§ 7. Analysis of Anger. — The child manifests this emotion at an early stage. "Anger initially expresses and satisfies itself by a peculiar form of violent motor discharge. Even at the outset it takes the form of an effort to overcome resistance by main force. The young child who has acquired no definite mode of wreaking its passion, shows it by vague kicking and struggling, by movements which antagonise each other, and which encounter resistance in external objects. The development of cognitive consciousness simply serves to restrict this diffused mobility within more definite channels. The child in a later stage throws his plaything violently to the ground, or pushes it away, or breaks it, or in the case of a person who thwarts his will, he kicks, pushes, or strikes. Even the adult may find some satisfaction for his irritation in destroying furniture, and he nearly always has a strong disposition to break, crush, tear, or rend something. Inasmuch as his anger has become enlightened and defined, his destructive impulse will become more specially directed against the object by which his desires are crossed or thwarted. But when the conditions deny him this satisfaction, it is well known that the angry man is very apt to wreak his anger on inoffensive things or persons, thus approximating to the condition of the child. Though the tendency to overcome resistance by violent exertion of bodily force seems always to play some part in anger, yet with the advance of intellectual development it gives place more and more to an ideal satisfaction; it becomes enough to know, or sometimes even to imagine, that the opposing forces have been crushed by our agency. This is of course a direct consequence of the growing importance of the life of ideas as compared with that of perception. But even in the ideal satisfaction of anger the impulse to destroy or break down opposition may be satisfied to some extent by wreaking it on other objects than those which immediately awaken resentment. The relief afforded by swearing comes under this head. It is a breaking down of the ideal barriers which social convention or religious sentiment sets up."*
* Principles of Psychology, vol. ii., p. 420.
* Analytic Psychology, vol. ii., pp. 96 97.
Turning now to animals, we find that their proneness to anger depends to a great degree on inherited organisation and general habits of life. Spencer observes: "The destructive passion is shown in a general tension of the muscular system, in gnashing of teeth and protrusion of claws, in dilated eyes and nostrils, in growls and these are weaker forms of the actions that accompany the killing of prey."* Here there are two implications that deserve notice. It is implied that the expression of emotion consists in actions which are only rudiments of more developed activities. This is of course untrue. Actual tearing and rending may be as much an expression of the destructive passion as the gnashing of teeth and protrusion of claws. In the second place it is implied that anger is distinctive of predatory animals. But this is not the case. The elephant is not a beast of prey, but can be easily roused to fury. It is the combative rather than the hunting instinct which is essential. Many graminivorous animals which are usually peaceful are highly dangerous in the breeding season, when the combative impulse is excited in connexion with the sexual, and finds its proper field in sexual rivalry. In general we may say that some animals, such as the elephant, meet danger and opposition by main force; others, such as the rabbit and hare, by flight and concealment. Yet others mostly resort to evasion and escape, but become combative and even aggressive at certain seasons. The combative tendency is the predisposing cause of that emotional seizure we call anger. All animals whose play takes the form of mockfights may be roused to fury. Any kind of opposition, any thwarting or restriction of psychical activity may cause anger. It is the more likely to do so the more distinctly the interference wears the appearance of coming from some positive external agency and especially from some other animal. We may be merely grieved at the loss of a valued object if we accidentally mislay it ourselves: but if somebody or something breaks it before our eyes we are more apt to be angry. It must not however be supposed that the emotion of anger vents itself exclusively on an offending object. On the contrary the emotion is essentially a general impulse to crush and destroy. It fastens by preference on the cause of irritation; but failing this it may vent itself impartially on anything which comes in its way. It is only through experience and education that it becomes restricted and defined.
* Principles of Psychology, vol. ii., p. 546.
The conditions which occasion fear in one animal may occasion anger in another. Any condition which thwarts conation may give rise to an outburst of destructive violence. But in fear mental and bodily activity is at once stimulated and thwarted. Now the obstruction and oppression which in a timid creature paralyses or disorganises all activities, save those of flight and concealment, may in a combative animal rouse to active resistance and counteraggression. This holds good of actual bodily pain. The attitude of a man in bearing bodily pain is different according as he gives way to it or fights against it. The smart of a wound received in the heat of combat usually infuriates the combatant. All fierce animals, such as the lion or tiger, become fiercely aggressive when they are hurt. Belt supplies an interesting illustration from insect life. Speaking of leafcutting ants he says: "The effect of a little corrosive sublimate sprinkled on one of their paths in dry weather is to make them mad and exterminate one another. ... In a couple of hours, round balls of the ants will be found all biting each other and numerous individuals will be seen bitten in two, while others have lost their legs or antennae."