Posted 19/02/2021 in Category 1

Why do I get so angry?!

Why do I get so angry?!


One of my lecturers used to begin his lectures on anger in sport with the following line: “If there is a set of lectures that really sets me off – it’s the psychology of anger!!”. This quip had a kernel of truth to it because what our professor tried to convey is that anger is a response to an event – like having to deliver a set of lectures on the psychology of anger. But more critically, he explained, we trigger anger through some event or interaction. In sport, anger has its place and it serve us well to make a critical tackle close to the try line, for example. Anger is an approach-related emotion. We move towards rather than away when we experience anger. 


But what is anger? And how does it play a valuable role in my sporting life? Richard Lazarus suggested that anger is a negatively-toned emotion that arises when a person’s ego is at stake when the person appraises a threat before them. Just think about a coach chewing you out or a team mate making a fool of you or spectators chanting a demeaning song about you. There is more to this process because you might hear these things said about you, but they might not bother you. You might interpret these interactions in a way that boosts your confidence. For instance, you might think “the coach chews me out because he knows how good I really am” and “those people chant because they know there’s nothing they can do when I get the ball”. You might detect a threat in this circumstance, but see that you have the coping resources to deal with it. Another player might believe that attacking the coach is the way to go because of the demeaning manner in which he spoke to you. But just before you attack the coach, you realise the consequences – he might fight back, he might cast me off the squad, he might punish me with a fine. 


To summarise, we get angry when we feel threatened and we feel we cannot cope in another way other than acting out our anger (e.g., shouting, throwing something, hitting something or someone). The heart of anger is the experience of threat. Some people are angry because of the fear they feel. I might be angry because I can’t get my own way or I might be angry because I cannot control important events in my life. Or I might be anger because people are not listening to me and I know they right thing to do. 


The next time you feel angry, you might begin by asking – how am I threatened here? Is this person threating my ego, my safety, my income, my family and so on? This process is hard because we usually act upon our anger. We might notice ourselves getting angry on the pitch when the coach is shouting. We can ask ourselves “What’s bugging me about what he’s saying or the way he’s saying it?” We might answer, “He is threating my ego as a player. He is questioning my honesty on the pitch” and “I don’t like my honesty being questioned because I always try to be honest and he doesn’t always see it”. This reasoned response means we can ‘see’ what is happening and how we are responding to the stimulus of the coach’s interactions with us. We can get ahead of these situations by speaking with the coach or managing our responses to the coach’s actions. 


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Reference

Sofia, R., & Cruz, J. (2016). Exploring Individual Differences in the Experience of Anger in Sport Competition: The Importance of Cognitive, Emotional, and Motivational Variables. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28(3), 350–366.

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