Dealing with Depression, Anger and Moods: More Facts about Anger

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Karl commented that the things a person gets angry about can tell you more about him or her than anything else. “I once dated a woman,” he said, “who got really angry when I sent her roses.” It turns out she did not like roses and felt that Karl should have checked with her first. “She was so mean and petty about it, and she completely missed my good intentions. I knew that this meant big trouble, so l ended the relationship. ” Karl added knowingly, “I heard she just got divorced for the fourth time. “


Anger is a very common experience and emotion. For some, hardly a single day goes by without experiencing anger. It can be expressed outwardly, or it can be held in. It can be controlled or uncontrolled. It can persist or it can be resolved.

Often, expressed anger leads to alienation from others. People who fly off the handle also often suffer from a negative self-concept and poor self-acceptance.

Anger is behind a good deal of interpersonal conflict, occupational failure, domestic and family strife. It can escalate into hostility, fury, rage and even result in murder. Anger that is held in or suppressed may be related to medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

But how you express anger is important. People express their feelings of anger differently. Some sulk, others yell, or glare, or make snide remarks, or withdraw. In the 1970s, it was fashionable for therapists to tell their angry clients to “let out” their anger by beating a pillow and screaming, or to hit someone or something with a soft foam bat, but these actions only resulted in even greater levels of anger, and are not recommended by knowledgeable professionals today.

It’s also important to note that

• anger is not synonymous with aggression; anger is an emotional state, aggression is a behavior.

Aggression includes a deliberate intent to harm, hurt, or injure another person, or do damage to an object.

Is there such a thing as “verbal aggression”? Many authorities say that aggression is best defined as physical behavior with the goal of contact –~ shoving, hitting, punching, etc. Nevertheless, in many unstable persons, even a verbal remark such as “You’re a jerk!” may be considered aggressive, and can result in an aggressive response.

It has been shown that making an angry face will actually induce a person to feel angry, whereas putting on a “happy face,” smiling and acting happy, has the opposite effect.

Today, effective anger-reduction programs include exercises that work toward these goals:

• increase your overall level of happiness,

• learn to relax fully,

• learn to “let go” of unimportant anger triggers,

• learn to express justified anger in assertive—not aggressive— ways.

Finally, as we have said on many occasions, behind all anger lies a should, ought, or must. We cannot say this often enough.

• The fewer should, oughts or musts you have the happier you and all those who associate with you will be.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on


Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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