The Perils of Anger Mountain

You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.
–Indira Gandhi

Anger and conflict go hand in hand. Unmanaged emotion will block communication and prevent resolution. But anger is simply energy. It is a catalyst–a call to action. Our choice lies in how we answer that call.

Learn more about anger, and why this author refers to it as a “mountain,” here:

When something or someone triggers our anger, we impulsively protect ourselves through a response of fight or flight. If we choose to fight, we play the role of a hero who protects the innocent (usually ourselves) and confronts the evildoer. Our anger, however, can push us over the fine line between hero and villain. A self-righteous attitude that “they have it coming” drives us to punish the other person. We can easily find ourselves engaging in behaviors normally associated with the villain role: personal attacks, threats, yelling, and inappropriate use of the middle finger.

Anger also motivates people to behave in ways we find objectionable. Yet, flushed with righteousness, they are convinced they are the hero and their actions are justified. It’s easy to see how we can fall into the pattern of attack and counterattack that characterizes confrontation.

If we graph our adrenaline/heart rate after being triggered into anger, the graph looks like a mountain, escalating to one or more peaks. And corresponding to the escalation, our ability to communicate and reason, as well as the quality of our judgment, decreases. As one elementary-school student so wisely put it, “So you mean that the madder we get, the stupider we get?” Exactly.

Read this great book to learn some helpful ways to deal with our anger and that of others.

Adapted from The Joy of Conflict Resolution, by Gary Harper (New Society Publishers, 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Gary Harper. Reprinted by permission of New Society Publishers.
Adapted from The Joy of Conflict Resolution, by Gary Harper (New Society Publishers, 2004).


Marianne Good
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks. A happy laugh is good.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Interesting article

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Thank you :)

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kelly Rogers5 years ago

I liked that comment "You can not shake a hand with a clenched fist". I will remember that

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance5 years ago

One place where it is common to find anger is on the roadways. Driving to work, you get cut off by another driver. Do you try to cut him off up ahead? ... give him the finger? ... lay on the horn until everybody knows you're mad? ... mouth some obscenities? ... get out of your car at the next light and give him a piece of your mind? ...or do you take a deep breath, and carry on?

I have honked at such a driver --- a short toot! --- but only to say "Be careful. You just about caused an accident." But my standard reaction now is to take a deep breath, and carry on. I used to call them an idiot or give them the finger from within the safe confines of my car and mind, but then one day heard on the radio that taking a deep breath and carrying on was easier on me. So I tried it and it is easier! I have even taken to wishing the other driver a pleasant day. My blood pressure doen't go up and my mental and emotional attitude stays even.

I wish I would remember this approach more often when dealing face-to-face with colleagues. Having said that, I don't get angry often and would far prefer to work things out.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

Thanks for helping define the line between healthy expression of anger and that which is unhealthy.

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago