THE MORAL NATURE OF ANGER 261 EVENTS, AGENTS, INTERPRETATIONS, AND
APPRAISALS INVOLVED IN ANGER 261 OTHER FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE
EXPERIENCE OF ANGER 264
TOO MUCH ANGER VERSUS TOO LITTLE 268
THEORIES OF ANGER 271 THE RELATIONSHIP OF ANGER TO OTHER
ANGER DISORDER 287
Anyone can get angry - that is easy; . . . but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for everyone nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble.
(Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1109a25)
Anger is a profoundly uncomfortable emotion. Its association with sometimes uncontrollable aggression and violence and, moreover, the attributions of blame and intent which always lurk beneath the surface ensure that, for many of us, giving vent to our anger is something rarely indulged. It can be argued that such emotional conservatism has its place; however, folk theories of anger also suggest that it's good to let it all out, to rant and rave for a while—there's no real calm unless you've had the storm. The line between too much anger or too little anger is difficult to tread and in this chapter we will explore some of the tensions between appropriate and inappropriate anger. Along the way we will review the existing theoretical models of anger in the literature before attempting to use anger to illustrate the utility of the idea of cycles of appraisal within the SPAARS model developed in Chapter 5. Finally, we will consider disordered anger and emotions related to anger.
To illustrate some of the complexities and the sheer force of anger, there is no better place to start than with the cinema:
DANNY: There's a passage I've learned by heart - Ezekiel 25:17: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherd the meek through the valley of darkness for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. [INCREASED ANGER] And I will strike down upon these with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers and you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee" VICTIM: screams
[SOUNDS OF GUNFIRE AS VINCENT AND DANNY SHOOT THE VICTIM]
In this memorable scene from Quentin Tarantino's cult film Pulp Fiction, the hitman's ritual recitation of the passage from Ezekiel prior to shooting his victim reveals a number of the issues that have dominated the psychology of anger both historically and cross-culturally for almost 2000 years. Anger is, in the first place, a moral emotion. Danny's victim has seemingly plumbed such depths of moral depravity that Danny is surely doing him a favour by killing him. Second, anger is a passion; having worked himself into such a temper, Danny not only finds it easier to carry out his unsavoury profession but would probably find it hard to stop. Third, the appropriateness of anger varies both within and across cultures. In Danny's eyes his victim has clearly broken the code of the criminal underworld by which both of them operate. However, whether such a transgression would be viewed as an appropriate instigation to such a level of anger by the rest of society is questionable. In this first part of the chapter we consider in detail some of these aspects of anger.
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