Anger is a normal and natural emotion, which probably all of us will feel at least at some point in our lives it is also defined as hot displeasure, often involving a desire for retaliation: wrath.
Anger is often associated with heat or cold—we talk about feeling ‘hot with anger’ and also recognise the idea of ‘cold fury’.
Anger can be quite frightening, both in yourself and in others, because it can arrive very suddenly, but also because it can cause very irrational and unpredictable behaviours.
Aggression is a behaviour, often closely linked to anger. Angry people can become aggressive, and aggressive people may become angry, but the two are not the same.
First of all, it is important to understand that anger is not always bad.
Aristotle said “The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and, further, as he ought when he ought, and as long as he ought is praised”.
He meant that it is right to be angry when you see injustice, or wrong-doing of some sort. But anger should not be taken to extremes.
Our page What is Anger? explains more about this complex emotion, how it is caused, and how it is expressed. It also explains some of the possible consequences of anger.
Some people have a tendency to become unreasonably angry.
In other words, they are not angry at the right things and with the right people. Instead, they become angry for what those around may see as ‘no reason’, and remain angry for much longer than is considered reasonable.
These people may need help to manage their anger. If this sounds like you, you may be able to achieve this by yourself, and our page on Anger Management provides some advice for self-help techniques, as well as information about how to work out if you need more help.
Our page on Anger Management Therapy explains what professional therapy can do to help you manage your anger.
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If anger and aggression are ‘bad things’, and we can probably agree that is usually the case, then what is the other side of the coin?
In other words, what are the good things, the virtues, that are associated with ‘not being angry’ and ‘not being aggressive’?
The first area that we would probably recognise as being ‘not angry’ is Being Good Tempered. Good tempered people are pleasant and easy to get along with. They are often referred to as ‘even-tempered’, meaning that they are emotionally very well-balanced, and have good self-control.
Good tempered people do get angry, but only when it is right to do so.
The other area that is often associated with aggression, or thought of as its reverse, is Assertiveness. It is not strictly true that assertiveness is the opposite of aggression, but it can be helpful to think of aggressive, passive and assertive behaviour as three points of a triangle.
Assertive people stand up for themselves and others without becoming either passive or aggressive. They remain calm under pressure, and can get their point across without upsetting others or becoming upset.