opposite camps. Anger gives a sense of power, but shame cripples us. Toxic anger destroys peace and tranquillity, creating fear, hostility, a sour atmosphere, the death of love, the destruction of relationships, and creates many psychological and emotional problems for children that eventually blight their adulthood.
I see toxic anger as having a three stage cycle. The first stage is one of calmness. The next is of rising anger, where sourness and bad humour is evident. The third phase is the explosion, the venting of the anger on the unfortunate victims, adults and children. When this aggression is vented, the calm phase returns and on it goes, keeping the victims hypervigilant. Those who are victims of this cycle generally use the same phrases – walking on eggshells or being on tenterhooks. Sometimes there is no explosion but a sullen withdrawing which has an even worse impact on the other. An angry silence is a powerful way to control.
People with toxic anger express it in different ways, referred to as five anger styles by Mike Fisher. He describes the first one as the intimidator, whose threatening behaviour brings compliance through fear. The second anger style is interrogation. The interrogator is manipulative and questions the victims to make them feel small and ashamed. It is often supported by a powerful, persuasive but irrational logic. Thirdly we have the victim anger style. The ‘poor me’ type seeks to make us feel guilty for not meeting their needs. It is the ‘look at all I have done for you and there is no thanks for it, would you blame me for being angry with you’ type of mentality. It can be quite crushing if practised on people who have a strong caring or rescuing streak because the ‘poor me’ person always needs rescuing. The fourth anger style is distancing or withdrawing, which makes the other person wonder what is going on, although they will always sense the anger in the distancer. The distancer will rarely get into a conflict and generally will minimise their feelings, or intellectualise them i.e. they will always give a thought when asked about a feeling. The fifth anger style is winding-up. The ‘winder upper’ controls people by jocosity, teasing and making little of others in a witty way. They are disliked and avoided and the knife they sink in you is just as sharp as that of the violent controller. Seeing other people angry somehow meets a perverse need of the ‘winder upper’, who is unable to express his own anger and somehow sees it expressed through other people’s anger. It is projection and a way of avoiding their own anger. Winding up can be learned in childhood when the child is showered with shame and is a distinct sign that a parent is incapable of loving or cherishing.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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The anger of a child turns inward and becomes core to re-emerge in adulthood

The human is born with hope, curiosity and love, but when an infant’s dependency needs are not met these turn to ashes, and toxic or core anger is one of the external signs of fear of abandonment. Initially, the faces of angry infants are contorted and crimson as they rage, but if the emotional (or physical) neglect continues they withdraw and the faces register sadness and resignation. The anger turns inward and becomes toxic, to emerge in adulthood as chronic rage, when it is sometimes used as a control mechanism. This anger is an instinct to allay the fear of the inner abandoned child. Healthy anger is an energetic and normally short-lived response to hurt, but toxic anger is chronic, long-lasting, and devastating. Some writers have described toxic anger as similar to post-traumatic stress, i.e. the stress following a trauma. The trauma in this case is the loss of a childhood, which is a prolonged emotional experience that is extremely difficult to process. This emotional neglect is the greatest killer of the human spirit, but it is not the only way that children are infused with toxic anger.
It is said that when we are born we only know how to survive in the wilderness. Everything else is learned. There is, therefore, the possibility that children, who are constantly exposed to anger, may eventually learn it. Anger is seen by them as a way of communication, because their parents can only communicate in an angry way. In other words, for such children angry communication is normal because that is all they see. They also recognise that an angry parent gets what he or she wants, and may form a belief that anger is power to dominate others. This behaviour may be carried on in adult life. It is essential for parents to be aware of their own anger and how they express and use it. They should strongly consider how they deal with it, although this presumes a level of awareness that they may not have.
As you have seen, childhood can be lost in various ways. Sometimes a parent’s own feelings may be so frozen that the children are unused to seeing the expression of emotion, or they may be forbidden to express their own feelings. This is a tragedy. If they feel sad they must put on a ‘smiley face.’ Even crying can be forbidden and this is the greatest tragedy because our tears are inbuilt ways of releasing tension and expressing sadness and empathy. Children are often afraid to express their anger because they might make matters worse or because they feel that their parents might not understand. When children are emotionally muzzled in this way they suffer a deep loss, and anger may emerge in adolescence or early adulthood.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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