Oftentimes, if we think about anger, it's considered to be one of a moral emotion. It has to do with judgments and standards and really trying to get people to do what's right. And so I might perceive a threat or a violation to sort of the social or community kind of codes and laws as a threat to our health and our sense of cooperation. And that might make me particularly angry if I have certain beliefs that people shouldn't violate those. I also might believe that I have a duty to set those people straight and let them know. And that's something often we see with people coming in with anger management issues. Someone on the street has bumped them and they want to make sure that person understands that they’re bumped and they need to be more courteous on the street. Someone is not polite at a cash register and is rude and they're going to make sure that person is corrected and understands that the customer is always right and they need to be polite.
Now interestingly, here what's trying to be protected is the sense of community and harmony by enforcing the rules and letting those people know that they've done something wrong. Unfortunately, what we see is that interpersonally oftentimes people aren't really willing to receive that kind of feedback, at least not the way it's being delivered when someone is really angry. So here we have an individual who really is trying to stress and emphasize and value the sense of community and cooperation by protecting sort of moral fabric of that community. But they end up becoming very, very socially isolated and it can lead to really high levels of loneliness and unfortunately that loneliness in fact becomes kind of a feedback loop, puts them at greater and greater risk for being aggressive.
One of the probably most important things I heard an angry client say at one point was she realized, she shared how she'd suddenly made this change and she said, "I decided I would rather be happy than right." And what I think she meant by that, it wasn't that she necessarily changed her mind, that she was okay with the person being rude or discourteous but rather she decided she didn't need to tell and explain that had happened to every single person. And once she made that kind of cognitive shift, her behaviors began to change and her social network began to improve.