Although we all get angry at times, for some people anger turns to aggression, while for others it doesn’t. The reasons for this have to do with how we regulate our emotions.
When something angers us, humans have rapid cognitions that motivate us to improve our mood. But anger itself can inhibit our ability to reach equilibrium. We see this in how angry people ruminate on how bad they feel, or how they try to vent their anger and end up prompting aggression.
So, there must be better ways to regulate emotion aside from ruminating and venting that help keep aggression at bay. And it turns out that has a lot to do with how much a person is aware of and able to classify their emotions. This is called emotion differentiation.
For example, if people lack the capacity to describe and classify what they are feeling at a given time, they will find it difficult to discern more detail about their emotions beyond the fact that they feel “bad.”
Low emotion differentiators are more distracted and less engaged during times of stress, and also less capable of thinking carefully about their options for how to behave under stress. High emotion differentiators spend less time on counterproductive practices, such as ruminating and venting.
When people are better at differentiating their negative emotions, they have better emotional control, which means they have more ways of dealing with anger. So, they’re less likely to turn to aggression in the first place.
Feeling angry is a part of life. But being aware of what kind of negativity you’re feeling can help you control it and get over it.