boss or teacher who enjoys seeing the worker or student break into a cold
Boredom is another source of hostility, according to Fromm. When life
loses its meaning because we are only a cog in a wheel, our reaction to the
senselessness and helplessness is anger. We feel cheated; we had hoped for
more in life; the powerlessness hurts. Hurting others or making them mad are
ways of proving one still has power, a means of showing "I'm somebody."
In chapter 6, we saw how one might react to rejection with depression or
with anger. Our own irrational ideas were the causes of these emotions
(Hauck, 1974). It goes like this: I wanted something. I didn't get it. That's
terrible! You shouldn't have frustrated me; you're no good! You should be
punished; I hate you, I'll get revenge!
Hauck described a woman who had been insulted and abused by an
alcoholic husband for 30 years. She hated him. He had wasted enormous
amounts of needed money on drinks. He was self-centered. When she sought
help from a Rational-Emotive therapist, he told her, "Your husband is sick.
You are demanding that he change, but he can't." With the therapist's help
she started to see her husband as emotionally ill instead of mean. She
stopped getting upset and critical or nasty with her husband. As a result, the
husband stopped fighting (but not drinking). The woman realized she had
been insisting that the world (especially her husband) be different than it
was. She had created her own angry misery by saying, "Ain't it awful! Things
must be different." (See chapter 14 for more.)
First, something happens to make us mad--someone cheats or insults us,
a child rebels, our lover shows a lot of attention to someone else. We think
about it a lot; we talk about it; it becomes an obsession, like a movie played
over and over. The more we think about it, the angrier we get. Research
supports this notion. Ebbesen, Duncan, and Konecni (1975) interviewed
recently fired employees and encouraged them to talk about their hostility
towards the company. This talking increased their hostility.
Zillmann (1979) has summarized several studies showing that aggressive
fantasies interfere with the reduction of anger. Moreover, just waiting five
minutes helps women get over their anger, but not men. Zillmann speculates
that men may be more prone than women to ruminate about the
mistreatments they have suffered and/or about their inability (or wished-for
ability) to retaliate against their annoyer. Thus, men hold anger longer than
It is not uncommon to meet a person who is still, years later, seething
with anger towards a former spouse or a tyrannical parent or boss.
Presumably the unpleasant memories maintain the hostility which, in turn,
fuels more aggressive fantasies and perhaps ulcers, distrust of others, and so