This requires a closer look at what the actual catalyst is for anger. Is it just an event, a person, or an emotion? The International Handbook of Anger states that people feel angry when they sense that they, or someone they care about, have been offended, when they are certain about the nature and cause of the angering event, when they are certain someone else is responsible, and when they feel they can still influence the situation or cope with it. For instance, if a person's car is damaged, they will feel angry if someone else did it (e.g. another driver rear-ended it), but will feel sadness instead if it was caused by situational forces (e.g. a hailstorm) or guilt and shame if they were personally responsible (e.g. he crashed into a wall out of momentary carelessness). Usually, those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them" and in most cases the described provocations occur immediately before the anger experience. Such explanations confirm the illusion that anger has a direct external cause. The angry person usually finds the cause of their anger in an intentional, personal, and controllable aspect of another person's behaviour. This explanation, however, is based on the intuitions of the angry person who experiences a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observation as a result of their emotion. Anger can be of multi-causal origin, some of which may be remote events, but Raymond W. Novaco states that people rarely find more than one cause for their anger.
Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources and boost determination toward correction of wrong behaviours, promotion of social justice, communication of negative sentiment and redress of grievances. It can also facilitate patience. On the other hand, anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression. Anger, in its strong form, impairs one's ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over their behaviour. An angry person may lose his/her objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others.
There is a sharp distinction between anger and aggression (verbal or physical, direct or indirect) even though they mutually influence each other. While anger can activate aggression or increase its probability or intensity, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for aggression. Once the element aggression has been introduced it is unavoidable to regard anger as an instrument of power, because anger could influence aggression and in political power plays aggression is often needed to obtain a certain goal.
For centuries the Catholic Church used anger and aggression to obtain, protect and spread the church influence. A powerful tool in their strategy was to label anger as a sin. The church linked anger to the desire of vengeance. Its ethical rating depends upon the quality of the vengeance and the quantity of the passion. When these are in conformity with the prescriptions of balanced reason, anger is not a sin. It is rather a praiseworthy thing and justifiable with a proper zeal. It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive. The sin is then in a general sense mortal as being opposed to justice and charity. It may, however, be venial because the punishment aimed at is but a trifling one or because of lack of full deliberation. Likewise, anger is sinful when there is an undue vehemence in the passion itself, whether inwardly or outwardly. Ordinarily it is then accounted a venial sin unless the excess be so great as to go counter seriously to the love of God or of one's neighbour.
The modern concept of the Seven Deadly Sins is linked to the works of the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus, who listed eight evil thoughts in Greek, and were translated into the Latin of Western Christianity thus becoming part of the Western tradition of the seven spiritual pietas (or
Catholic devotions), as follows:
- luxuria (lechery/lust)
- gula (gluttony)
- avaritia (avarice/greed)
- acedia (discouragement/sloth)
- ira (wrath)
- invidia (envy)
- superbia (pride)
The Catholic Church used Satan as a depiction for wrath and anger, and as such making it an object of fear. By attributing this to opponents of the church the battle to conquer enemies or convert the different or non-believers their battles became a struggle against sin, and as such mandated by God i.c. the Catholic Church. For centuries the human emotion anger was kept in obscurity, surrounded with negativity, which had its influence on how this emotion was perceived in the 20 th century. Its link with uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger, self-destructiveness, violence, and hate provoked feuds that went on for centuries. Wrath may persist long after the person who did another a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and vigilantism.
Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest, although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy, (closely related to the sin of envy). Dante described vengeance as "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite". In its original form, the sin of anger also encompassed anger pointed internally rather than externally. Thus suicide was deemed as the ultimate, albeit tragic, expression of hatred directed inwardly, a final rejection of God's gifts Rage was, and still is, linked with many other negative emotions. Recently, Sue Parker Hall has challenged this idea; she conceptualizes anger as a positive, pure and constructive emotion that is always respectful of others; it is only ever used to protect the self on physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions in relationships. She argues that anger originates at age 18 months to 3 years to provide the motivation and energy for the individuation developmental stage whereby a child begins to separate from its caregiver and assert their differences.