If you have been following this blog you know that I have discussed anger on several occasions (See, for example, BEING A WISE FRIEND TO YOUR ANGRY SELF, PART 1 and BEING A WISE FRIEND TO YOUR ANGRY SELF, PART 2). During these discussions, I mentioned that how you handle anger has a big influence on how much people like and respect you. Today we delve into the nature of anger a little more with the help of some of our favorite comic strip buddies.
Getting Familiar with Anger
Most of us have a pretty good idea about what it means to be angry. In the above comic, when Charlie Brown is shouting at Lucy and wildly waving his hands above his head, we’re pretty sure he is in the midst of an angry fit.
Although you already know, in some general way, what it means to be angry, if I was to ask you to quickly create a list of the various expressions and experiences that go along with anger, you might have to pause for a few seconds and your list might end up leaving out several important ones. Moreover, some readers might have a somewhat different idea of what anger means than I do. This might lead them to become confused about some of my statements. And so, because we will be discussing situations that involve anger, it will be a valuable use of our time to take a quick look at anger as revealed in comics and for me to make some comments along the way.
Shouting and Glares
Consider this Luann comic.
Here, we see blond-haired Tiffany planning to put on a beauty pageant contest that she desires to win. Suddenly, Tiffany experiences a conflict with Crystal. What I mean by this is, Tiffany seems to desire to enjoy her thoughts about the glory of winning her pageant. Interfering with this, Crystal throws out statements suggesting Tiffany might not win. Judging from Tiffany’s angry reaction, I’m guessing she thinks Crystal is guilty of doing something wrong. I’m hoping that you notice that the first letter of “desire,” “interfering”, and “guilt” spell out the word DIG. It can remind you how to summarize a conflict. (To learn more about what it means to have a conflict, see my post, DIG for the Conflict).
In a sense, Tiffany set sail on the great Sea of Conflict just about when Crystal asks, “And if they don’t pick you?”
When Tiffany begins to glare at Crystal and shout, she has probably sailed into a region of conflict known as anger. Assuming that someone isn’t pretending to be angry, the actions of glaring and shouting are pretty clear signs that indicate someone is angry.
Even when someone is not shouting, anger may be present.
In the above exchange between Luann and Tiffany, when they are whispering it is obvious that they are angry with each other. The glaring and insult darts that they are throwing at each other provide us adequate signs that they are angry at each other.
Other Expressions of Anger
During conflicts, besides glaring, insults, and shouting there are a few other signs that indicate we are in the region of anger. Consider the following Blondie comic.
Here, we see not only shouting, insults and glaring as signs of anger, but also pointing while waving a finger, insults and name calling. I notice in the last panel that Blondie is giving Dagwood a little love. I wonder if that will ease his anger.
See if you can see some additional anger signs in the following Retail comic.
Val, the woman with black hair, begins her expression of anger by placing her hands on her hips and widening her eyes. She then crosses her arms in front of her, lowers her eyebrows, and threatens Courtney.
Below, we see Marcie express her anger a little differently.
In addition to shouting, Marcie throws up her hands and then begins to throw objects at Peppermint Patty.
Can you describe the turtle’s expression of anger in this next one?
As I see it, in this Sherman’s Lagoon comic when the turtle yells “THAT’S THE DUMBEST THING I’VE EVER HEARD!” he expresses his anger by insulting Sherman. He also expresses his anger by banging his fist on the table.
In the comic below, how does the woman in orange express her anger?
The woman is shouting while leaning forward in a threatening manner and baring her teeth.
Next, we have a Piranha Club comic.
Notice that the woman goes beyond threats to express her anger, using direct physical violence.
In our next example, again someone goes beyond a threat to express anger.
Lucy expresses her anger by waving her fist, and then she ends up throwing a snowball at poor ol’ Charlie Brown.
Next, Helga doesn’t display any of the signs we already mentioned, and yet we and her husband still recognize that she is angry.
As this comic illustrates, withdrawing love may be a sign of anger.
Overt and Covert Anger
Overt anger refers to anger that is expressed in ways that we can clearly see, hear, or—as in the example of the woman slugging a guy—feel.
Other overt cues that may be interpreted as anger are frowning, blushing in the face or neck, not smiling, agitated rigid movements, apparent tension in the body, heavy walking, grinding one’s teeth, and a protruding neck vein.
In addition to overt anger, sometimes people attempt to hide their anger.
When people are angry inside but don’t show us outwardly that they are angry, we may say that they are experiencing covert anger.
When we attempt to determine if someone is angry, we may only be partially successful. Because of the subtlety and variety of the clues that may suggest someone is covertly angry, we will at times guess wrongly.
In an effort to avoid offending some of their readers, there are several overt expressions of anger that we don’t observe in newspaper comics. Crying out, “Jesus Christ!” and “God almighty!” are examples of religious-themed anger responses. Shouting out curses are very popular in some circles. Sometimes people, knowing these expressions of anger will get them in trouble, find themselves saying these words silently to themselves.
Often people show some aspects of their anger overtly while experiencing a commotion of other aspects of their anger inside of themselves that they do not wish to share with others. They may find themselves silently cursing while imagining attacking the perceived cause of their anger. They may feel hot, nervous, a tightness in their forehead, or a pounding in their blood vessels and heart. Covert anger refers to all of the thoughts and body reactions of anger that others can’t observe. Both overt and covert anger go along with the entire experience of anger.
Not All Expressions of Anger are Real Anger
On occasion, people will act angry when they are not. This may be done, for example, because they think such actions will scare someone into fulfilling their desires. At other times, they may desire to appear manly and believe displaying anger is manly. And sometimes their friends are acting angry about something and in an effort to support their friends they may pretend that they are also angry.
Not All Conflicts Contain Anger
When we are in a conflict with someone, we are not always angry at the person whom we believe is guilty of doing something wrong.
In this Garfield comic, Jon may very well have a conflict with Liz that can be described as follows—Jon desires that Liz develop a better sense of humor and that she not twitch her nose when she is angry, but interfering with this, her actions have been suggesting to him that she will not be changing these attributes in the foreseeable future. If asked, Jon might admit that Liz is guilty of being less than a perfect companion. Nevertheless, Jon appears so in love with Liz that if we were to ask him if he is angry with her it’s not hard to imagine him saying, “Are you kidding!? I’m not angry at her, I’m crazy about her!”
When we are engaged in a conflict, instead of feeling angry, we may feel fear, hope, loving kindness, sadness, humorous, and a sense of challenge.
Sometimes a Conflict begins in Anger and then it Fades Away Into the Distance
Oftentimes, when a conflict first begins, a person initially becomes angry. As time goes by, people often find that they can sail away from anger to other less hostile regions on the great Sea of Conflict.
This blog post was designed to introduce you to some basic ideas about anger. We focused on the various expressions and experiences of anger. In future blog posts, we will go over such topics as how anger is related to other emotions, what we mean by emotions, what are the functions of the various emotions, and how we can learn to use our emotions wisely. Although these topics can be very serious, with the help of our comic strip buddies, we can have some fun along the way.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.