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This morning I was walking through the newly decorated supermarket parking lot observing all the festive holiday ornaments when I witnessed a disturbing scene. One car was driving through the lot trying to find a space and made a quick left in front of another car that was just pulling into the lot from the busy intersection. This sudden turn caused the driver pulling in to slow down and then lay on his horn for longer than absolutely necessary. The loud blare was a provoking move, and worked. They both parked and the driver who was honked at came running over yelling obscenities. I wondered how these people could already be so angry so early in the day? And, why was it worth it to each of them to cause such a scene? Yes, it’s normal to get angry but these two reacted in a way that seemed out of control and scary.

Numerous studies show that individuals who grew up in households in which parents or caregivers modeled uncontrolled angry behavior tend to utilize these same behavioral patterns in their own adulthoods. Research also confirms that certain personality traits contribute to the way someone responds when angry. Specifically, people who are competitive, have low frustration levels or are self-centered are more likely to get really mad. And, whatever just happened in a person’s life prior to the angry outburst can sway the situation. If someone is already stressed, hurt, tired or anxious they have a greater chance of reacting in an explosive way. I’m sure that each of the individuals involved in the public altercation I witnessed had something else going on prior to this that caused each to act the way they did. Obviously one was in a hurry and the other wasn’t going to overlook the behavior.

There are many common different types of anger that manifest themselves in unique ways. A few of the most frequently recognizable are:

1. Passive Anger. This is someone who uses dry sarcasm to verbalize their anger in non-direct ways. These people often avoid conflict, are patronizing, use gossip to sabotage others or ignore them completely.

2. Chronic Anger. This is someone who always seems to have an ax to grind. They are continuously resentful of others and their overall life. They are always on the defense and can’t seem to forgive and move on.

3. Explosive Anger. This describes an individual who is physically or verbally aggressive toward whatever triggers their anger. Domestic violence offenders usually fall into this category.

4. Volatile Anger. This person generally internalizes things that make him/her angry until they explode. One minute a person is calm and the next he’s super mad. It comes and goes, and seems like it’s coming out of nowhere when it rears it’s ugly head.

As we see on a daily basis, not everyone has the innate ability to express his or her anger in a healthy way. The angry driver was exhibiting a form of explosive anger that could have really been dangerous. Individuals who react in similar ways to this situation could highly benefit from taking the time to reflect on what is triggering their emotions. Learning new ways to communicate with others in positive ways can help lower stress levels, improve health and make the individual a more reasonable and enjoyable person to be around. Mastering anger management techniques to change your life is possible at any age either with classes, individual therapy or by reading books.

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