Fantasy Wheel ©
Anger is both a positive and
negative emotion that can serve a protective function or cause great
destruction. We all experience anger at one time or another throughout our
lives, but this does not mean that anger is experienced by every individual in
the same way. Anger can vary in intensity from mild to extreme, and each
person has a different level of control over these emotions. Anger also
seems to be a "surface emotion" that has different underlying causes for each
person. In my experience, clients often speak of someone controlling their lives
in some way, or being frustrated by a series of setbacks, which then leads to
their feelings of anger.
When anger is positive, it serves a protective function that allows us to be
assertive. This can be seen when someone feels as though they are being
taken advantage of in a situation, and expresses these feelings of
anger/assertiveness to renew the balance in the relationship or encounter.
The expression of these feelings is dependent upon the level of control that
each individual has over the anger. While some are able to assert
themselves by non-violent means, others turn to violence.
In serial murder, anger may arise in the individual from the frustration and
anxiety caused by a lack of control in their lives. This anger seems to
begin in childhood and continues into adulthood. As early as childhood,
serial murderers attempt to cope with their anger through fantasy. In
fantasy, individuals have control over themselves and others, which may reduce
the anger. Yet, when the individual realizes that he is only in control or
powerful in fantasy, the anger returns. Eventually, the individual moves
toward action in order to realize the fantasized control and power. In
this way, serial murder can be viewed as an extremely violent expression of
Rape is often thought of as a purely sexual act, but many times anger is a
crucial motivating factor to this crime. The anger retaliatory rapist is
one who rapes victims to punish them for real or perceived wrongs done to them
by others in the past. This is not unlike the father who comes home from a
frustrating day on the job, and rather than confronting the person that caused
the anger, he comes home and yells at his family. In both scenarios, the anger
is displaced. Unfortunately, in cases of deviant crimes the victim can be
seriously hurt or killed when the offender displaces this anger.
There are a few disorders mentioned in the DSM-IV (1994) that help explain how
anger can become overwhelming to the individual and cause violent results.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (312.34) is one such disorder. This
disorder is a problem of impulse control where an individual may have violent
outbursts at the slightest provocation, which can lead to harmful, if not fatal
consequences. In my experience, people meeting the criteria for this
disorder often describe themselves as having a "short fuse", or a "hair trigger"
for a temper. In most cases these individuals blame the victim for causing
the violence rather than their inability to control their anger.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and
statistical manual of mental disorders, (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.