Merriam-Webster defines anger as, “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad : the feeling that makes someone want to hurt other people, to shout, etc. : the feeling of being angry”.
When we feel fear, it is because of an imminent physical threat. But anger is provoked by something we hear or see which makes us feel wronged, makes us feel our boundaries have been violated. Without even knowing it we can cycle very quickly from fear to anger, e.g., when we swerve to avert a collision in traffic. The incipient fear of an accident is instantaneously replaced by anger at the other driver’s poor driving.
Fear and anger result in arousal of our central nervous system. But while fear makes us feel cold and clammy, with anger we feel heat and fire. Physically, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, our muscles tense and make us quiver and shake. Our mind is turbulent – we feel wronged, that what is happening is unjust, unfair or undeserved. Our actions signal this agitation in body and mind – we yell or scream, clench our teeth, tense our body and want to explode, hit something or someone.
Anger has many benefits. Anger helps us express our value system and morals when we feel something is unfair or unjust, and it can motivate us to reach our goals in the face of problems and barriers. Anger is a signal to others that we are upset and annoyed, that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. Anger can help us understand our needs and come up with a plan to meet those needs.
We are also aware that there are many downsides of anger when we do not manage it well. Anger makes people uncomfortable and can lead to poor choices and outcomes.
In the Caricatures series of sketches, the artist has displayed anger through faces turned away from each other. Each feels wronged over some injustice or unfairness, and because of their anger, they are not communicating. Their emotions are hot, faces are red, steam is rising above their heads. Each is waiting for the other to make the first move to resolve the situation. We’ve all been in this situation in our relationships.
In the Watercolors series of sketches, the artist shows a human eye with a burning flame to communicate the idea that anger is a fire inside us. Fire shows how strongly we feel at being wronged, while the visibility of the blaze communicates the feeling of anger to others.