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    2014-AUG-03 [SUN]   11:27 (PMT) - WHY WE GET ANGRY

          2014-AUG-03 [SUN]   11:27 (PMT)                 Table Of Contents
Introduction to Biological Psychology Textbook
Why We Get Angry
2014-08-03 11:27 AM (PMT)

Something makes you angry. You then instantly decide between the fight or flight instinct and choose to fight. This is your classic psychological scenario, except that "fight or flight" is mostly associated with the emotion fear, rather than with anger, but Dave believes that fear and anger are one and the same emotion and are only labeled as one or the other because of the circumstances surrounding them.

Let's forget fear for the minute. Anger is one of those emotions that most of us have experienced at one time or another, and is easy to blame for bad behavior. But, what is it really?

Anger is a pretty universal feeling. When you show anyone a picture of someone who is angry, everyone knows what it means. That person is angry. This is where the similarities end, because no one really knows how anyone else feels when they are angry, all you really know is how you feel. How each of us deals with this feeling is important, because that says a lot about what you know about anger.

While looking up the word "angry" in the book pictured above:

Brain And Behavior: An Introduction To Biological Psychology

In the index, we were referred to another index listing, "Agression". The fact that a book on biopsychology combines anger with aggression also says a lot about how the science of psychology currently views anger. It is either a form of or a catalyst for aggression, or maybe both.

I know I can get angry at times, but Dave says he is angry all the time, but he says he has an interesting theory about it. Actually, he has two interesting theories about anger. The first is that aggression (and thus anger) is mostly genetic and organic in nature, and the second is that too much aggression might be responsible for some of the lack of empathy in a sociopath.

Sometime soon, we'll do a separate blog post on the second one (lack of empathy in sociopaths), but let's look at the first one now. I know that the theory that aggression is mostly genetic and organic in nature seems obvious and simple and already a part of someone else's theory that's already out there somewhere, but Dave's theory goes beyond that. It goes beyond being a theory that aggression is genetic to assuming it's an actual fact, and then he asked the next obvious question. What can you do about it, if it's genetic?

His theory suggest that if aggression really is a genetic trait, then when we feel anger, it is not really a response to anything in particular. You are just angry, and you literally decide what you are angry about. In short, you are angry first, then you decide why.

Some schools of psychology believe that emotion comes before you decide what caused the emotion. That's possibly true with anger, but when you like something, you aren't necessarily deciding after what exactly you are liking. Or maybe they come at the same time, but never before. I personally don't know whether emotion comes before deciding why you are feeling that emotion, but Dave seems to believe it does, at least as far as his anger is concerned.

Let's put that question aside for a minute, and just look at Dave's evidence for aggression being a genetic trait. The evidence isn't absolute by any definition, but it still offers enough evidence to make it possible that some aggression is genetic in nature. Dave can't say absolutely whether all anger (aggression) is genetic or not. He doesn't have enough evidence to say that yet. All he knows for sure is that there is just way too much evidence to ignore the possibility that his anger might be genetically hardwired into his brain, a kind of genetically engineered background noise that he is almost always feeling, almost all the time.

We actually did another blog entry on this particular evidence a little while ago...

FROM OUR BLOG: 2011-MAR-28 [MON] 08:32 PM

"NOVA: Dogs Decoded"
Studio: PBS
DVD Release Date: November 9, 2010

Nova has a winner here.

Aggression genetics was one of the subjects brought up by this interesting Science Report from Nova. Starting in 1959, Soviet scientist started setting up genetic research project around the country. One of these projects was performed in Siberia. There, it was the goal to remove and breed around 1 percent of silver fox (foxes are closely related to wolves) pups that were not only fearless of human contact, but also not so agressive as the other pups.

Within 3 generations, almost all the aggresive behavior began to disappear.

This is strong evidence favoring the theory that aggression is mostly genetic in nature.

RELATED WEBPAGES (for more info)


Farm Fox Experiment:

Archived Copy of "Farm Fox" Article:

Those last two "RELATED WEBPAGES" are where you can find the original paper written on the research. We have an archived copy on our website in case the original disappears.

It describes the research in greater detail.

The "Farm Fox" experiment was originally based on a hypothesis by Dmitry K. Belyaev.

Like anthropologist Darcy Morey, geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev...


" ...believed that the pattern changes observed in domestic animals resulted from genetic changes that occurred in the course of selection. Belvaev believed, tamability must have determined how well an animal would adalpt to life among human being. Because behavior is rooted in biology, selecting for tameness and against aggression means selecting for physiological changes in the systems that govern the body's hormones and neurocheincals... "


" ...Belyaev designed a selective-breeding program to reproduce a single major factor, strong selection pressure for tamability. He chose as his experimental model a species taxanomically close to the dog but never before domesticated: Vulpes vulpes, the silver fox... "

The paper itself is more concerned with the changes in appearance than anything else, but the paper itself wasn't what originally caught Dave's attention. That happened while he watched the "NOVA: Dogs Decoded" DVD and actually saw the dogs that were the result of breeding untamable foxes together. That's what really caught Dave's attention.

To Dave, it was like they were just wired up with aggression, like they were vibrating with it. I know it sounds like Dave's imagination is running away with him, but while the camera crew was filming them, you could hear the low undertone of "grrrs" almost throughout the whole filming process of the aggressives. That's a fact, I saw the video myself and Dave's right, it sounded like "grrr" (or maybe just "rrr", but either would be correct) to me also. It was really creepy.

Anyway, that's when Dave started thinking about how that would feel to be that pissed off like that all the time, and while he thought about that, one of the foxes tried to bite the person that was explaining the scene to the camera. Dave didn't even notice. He was so deep in thought.

Dave doesn't know how or why, but that's when everything started clicking together in his head. If you were genetically predisposed to feel agression all the time, how would that feel? That would feel like you were angry all the time, just like he was. Always angry and pissed off. But, the next revelation was what really floored him and helped to change his life so it was easier to deal with all this anger in his head.

If this anger is genetic, then he is only just angry, and not really angry at anything specific. He's just angry, like those foxes he saw on the Nova special. Sure, you could explain that the untamed foxes had an object for their aggression, or so they thought, but why weren't like that? Dave believes it's because the tame foxes didn't feel the aggressive vibes that the untamed foxes were feeling. That same genetically engineered background noise that Dave understood all too well, anger.

Now the major problem for Dave was that once he realized being genetically predisposed to anger was possible, but also probable, he then also had to realize that many of his reasons (maybe all of them) for being angry were no longer valid.

He then had to analyze his thoughts to see if that was possible. That was one of the ways he used to verify the veracity of his anger theory. The problem was that it was easier said then done. But by using rigid logic, he realized that the offenses he was angry about were so minor, the amount of anger it generated was way out of whack with the severity of the offense itself. It didn't make sense that the why (the offense) was generating that much anger.

Since Dave was always feeling anger, the why (the offense) seemed to be the result of the anger rather than the other way around. It was only an excuse to get angry. An excuse that he never thought about too much, because he thought he had a reason for his anger. It was that damn job, the world, friends, co-workers, etc. etc., when really he was just angry and those feelings of anger were just that, feelings with no reason for them.

As an aside, there are also people who will decide to be angry at someone, a family member, friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, money problems etc. etc. And rather than (or maybe in addition to also) showing anger towards person they decided was the cause of their anger, they will take it out on other people, peeople who work for them, strangers on the bus etc. etc. This is known as "transference" of one emotion onto someone other than the person who is the cause of it. In my opinion, it happens much more frequently than most people are aware, but it really has nothing to do with Dave's theory. It's just an aside I threw in there to show I understood what Dave was talking about.

Dave agrees that this idea that the cause of your anger is really just an excuse to fell anger, justified anger is really a tough idea to wrap your mind around, but once he did, he began seeing his anger in a different way and actually started treating people better. He believes in being allowed to rant and rave for no reason every once in a while. A minute to release some anger vibes.

Dave now always made sure the person he was yelling at knew he wasn't mad at them or really yelling at them. He was just mad and using them as a way to release those nasty anger vibes. I've been told that this is one of the reasons people play sports, although they use different words other than "nasty anger vibes", something more along the lines of "pent up aggression". That sounds like "nasty anger vibes" to me, but that's just my opinion.

Dave believes that most people need to "think" they always have to have a reason for their anger, and what they're angry about is not open for discussion. I'm angry at you for leaving the toilet seat up.

Sometimes, Dave admits, the reason for the anger can really be justified. It's the real anger, the one that isn't there all the time like his genetic predisposition for anger is, it's the real deal, according to Dave any way.

Dave has also examined the whys (the offense that is the cause) of his anger that were more real than just leaving the toilet seat up. Relationships are a real big time source for real anger, and money problems and even sexual needs also. They are sometimes so real that they are very difficult to examine with rigid logic. For some of these, Dave has never really gotten to the source of what he calls his "real" anger. It's mostly just a vague feeling of a truth that Dave really doesn't want to explore too closely. He says he feels a lot of fear towards doing that. For now, that's as far as he's gotten.

Dave also feels like it was something primal. Something you feel in your gut but can't express in words. Like his subconscious mind knows something about him that will just simply blow his mind with the pure excitement of it, but at the same time it must protect him from anything that will hurt him psychologically, so it can only give him glimpses of it, and sometimes those glimpses are weird feelings or thoughts, like go next door and shoot my dipshit neighbor in the head and rape his wife. It's not something you could ever do, but the idea still just sometimes pops in his head for no good reason and most times vanishes just as quickly. He can't control what he thinks about and sometimes weird ideas find their way into his head.

Although I don't agree with the shooting in the head part or definitely the rape part, but sometimes when I'm walking on freeway overpasses, I get this quick feeling to just jump over the barrier and onto the highway below, just to see what it felt like, and then the feeling would be gone. I have had those and other similar weird thoughts before also, so I can maybe wrap my mind around that part of his theory a little but, but just a little bit.

Forgetting about "real" anger for the minute, Dave believes that this other background genetic noise (this angry feeling he always has) can be dealt with easy enough. Of course some genetic background noises are harder to deal with than others. Some are so devastating to the person, that they become "real" to him or her that it literally warps their perception of things, and it becomes scary when that person needs or wants to hide this anger from others who are close to them, or decides that killing people is ok.

Dave's anger has never been that devastating to him. He has experienced a warped perspective though. He remembers his reasoning behind many of the things or people he blamed his anger on, and many of them were because he thought his thoughts were more important than anyone elses. He still thinks that way, but now he at least lets other people give their opinions, and he actually listens to them and tries to evaluate what they say fairly. He tries to look at both sides and tries to put himself in their shoes. He thanks me for that, because I inspired in him the desire to look at both sides, be skeptical of both his side at the same time you are looking at the other side skeptically. At least that's what he keeps telling me any way.

He still hasn't gotten past telling people he wasn't mad at them and he still gets angry while he's yelling at people, And when he does it to me, the idea that he's not really yelling at me, he's just yelling, actually helps. He appreciates that I let him do that to me. "See, you really are an inspiration to me," he would say again.

So before I float away in my new big head, I'd like to add that I've also found myself examining my anger a little, as a result of some of our debates, and I've found that there might be some truth to what Dave has been saying. It's not that improbable, in my opinion.

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©Copyrighted by Dave Ayotte & Caty Bergman
LAST UPDATED: Monday,  September 29, 2014