There seem to be two elements in anger-building: (1) obsessive hostile
fantasies and (2) a lack of creative imagination or fantasy. For example,
extremely violent persons often ruminate almost continuously about how
awful the hated person is. Also, they think of only violent solutions to the
problem. Sirhan was obsessed with killing Robert Kennedy. On the other
hand, research has consistently shown that people who are frequently
aggressive have a very limited ability to think of different or more creative
ways of handling the angering situation or person (Singer, 1984).
Tavris (1984) says by talking with friends (or a therapist?) about being
upset with someone "you aren't ventilating the anger; you're practicing it."
That isn't necessarily so but it is possible. If the talking (or daydreaming)
reinforces your beliefs of injustice, blame, and evilness in the other person,
your anger increases. If the talking (or thinking) provides more understanding
of the disliked person and more ideas about how to cope, your anger
decreases. Also, if you believe talking calms you down, it probably does.
Put-down games and psychological put-downs
Eric Berne (1964), founder of Transactional Analysis (TA), wrote a very
popular book, Games People Play. One kind of game is to put-down others,
which certainly is aggressive. The payoffs of such games are building one's
ego, denying responsibility for one's problems, reaffirming one's opinion that
other people are "not OK," and expressing some of one's anger. Some of
these put-down games involve blaming others ("If it weren't for you"),
demeaning others ("I know your blemish," "Rapo--men only want sex," "Yes,
but you're wrong"), and revenge ("Now I've got you, you SOB"). See chapter
According to TA, it is the "child" part of us that enjoys playing these
hurtful games, which are carried out unconsciously. The rational "adult" part
of us may never become aware of the destructive, hostile games being played
by the "child" part. But if the "adult" part can gain some insight, it could stop
the games. If insight happened, however, there would surely be an internal
struggle between the "adult" and the "child," resulting in stress and
irritability. Let's suppose your "child" part likes to flirt, partly because the
flirting (if you are a woman) reaffirms your belief that men are unfaithful
animals or (if you are a man) that women are suckers for a smooth "line;"
both are hostile put-down games. If your logical "adult" realizes your "child's"
motives and stops the "child" from playing these games, the "child" is likely to
resent losing some of its fun. But at least the aggression-generating thoughts
and experiences of the game are eliminated.
Games are unconscious but we may consciously put-down or degrade or
insult another person by "mind reading" or "psychologizing," i.e. attempting
to analyze and explain their behavior. First of all, most people resent
someone else (unless it's their therapist) telling them what they really think
or feel and what their unconscious motives really are. Secondly, many of
these psychological speculations are negative (saintly motives don't need to
be repressed). Alan Gurman and David Rice, well known marital therapists,
provide many examples: