Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 39 of 173 
Next page End Contents 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44  

anger is. We can recognize that all sources of unpleasantness contribute to
our aggressiveness, making some of our hurtful, punitive impulses as
unreasonable as the rat attacking an innocent cage-mate. Another example,
given by Berkowitz, is when we are suffering from depression, we may
become more hostile. Perhaps increased awareness of our irrationality will
help us be less impulsive, less inclined to blame the nearest human for our
suffering, and more able to control our thoughts (away from revenge and
irritating fantasies), our actions, and our group's aggression. I wonder if the
pain-aggression connection helps explain our high rate of divorce, child
abuse, and our national tendency to quickly replace an old enemy with a new
Internal Dynamics of Aggression
Freud believed the death instinct sometimes gets turned outward, and
then we hurt and offend others and go to war (the opposite of suicide).
Rochlin (1973), another psychoanalyst, believes aggression is our way of
recovering lost pride. Given the common human need to feel powerful and to
think highly of ourselves, any threat to our self-esteem is taken as a hostile
attack. When our pride is hurt, we often attempt to restore our status and
self-esteem by hurting the person who offended us. 
Toch (1969) found that 40% of aggressive prisoners had been insecure
and needed some "victory" to prove they were something special. Other
violent men were quick to defend their reputations as tough guys. We, as a
militaristic society, need to know more about why our egos are so easily
offended and how being cruel and violent can inflate a sick ego. 
Erich Fromm (1973) defines benign aggression as a brief reaction to
protect ourselves from danger. In contrast, malignant aggression is hurting
others purely for the sadistic pleasure. Fromm believes people feel helplessly
compelled to conform to the rules of society, at work, and to authority
everywhere. This lack of freedom to make decisions and the inability to find
meaning and love in one's life causes resentment and sometimes malignant,
sadistic aggression. 
How and where does this hostility show itself? Some people get pleasure
from hurting, killing, and destroying; Hitler was a prime example: he killed 15
to 20 million unarmed Poles, Russians, and Jews. He reportedly planned to
destroy his own country before surrendering. Fromm describes Hitler's life
and says, "There are hundreds of Hitlers among us who would come forth if
their historical hour arrived." In other cases, there is an underlying feeling of
powerlessness which produces a need to be in complete control over a
helpless person. Sadists and rapists are like this. Joseph Stalin, dictator of
Russia from 1929 to 1953, was a famous example; he enjoyed torturing
political prisoners; he killed millions of his own people (when they opposed his
policies); he had wives of his own loyal aides sent to prison (the aides didn't
protest); he enjoyed being deceptive and totally unpredictable. In milder
forms, chauvinists may also be hostile, e.g. the male who puts down his wife
and demands she attend to his every need; the angry, threatening, autocratic
Previous page Top Next page

« Back