Aggression

Statement: “Aggression is part of each one of us, it plays a part in our daily life, it is allowed and it even is a strength.”

We fear aggression. But do we need to? If we fear the word “aggression”, what exactly do we fear? What does it mean to use the word “aggression”? Depending on what we see, or what form of aggression is demonstrated, our reaction will vary. Our fears are dependent on the way in which aggression rears its “ugly” head. There are numerous forms of aggression. In sports we cheer the aggression of our heroes. Action painters have thrown their paint on the canvas in outbursts of aggression. Corporate leaders aggressively defend their goals. Barristers plea with vigor and aggression to get their clients off and get media attention for it.

But where does “good” aggression end and where do the negative consequences start to show? Place and time play an important role in our judgment. When the words “good” or “bad” are used, it means someone is judging. This judgement will weigh heavier depending on who uses the words. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about anger instead of aggression without getting lost in a moral swamp, because have all been angry about something.

Anger is normal, healthy and even necessary to assert yourself or to move forward in society. Anger is not dangerous or bad; it is an emotion that helps us to cope with threatening situations or to change situations.

When change is an option and its realisation is in your hands, the energy instigated by anger can be useful to effect the change. In many cases change is not possible or it is beyond your control. At that moment you will have to deal with the impotence it probably brings about in you.

Anger is often difficult and complicated, because emotions can be intense and overwhelming. The adrenalin simultaneously produced in the body often provokes an urgent need for acting-out and makes it difficult to think clearly. Sometimes the emotion is so fierce and even destructive that it becomes frightening or harmful to yourself and/or other people.

Anger is a breeding ground for aggression. But other emotions that are difficult to manage can play a part as well. It often occurs, for instance, that people become angry when they are ashamed or afraid. Shame and fear are unpleasant feelings against which anger sometimes seems to offer protection. Anger can also keep grief in check. In bereavement, for instance, mourning is an important though difficult part in the acceptance of reality. Anger can be a means to offer resistance to that. When anger is a cover for other emotions, it is important to recognise and accept those feelings and deal with them. This will considerably reduce the anger.

Some say anger produces a sensation of power and makes one feel good. People are scared to lose their strength and energy when their anger is being ‘taken away’. But one might as well say that a person really becomes a strong person once the anger inside is under control.

Many people are ashamed about their anger, because they believe anger to be a ‘bad’ thing. On the one side they are afraid of losing their self-control, but at the same time they are quickly overpowered by rage. It is interesting to know that this emotion determines behaviour, and that it is not behaviour in itself! Such feelings are not dangerous or bad; they are just part of life and therefore inevitable.

If you want more insight into aggression, you can obtain information in The Icoba Aggression Library (in Dutch). If you want more information about how emotions determine our behaviour, please watch ‘Alfred and shadow’. No, this has nothing to do with the theory of relativity or with a Sixties guitar band. Alfred and Shadow is an educational movie that playfully illustrates how emotions determine our behaviour. Sit back and relax!