Anger is the key / Part 1

Anger, not love, makes the world go ’round.

Henry Kellerman, Ph.D. is the author of 20 books, as well as a the former editor of the Columbia University book series Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychotherapy. See full bio

October 23, 2009, Self-Help

Love may make the world go ‘round, but anger is the key. Why is that? It’s because we are all wish-soaked creatures and we all know that wishes don’t usually get met. And then we get angry. And if sometimes wishes do get met, they usually don’t get met exactly when we want them met. And if they do sometimes get met when we want them met, it’s usually not to the fullest measure.

Therefore, because most of the time wishes are thwarted, we’re always trying to manage our dissatisfactions, frustrations, and downright disappointments. Sure, here and there we’re also happy with things, but as far as wishes are concerned, sorry, we’re all full of disappointments.

And so here’s the problem:

The emotion of anger was apparently highly selected in evolution because it addressed these various disappointments that were happening to people all the time. And why is this so that anger was hooked up to disappointment? The answer is because disappointment (as occurs when wishes are thwarted) always and without exception, leads to a sense of lack of power, or a sense of impotence, or a sense simply of disempowerment. And here it comes – whenever there is disempowerment, we get angry – always. We may not know it, but we do. And this is true of each and every person on this little dot in the cosmos we call earth.

Now, why is this true that anger is the universal response to disempowerment? The answer is that when a person feels disempowered, frequently the only way to feel re-empowered is to be angry. And we all want to be empowered. Yes, anger is a re-empowerment, because like any other primary emotion, anger has a personality, and it is this personality that tells the story. What? An emotion such as anger can have a personality? Yes, basic emotions each have a distinct personality – including anger.

Let’s examine the emotion of anger so that we can see its personality.

Anger’s personality consists of the following inclinations, or instincts, or desires:

1. Anger has an aggressive drive. It’s inborn.

2. Anger is expansive. It wants to get bigger.

3. Anger has explosive potential. It wants to burst forth.

4. Anger has an attack inclination. It wants to attack.

5. Anger has a confrontational inclination. It wants to get tough.

6. Anger has an entitled frame of mind. It feels it has the right to get tough.

7. Anger sees itself as an empowerment. It eliminates feelings of helplessness.

So, there you have it. Anger like any other basic emotion has a personality based upon a single command. In the case of anger, this command is to: ATTACK! Why? Because none of the basic or primary emotions cares a hoot about civilization.

Each of these basic emotions only responds to what is its nature. For example, fear only wants to flee, while anger only wants to attack. This is why we’re all responsible to try to manage our emotions better so that they’re not permitted to simply realize their destiny (anger to attack, fear to flee, disgust to reject, acceptance to incorporate, and so forth).

The reason ANGER is the key, therefore, (even though love may make the world go ‘round) is that since we’re always trying to get our wishes met (and can’t), then we get frustrated and angry and the anger is designed to give us the feeling of being re-empowered – almost as though we did get our wish met and exactly when and how we wanted it met.

But what happens when rather than expressing the anger, we instead, suppress it, or repress it? Ah, now here comes the problem. If we repress the anger we will get what is generally considered to be a psychological/emotional symptom. And a symptom is something that doesn’t respond to reason. You can’t tell someone with acrophobia (fear of heights) not to be afraid of heights and then expect the person to enjoy Top-of-the Tower. The symptom simply and without a doubt, won’t listen!

And here’s the truth in the form of a proposition or axiom:

Where there is repressed anger, not only will there be a symptom,

there must be a symptom.

Now, let’s do it the other way:

Where there is a symptom, not only will there by repressed anger,

there must be repressed anger.

Thus, anger rules, and many many people have symptoms.



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