Prequel to Anger: How Fury Comes On Fast

Headshot of woman yellingI find it amusing when I hear someone say, “I never get angry.” Why? Because, in truth, we all get angry from time to time. Anger is a normal feeling. It is not bad to be angry as some people may believe; it is just what we do with our anger that can produce positive or negative results.

A person on the verge of anger experiences a rush of neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain, signaling a response similar to the fight or flight response. The resulting burst of energy and rush of adrenaline increase the body’s heart rate and blood pressure, causing a flush of heat, increased agitation, and loss of clear thought as focus narrows.

When we’re flooded with stress hormones and our heart rates increase, our sweat glands go into overdrive, respiration speeds up, and we may lose our ability to have calming thoughts. You may have noticed that when people become angry they almost stutter to get the words out, or they may relay information incorrectly. When this happens, the person on the receiving end of the anger might assume the angry person is lying and choose to react based on that assumption. I’ll tell you though, in that moment of anger, as the thinking process is overwhelmed, the details might not be as clear as they might be when the person feels calmer.

The anger process occurs very quickly, and it can feel overwhelming. The sudden shift toward anger can come as a surprise, and you might think to yourself, “How can I be this upset?” as anger pours from your lips and alters your expressions. While this instantaneous shift to anger can feel surprising, I know how much anger and pain might exist in the body already, lying in wait to leak out. I fear most of us carry hurt inside us from the past. I am referring not only to abuse we may have suffered, but also to events that resulted in unsatisfactory outcomes. For example, the disappointment associated in childhood with receiving a lesser birthday gift than your sibling’s, or the frustration at not being awarded the grade you think you deserved in a class, or the aggravation resulting from the look someone gave you can linger for years. We may dwell on these experiences over and over.

Certainly, the larger the concern, the more likely it is that pain dwells there. Experiencing some type of abuse in our lives is sure to involve a lot of pain. Left unaddressed, repressed sadness may surface as anger later on. I look at our lives as an exploration where we go through life with carrying a backpack. Painful experiences, even small ones, are like rocks that we may put into the packs. Imagine the burden of continuing through life with more and more unresolved events weighing us down.

When people come to me for treatment with anger as their primary concern, I look not only at what is happening now, but also at the painful and traumatizing events in their lifetime to examine how these issues may be related to today’s anger. Because while I love the concept of “forgive and forget,” healing is not that simple, especially if we do not address our pain, anger, or sadness.

© Copyright 2010 by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • ryan B

    ryan B

    July 14th, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    why is it that it is so tough to remain calm but so easy to get angry for a normal person?
    I think it has to do with us child is born an angry person or a bad person.he/she becomes so by seeing others around him/her.
    so its time for each one of us to change,to treat each other with compassion,deal with each other through a talk rather than getting angry and having a commotion.

  • Alice


    July 15th, 2010 at 3:12 AM

    I encountered this person,actually is a friend’s brother,who is very short-tempered and starts throwing things around when he’s angry and by the admission of his own brother,can remain hostile to any person he is angry with even once.He does not forget and forgive.On further investigation(which I often do because I am just so inquisitive),I found that this is a result of that guy himself facing such behaviour from his father as a child.Father has passed away but that I-was-never-forgiven-so-why-should-I thought has stuck in him.

  • runninfast


    July 15th, 2010 at 4:21 AM

    My prequel to anger is tears. When the tears start flowing then watch out because that is when I am destined to have a major blow up! I hate that feeling that all of that anger brings on but you feel kind of limited in how well you can control that.

  • ALEX


    July 15th, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Many situations I try 2 control my anger but just cant…lands me into conflict with people but I just cant help it…also it really hampers my judgement capacity and makes it very difficult for me 2 think rationally…I really want to stop this,please help me.

  • Olive


    July 15th, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    I’d be scared of someone that said “I never get angry”. If they don’t (or at least don’t show it publicly), they must be holding a lot of rage inside, don’t you think? And one day that will explode.

  • Wolverine


    July 16th, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    @Olive:I agree with you here.And it not only shows that the person is holding a lot of rage inside but also shows that he does not know himself too well and is thereby a not-so-stable person!

  • Angela


    July 16th, 2010 at 4:26 AM

    I might try to squelch those feelings of anger but that just makes things even worse. Better just to get it all out and then be done with it.

  • donna


    July 16th, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    I like the phrase instantaneous anger. That perfectly describes my husband. He can go from 0 to 60 in one second and it’s baffling sometimes what the heck he’s so mad about! He’ll jump on the tiniest innocent comment and see a slight that’s not there. No wonder his blood pressure’s sky high. It makes him very hard to live with. I know he has childhood issues but I’m the one taking the flak now because of that. Some days I could walk out. If I didn’t love him so much I would.

  • raymond


    July 16th, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    It’s easy for outsiders to say forgive and forget. If it’s not happened to them, they can’t possibly fathom the pain. I’m glad to see you say it’s not that simple Stuart.

  • Alyson


    July 18th, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Anger is such a waste of energy! We both agreed long ago to walk away and retreat to opposite ends of the house until we cool off if things get too unruly. We come back to the living room when we’re ready to talk and not before. Sometimes one of us can sit there for hours alone and not see the other person until the next day. We’re okay with that. We need to respect each other’s need for space and time to think if we want to be a couple that can communicate disagreements in ways other than arguing. It’s saved us from escalating arguments even further many times because we simply stop. When you take stock of what’s really going on and was being said when you’re in a room by yourself, it’s surprising what you see that you wouldn’t have if you’d still been yelling at each other with neither side really listening.

  • Wanderer


    July 19th, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    “Anger ventilated often hurries toward forgiveness; and concealed often hardens into revenge.” – Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

    In other words, better out than in.

  • Karen


    July 21st, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    I would love to be able to express that I’m angry and do so without babbling. You know how some people can make it very clear they are angry and use measured, calm tones while they do? I’m not one of them LOL. I don’t think it’s good for you to not express it. Doing a passable impersonation of a howling werewolf can only be marginally better though.

  • Stuart


    September 21st, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Ryan, I think you are wise. I know that in all of our lives, we are going encounter stress / goo (pain of some sort). In general, we have a hard time expressing it because we are concerned about the potential outcome (not wanting to hurt the other, concerned about how they might respond to us / think of us, etc.)

    Very insightful Alice.

    Runnin — you have the physical. Now let’s come up with a way to get the hurt out before the building up toward explosion.

    Scary thought Alice and Wolverine. I fear you are right

    Nice Angela

    More to come….

  • Stuart


    October 5th, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Alex, it really does not matter how long it takes to address, just keep trying. If you find yourself too heated, back-out. Take time to regroup. Really challenge yourself to understand how the anger got to this level. Then, ask yourself, realistically, what do I want to have happen and what steps can I take to accomplish this.

    Imagine being able to share the anger and feel heard. You might not get agreement but I will tell you, I know when someone really hears me. Even if they don’t agree in the moment, this tends to lead to being able to come back later without the intensity I was previously feeling.

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