How Feeling Controlled Can Cause Anger

Learn how feeling controlled can cause anger from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


Hi, I'm Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist with a private practice in New York City. I'm going to talk to you a little bit about how feeling controlled might lead to aggressive behaviors.

So one important finding in the area of aggression is that the buildup of frustrations over time, in fact, predicts aggression. So the definition of frustration in the social science literature is that, actually, anytime a goal is being blocked. And so what we know is that over time, if again and again, repeatedly, someone's goal is being blocked, frustration builds, and at some point, a threshold will be reached where they typically aggress.

So the first thing that's important to keep in mind is that being controlled, in general, can lead to aggression. At the same time, it seems somewhat contrary in that anger and emotion is often linked to aggression. It's often seen as an emotion that has to do with power or potency and not being powerless. So this seems a little bit strange. But if we think about anger and the context of the fight or flight response - so oftentimes, if there's a threat or a danger, an animal or a human is going to engage in either feeling extreme fear where they might flee or anger, where they might fight.

Now if an animal is engaged in this fight or flight response, and you can imagine even a house cat and a mouse, typically a mouse is going to try to avoid or escape that cat - that would be the flight response. But if it's cornered, and the only option it has is to fight, then it will. And so we might actually see aggression coming when there are no other options. And so in a way, feeling controlled can be about, one -frustrations building. It can also be that aggression, that behavior comes about when there are no other options. So I think, those are two explanations for how oftentimes being and feeling controlled, the perception of that, can lead to aggressive behavior.

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