Psychological Self-Help

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4
Anger and Aggression
This chapter will provide (1) signs of anger, (2) theories about how and why
aggression develops, and (3) means of preventing or coping with anger (in
yourself and in others). 
Introduction—An Overview of Anger
How we deal with stress, disappointments, and frustration determines the
essence of our personality. In this chapter we consider frustration and
aggression. Anger may do more harm than any other emotion. First of all it is
very common and, secondly, it upsets at least two people--the aggressor and
the aggressed against. There are two problems: how to prevent or control
your own anger and how to handle someone aggressing against you. This
chapter attends more to self-control. 
The overall effects of anger are enormous (Nay, 1996). Frustration tells us
"I'm not getting what I want" and eventually anger is related to violence,
crime, spouse and child abuse, divorce, stormy relationships, poor working
conditions, poor physical health (headaches, hypertension, GI disturbances,
heart attacks), emotional disorders, and so on. 
Just how widespread is hostility? Very! Psychology Today (1983) asked,
"If you could secretly push a button and thereby eliminate any person with no
repercussions to yourself, would you press that button?" 69% of responding
males said yes, 56% of women. Men would most often kill the U. S. president
or some public figure; women would kill bosses, ex-husbands or ex-
boyfriends and former partners of current lovers. Another survey of college
students during the 80's indicated that 15% agreed that "if we could wipe out
the Soviet Union, and be sure they wouldn't be able to retaliate, we should do
it." That action could result in over 100 million deaths! The respondents
seemed to realize the great loss of life because 26% said, "the United States
should be willing to accept 25 million to 50 million casualties in order to
engage in nuclear war." What an interesting combination of intelligence and
mass violence in the same species. In light of the subsequent disintegration
of the Soviet Union, this kind of pugnacious, arrogant, uncaring thinking is
really scary. The problem was an unwillingness to carefully consider the
atrocities of nuclear warfare plus a macho toughness engendered by the
1980’s Cold War rhetoric.
For reasons I hope to soon make clearer, Americans are amazingly violent compared
to people in other countries. In 2002, approximately 290 million Americans suffered
23 million crimes. 23% of those crimes were crimes of violence. For every 1000
people over 12, there was one rape or sexual assault, another assault resulting in an
injury, and two robberies. Yet, criminal violence is fairly predictable (not at some
specific time but in general) in the sense that 50% of males convicted of a crime
between 10 and 16-years-of-age will be convicted of more crimes as adults. Also,
being exposed to violence in childhood (at home, in their community, & in the
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