November, 2015

Understanding Anger
the Socially Acceptable Emotion

SYNOPSIS of the BLOG ARTICLE: Understanding the emotion “anger” and learning how to work “with it” gets us closer to ending unnecessary violence. Anger, in particular, is one of emotional alarm systems system that tells us about personal violation and its potential threaten to our survival. It alerts us when our sense of inherent worth comes under attack, when getting what we want, need and/or value gets threatened, and when we can’t process feelings of shame, hurt, or fear.

PHOTO_ViolenceBook_Daniels_200pxwI began my study of violence in 1968 with other junior colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University after the assignations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Our work culminated in 1970 with the publication of a book called Violence and the Struggle for Existence.

My interest in working with anger and violence continues into the present as a result of my association with the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), working closely with colleagues Susan Olesek and Suzanne Dion, leaders of the project and EPP’s core instructors, both teaching weekly in California jails/prisons. Together we bring a great knowledge of the Enneagram and possess a deep understanding of the mammalian emotional alarm systems, including that of anger, to EPP’s curriculum. This past month, Suzanne and I have put this paper together.


Understanding Anger/Rage, the Socially Acceptable Emotion
Can Understanding Lead to Less Violence?


by David Daniels MD
with Suzanne Dion of EPP


Anger is a vital, vital energy source. It’s one of the three fundamental, aversive emotions shared by all mammals. These aversive emotions are key to the survival systems found in human beings and mammals alike. They are designed to protect us, warn us, and keep us alive.

How the Anger System Works

iStock_000004938320XSmallAnger, moreover referred to as rage, is part of the survival system that tells us about violation. It gets triggered when our sense of personal worth comes under attack, when getting what we want or desire is delayed or taken away, when something we care about gets threatened. It manifests when someone is about to take away our food, get in the way of our accomplishing something, or when someone tries to force us to do something against our will.

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