Dealing with anger

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sun seeker

I'm not sure how this works. Are baby's BORN with self esteem and then taught otherwise? Or do they have to learn that they have some kind of value?
They definitely have to be taught. This is not so much with words, though that comes in too at a later date. But the really crucial time is in early (preverbal) childhood and infancy. It's in how the main caregiver responds to the baby, holds it, looks at it, responds to its needs, picks it up when it cries, etc. There is a set of behaviours that is hardwired into the interaction between mother and baby that helps the nervous system to form normally, and if it is interrupted for any reason, the child's development suffers. There is a reason why so many babies died in Romanian orphanages.

In adulthood, as you point out, it's uphill work to learn self esteem when it has been damaged in childhood. Where I can agree that we have a choice is in whether we work at it or not. Someone criticizes you. You automatically believe it and feel bad about yourself. Then the choice is, do you stay there feeling bad about yourself and acting on that, or do you get to work talking yourself out of it? It is possible to learn to pause before reacting to choose an action that feels better. But automatically letting criticism slough off you? That's unrealistic.


@anthony... Question: What about when anger triggers calm? That level of response where everything goes smooth & fluid & crystal clear? Or cold/hard/amused? It's useful, but problematic. Specifically, coming out of it is... Challenging.

Is what I'm saying making sense? Don't know if I'm describing it very well.


Are baby's BORN with self esteem and then taught otherwise?
No. Babies do not have self-esteem, as such. Babies begin to develop self-esteem with life experience, yes, however; children in general are far more malleable to what is really an adolescent concept, as self-esteem is not a concept they necessitate until a certain maturity level, though children certainly have self-esteem and continue to form it either positively or negatively based on their experiences. Again though... children can endure a lot of abuse, yet still form a healthy self-esteem, due purely to their brain being so malleable and forgiving. But when we reach adolescence and adulthood however, suddenly a child can turn self-esteem on its head either positively or negatively, purely because of further understanding of any prior abuse endured.

I think you could say we are born with a blank slate, and from that point our self-esteem begins. But childhood is very difficult, and it is the exception, not the rule, that children have low self-esteem.

It's like putting 10 children together, within minutes they will be playing together. Put 10 adults together, you get isolated responses, no responses, so forth, as there is a different concept of understanding and distinctions in self-esteem, self-worth, so forth. Children are simply malleable, adults are not so.


I'm not sure about internalizing it. Maybe. But when I think about internalizing it, that's blame, self hatred, loathing, ideation, etc. Externalizing is the whole wanting to burn the world down. This is a third thing. At least, to the best of my knowledge. When the anger instead of getting directed inward or outward shifts into something completely different. Most obvious example is fighting. Anger kicks up, then vanishes. Takes everything else with it except the In a short fight, it's fine. Switch on / switch off. Useful. Although coming out of it sucks, it's a short pass back through rage. Walk it off. Sleep it off. Sex it off. Beat the crap out of a bag. Might be a little touchy for a few days, and need to tamp it down. But when the anger-driven-calm goes on for extended periods of time? It seems to take a helluva lot of time to pass back through. Rage with no source, no outlet. Can stretch for weeks or months. Problem.

It will eventually go away. Bleed it off bit by bit, day by day (or snap and drain it off fast in big chunks, but that's something to be avoided in my experience, bad it a target is a very very very bad idea). But it's also got legs. And doesn't leave room for much of anything else.

There's simply nothing there that's causing the reaction. No source to rethink, like daily vexations. It just burns.


ETA... I'm an idiot, by the way. As I was originally reading the article it was "Yep. Exactly. Spot on. Damn straight. Brilliant. Bookmarked." As all of that was exactly what I had to do to relearn the whole emotional monitoring & regulation thing the hard way. It was only at the end where I was like... But... what about this piece? The calm is useful, the anger gets you there. But it's not normal calm, and one has to pass back through the whole rage-gate to get back to normal. Unless maybe there's another way? But all the ways I know how to deal with anger presupposes a source. Is there a way to avoid having to pass through rage to get back to normal?
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I understand this completely, it is how I have thought for a long time, I continuously look at a situation from other people's perspectives, the result of this?
I would say that I am hardly ever angry with anyone, or if I am it's constructive anger because I would be talking to the person, thus trying to create an equilibrium where we can either take another's view and admit to be wrong, or agree to disagree. This very rarely happens though, I tend to only react badly to something if it's directed at me and I understand them to be wrong, because they're making assumptions. I see myself as very diplomatic and I never wish to assume anything about others.
At college, I am very used to observing people's anger, they swear and curse at other people even when they are not around. I only ever observe seeing them suffer from the anger. I never intervene because I don't want to interfere, yet I do see their anger as detrimental to everyone around, bad feelings create bad feelings I find.
I feel that swearing only builds anger, it doesn't have a good effect of expelling it mostly, it makes the anger more prominent in people, I seem to observe. Although, I am speaking as someone who has never uttered more than two (literally) swear words in my life. I don't necessarily see my self as 'better' for this but nobody would ever call me an angry, vengeful person even if, inwardly, I do feel like that sometimes.
I'm not saying swearing doesn't serve a use, when used rarely it has a great use of expelling bad emotion, but I would say to anyone to be cautious not make it common occurrence. I do hear a common swear word used as an adjective more times than I thought possible yet I don't blame people for being like that at all. Perhaps, I am far to used to being the silent onlooker not judge, it would be very difficult for me to aquire an enemy, unless someone is angered by my thoughtful, non judgement, which has happened unfortunately. I have also never understood the concept of 'fairness', as I see it, unfair things happen all the time to everyone, that makes unfairness fair and fairness unfair. Sorry if I've confused anyone, It was interesting to see these things written down so comprehesably.


I tend to agree with Noah. Emotions can not and should not be denied, and yes, thoughts are on the same 'plane' as emotions, as I see it. Sometimes they happen simultaneously, but they always serve a purpose.

Since my abuse began at a very young age and was continuous throughout childhood, when I experienced the world for several decades, when people crossed my boundaries, I had no experience of anger. If I did, sometimes it was decades later. Violation was just standard for my nervous system.

However, the body registers everything, and soon my nervous system broke down from the repeated violations (the body knows what is good and bad for it...without thoughts) and I developed a chronic pain syndrome. I believe this was my inherent instinctual anger that had started occurring as a toddler, but had been internalized completely.

This whole notion that 'no one can make you feel bad without your permission' and if you do feel bad, you have low self esteem or the inability to control your thoughts as you should is incorrect and potentially damaging to some. While controlling our thoughts is a good goal and something to work for, in this world rights are violated, humans are disrespected, and people are violated constantly. If they did not make friends with their anger and what it is telling them, as I eventually learned, then they are very vulnerable and damage is damage, whether one is immediately aware of it or not.

I really think that there's some differences for people with combat ptsd and ptsd from developmental stages of abuse. When normal development of a child is distorted by violence and abuse, the whole system is completely out of whack. It is VERY important for us to acknowledge our emotions, cope with them, and learn what they are attempting to tell us. Usually that message is that we have been violated once again. Now yes, this anger is many times is not proportionate to the offense, however CBT tools can assist with that out of proportion feeling and how to cope.

But there is a very subtle line being discussed here that could potentially be damaging to some....'never blame others for your anger because it is your thoughts that is causing the anger no matter how disrespectfully or brutally others have acted toward you' ......well, no. Anger serves a purpose, just as love and fear. And yes, others can treat people brutally and disrespectfully and our anger tells us a violation has occurred. The way I handle it now, even though sometimes it feels very extreme, is I allow the energy to run through me and dissipate, then I assess what happened, then either attempt to rationally right the situation......or leave the situation, whatever is best for me.

This is why people tend to say about groups like this and AA........take what you need and leave the rest. However, also be VERY AWARE that support groups such as this and AA all consist of people with similar issues, and to accept the words of sponsors, etc without proper evaluation and questioning and getting other points of view can be very dangerous indeed.

All in all, my hope is that what resonates and helps whoever reads this will benefit them and not lead them into any further potential damage.


@TLight, I would honestly say you need to reread my post in which you respond, because at no stage did I say things that you have misinterpreted.


  • The events of this world do not make you angry. Your hot thoughts create your anger.
  • Anger will not help you most of the time, it will immobilise you with no productive purpose.
  • The thoughts that create anger will majority of the time contain cognitive distortions.
"What other people say has no impact on what you feel. Another person cannot be responsible for making you feel upset or otherwise. No matter how vicious, heartless or cruel comments may be, they have no power to disturb you or create you discomfort.

Are you now thinking I've lost the plot? Any person with a healthy self-esteem will know the above to be true and accurate, and the reason is simpler than you may think, and even than you may like to believe.

The only person in the entire world who has the power to put you down, is you, nobody else."


Thank you... and IMHO you have misinterpreted / personalised, as what I have said is:
  1. "The events of this world do not make you angry. Your hot thoughts create your anger." -- This says, you make you angry. Your brain, your mood, your thoughts. Please disprove if otherwise you feel this is incorrect. If you believe you have the power to make me angry, take your best shot... because you don't. You have no power or control over me, thus only I choose to get angry, or not, based on whatever you do or say. Your actions are not the reason I get angry, but instead my interpretation is what causes my anger. Whether you agree or not, this applies to you as well... unless of course another is in control of your brain and thoughts.
  2. "Anger will not help you most of the time, it will immobilise you with no productive purpose." -- Lets look at that key word you have discarded, "most" where used as "most of the time." That defines as, a majority of time, but not "always" as I believe you are interpreting. Please factor that word as its definition intended. If you believe you have factored the definition of that word, and not discarded, then please explain why you are countering its use as defined "most" of the time.
  3. "The thoughts that create anger will majority of the time contain cognitive distortions." -- Again, lets review a keyword in that sentence, "majority" of the time. That defines the same as most, being a majority, but not "always." If you believe you have factored that word, then please explain why you have quoted in as well as though interpreting an "always" definition, which is not what is said.
  4. "What other people say has no impact on what you feel. Another person cannot be responsible for making you feel upset or otherwise. No matter how vicious, heartless or cruel comments may be, they have no power to disturb you or create you discomfort." -- Please disprove this if you can, without using the distortion of personalisation, which in itself is a cognitive distortion. Another persons words are just words, you then interpret their words for your unique and individualist meaning. Nobody other than you controls your brain, thus nobody other than you controls or is responsible for your brain creating a response of anger, as that response is based purely on how you have chosen to interpret what is said to you. If I stand in front of you and yell at you, call you names, whatever the case may be, you can a) discard what I'm saying as I am just a person yelling at you, calling you names and such, and to you what I think means nothing, thus you don't form anger because my words have no relevance to your thinking or life, OR, b) you may internalise or externalise what I'm saying and retaliate to defend your self-esteem, your pride, your self values, or choose to take it all and blame yourself as though my words have some value to you, thus you feel guilt, remorse or other such emotion and harbour your anger. Your thought and process is a choice at the specific time, and only you are responsible for it.
  5. "The only person in the entire world who has the power to put you down, is you, nobody else." -- Please disprove this. How can another physically impact your self-esteem, or moral foundation, when it is only your brain that controls what you think. Others do as they do, and you do as you do. The simple fact is this... do you control me? Do you control what I think? Does anything you do or say impact me based on you? The answer is... no. I impact me, I control my thoughts and how I choose to interpret whatever it is you do. I, and only I, choose to ignore you or get angry with you.
Remember... we're talking about anger here, not your abuse. If you talk about your abuse, then you are personalising this to you, which this discussion is about anger and who is in control of your anger response.

@Noah broached the discussion about all anger not being bad. At no stage in my content did I say that, and in actual fact, I actually said quite the contrary and already covered the specific toxic anger / negative anger that affects us and our lives negatively, which is why I ignored responding to that post, because I agreed with that exact logic and covered it within my post. But you @TLight claimed to agree with it, and I am wondering what aspect, whether what I agreed with anyway and covered in my post, and maybe you didn't read that... or another aspect of noah's post was in some agreement to disagree with what I wrote.

There isn't a force being applied here to make you believe something. You either agree, or disagree... its really that simple. Logic is logic, and you can rationalise it or you cannot. If you believe your anger is valid, worthy and has purpose, and doesn't affect you negatively, then there obviously isn't anything wrong with you and your anger, and thus your logic is rational according to you.

Now if your anger does affect you negatively... maybe you need to rethink your approach and possibly view things differently, as your logic obviously isn't as rational as you may believe, being irrational. Be open to others views and try and see things from another's viewpoint, like the Lion and the Sheep. Again, this is not to personalise with blame and such. This is about anger.


One thing from CBT that underscores much of what folks are debating:

Thoughts are neither good nor bad. Thoughts are not feelings.
Thoughts lead to feelings, and feelings can lead to thoughts: but they are not one and the same.

Forget any kind of religious perspective on the above - if you really break down all the feelings you have, you will find that there's a thought tied to each of them.

Why is this useful? In order to isolate and dismiss the feeling, you have to be able to recognize what prompted it.

Our feelings are not prompted by other people's actions. Our feelings come as a result of our own thoughts. It is our THOUGHTS that are triggered by other people's actions - and the thought/feeling connection happens very, very quickly.

Someone cuts in front of me on the highway, I feel threatened.

But what really happened is: someone cuts in front of me, I think "you dangerous asshole" and I feel threatened. It happens very quickly.

If I blame the other driver for causing my feelings - I'm skipping a step. They did an action that triggered a thought that caused a feeling - and that feeling I have will then often trigger another action inside myself, which will lead to another thought and another feeling.

You can only interrupt the snowball if you give yourself agency over your own thoughts, thereby taking some control over your emotions.

You can feel whatever you WANT to feel - as @anthony mentioned, as long as you deem it productive. But we do have a choice - at best, we can interrupt the thought that will cause us to feel emotional pain. At worst, we can stop the thoughts/feelings landslide before it's gone too far and we can't rein it back in as easily.


If #5 is true, then why do adults in verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive relationships sometimes end up with ptsd, a very real brain disorder?
Or concentration camp victims?

" matter how vicious, heartless, or cruel..."

I guess my overall question is, how on earth could an adult end up with ptsd caused by another person or person's abuse? Is it because they have low self esteem and do not accurately control their thoughts?

Or do they not have ptsd in reality and are just in some sort of victim mentality?

So if an adult has healthy self esteem, abuse could occur but never affect them?
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