Most people do not enjoy angry moments. They are usually connected to something bad, like a parking ticket or an argument. But this negative emotion enthralls researchers, who track it in dreams and genes.
Anger also has weird side effects, like delusions of intelligence and the slow death of punctuation marks. Then there are the atheists with God rage, anger clubs with protective gear, and the one word that could kill a lot of negativity before it even begins.
Dogs seem to read human emotions much better than we do theirs. To the chagrin of most canine cuddlers, researchers recently discovered that hugging a dog can cause the animal immense stress.
In a 2016 study involving several dogs, pointing fingers and expressive voices also revealed what happens when the animals are faced with an upset human. The dogs’ trust tanked on the spot.
In one experiment, a person pointed at a spot and used a friendly or excited voice. Even though the spot was unfamiliar, the dogs trusted the human enough to go over and investigate the area.
In the second experiment, the person also pointed but used an angry tone. Although all the dogs investigated the spot, they hesitated to do so. In fact, there was a significant delay. It would appear that dogs read vocal and emotional cues before deciding when to trust a human.
Many parents can vouch for the fact that children can provoke anger. Toddlers are demanding, and teenagers come with their own set of rules. While shouting often occurs in Western households, such anger has no place in parenting elsewhere.
Remarkably, Arctic Inuit communities view a parent shouting at a child as demeaning to the adult. This is a far cry from the righteous stance it displays in the West. While psychologists are increasingly aware that the near-total control Western parents try to keep over their children’s lives are producing angry families, the Inuit raise their kids with serene techniques.
This results in calmer kids and a coolheaded culture, something that seems to have died in the West under the weight of flammable politics, social media rants, and strangers yelling over the same parking space. The Inuit are not alone. Many other cultures raise their offspring in productive ways that may seem alien to angrier societies.
For example, the Japanese are less likely to express rage. Often when their kids argue, adults do not come down on them like a ton of bricks. Instead, children are allowed to sort out the situation themselves and learn early how to deal with others.
Rage affects people in a peculiar way—they overestimate their own intelligence. After a “grrr” moment decision, this could be why one might think, “Why on Earth did I think that was a good idea?”
In 2018, a study tried to better understand this peculiar phenomenon. Researchers gathered 520 undergraduates in Warsaw. They were questioned on the quickness and frequency of their anger and given intelligence tests.
As anger is a complex and transient emotion, the study could not throw light on every aspect. It remains unknown whether normally mild people only overestimate their smarts in the heat of the moment.
However, the results showed that anger was unrelated to intelligence levels. Students of all levels who shared a quick temper overestimated their brain power. On the contrary, those with anxious personalities underestimated their own cognitive excellence.
One thing that the study made clear was unsurprising: Narcissism was key to people who believed they were smarter than everybody else.
There is a very technical-sounding phrase called “frontal alpha asymmetry.” In plain English, these brain waves dance in the frontal lobes and become mismatched during anger. Scientists were curious to see if the waves, called alpha, went out of sync during bad-tempered dreams.
In 2019, volunteers snoozed in a laboratory wearing electrode caps to measure their brain activity. Throughout the night, after experiencing the dream-inducing REM stage, they were awakened and questioned about any dreams and emotions they had experienced.
Interestingly, alpha waves did scramble during angry dreams. The study also found that experiencing crabby feelings before going to bed could induce such dreams. Speaking of both worlds, scientists discovered that people with more alpha activity in the right frontal lobe were more prone to anger while awake and asleep.
In 2011, five studies merged and produced fascinating results about anger toward the Almighty. The feeling appeared to be prevalent among Americans, representing 62 percent of the population. The percentage did not denote a collective permanence but rather how many people experienced holy disappointment sometimes.
People with higher educations, women, and youth were slightly more likely to experience God anger. Racially, more white people reported their grudges than black people. Protestants complained the least, while Catholics and Jews were slightly more upset. These feelings grew from blaming God for bad experiences like serious disease, the loss of a loved one, or a traumatic event.
Curiously, the studies found that agnostics and atheists sometimes experienced more God anger than believers in their demographic groups. However, this did not mean that they were closet worshipers. Many had religious pasts with which they were unhappy, or they had imagined a god for the sake of the survey. Similarly, the believers’ fist shaking did not mean that they had renounced their faith.
The texting language has a life of its own. With the complexities of language and the human mind, it soon evolved a few quirks to mimic the emotions of the spoken word. Without most people realizing it, one punctuation mark is being culled because it makes the sender seem angry.
The full stop, period, or point is used to show the end of a sentence. However, in texting, it suggests the end of someone’s rope or even trustworthiness. Undoubtedly, some people use it because the period is the correct way to end a written line. But to some receivers of such messages—especially when they love textspeak—it may appear standoffish.
For some reason, there was also a perception of insincerity when volunteers looked at text messages marked with periods. Interestingly, they saw no “falseness” to a similar message written on paper. Researchers suspect that periods in texting, a casual medium, appear overly formal and this is why they feel insincere.
After millennia of violence, modern society inherited a problem. Humans developed genes that promote aggression and, worse yet, evolved others that prevent self-control. This means that those who are genetically predisposed to anger often try to stay calm but lack the efficient brain regions responsible for emotion control.
Researchers who lived with hunter-gatherer tribes saw firsthand how violence benefited the most homicidal members. The men who murdered others survived longer and had more kids. The genes exist in up to 40 percent of the world’s male population.
The strongest influence comes from the MAOA gene, which plays a role in regulating emotions. Those with the low-functioning variant are more likely to lose control, especially when they had a traumatic childhood. Those with the high-functioning variant might get violent but only when provoked.
The most remarkable aspect was that all the volunteers in the study were mentally healthy university students, not people with emotional disturbances.
It may sound fictitious, but the Global State of Emotions report is a real thing. For its 2018 edition, an analytics firm called Gallup performed interviews with over 151,000 people from more than 140 countries. Adults were questioned about how often they experienced both positive and negative emotions. The results were published in 2019.
Those who said they suffered from sadness and worry had increased by one percentage point from the previous year. Anger was up by two percentage points. All three negative emotions stood at new record heights, suggesting that people are more blue, worried, and full of rage than ever before.
The implications could be disastrous. There are clear links between negative emotions and health problems, especially high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. If the trend continues to climb, scientists fear that the global population could become increasingly unhealthy.
As the rest of the world descends into anger, the Danes remain perky. In fact, Denmark is one of the happiest nations on the planet, and it might have something to do with the word “pyt.” Recently voted as their favorite word, an exact English translation does not exist. However, it could be the answer to lower stress and anger levels.
It is almost used as the phrase, “Oh well,” to accept that hassles happen. Upon spotting a parking ticket, a Dane might first feel frustrated but then shrug and say, “Pyt.” Acceptance is key because it prevents anger from snowballing and ruining the rest of the day.
Teachers have pyt buttons for kids to push when they lose a game or need to let go of something that cannot be changed. This teaches them not to overreact but to refocus, settle, and go on.
Of course, the word is used responsibly. Pyt exists to wave off minor frustrations before they can morph into monsters. It is never used to excuse laziness or a situation where someone was seriously wronged.
It was only a matter of time before somebody opened a club for the enraged. London hosts the Rage Club and the Wreck Room, while New York sprouted the like-minded Rage Cage and Wrecking Club.
Similar places are popping up all over the world. Some are mild. They allow people to meet and discuss their anger triggers before taking their rage out on paper by scribbling anything from vengeful slashes to sailor words.
Others are more violent. Members dress up in protective gear—already a cool thing—and then smash stuff with sledgehammers. While loud music plays, things like crockery and TVs get smashed to bits.
At the end of the day, the clubs all share the same purpose. They provide people with a safe space to let off steam. It is not therapy. But it often provides individuals with the first opportunity to examine what causes their anger because they can express it without shame.