The prefrontal cortex, that part of our brain that uses language to evaluate experience, can literally manufacture anger by using the sense of judgment, attribution, and assumed intent.
Hereâ€™s how these functions work to generate angry feelings and behavior.
Judgment is the natural spillover of the mindâ€™s tendency to categorize experience in black-or-white terms.
With judgment, your mind is using the same strategies it has used to evaluate experiences as pleasurable or painful, safe or dangerous.
Now, though, itâ€™s judging other people and their behavior as right or wrong. This is a critically important shift.
With judgment, your mind is declaring something or someone to be absolutely and objectively good or bad. When the mind makes judgments, experience is no longer about subjective feelings of pleasure and pain.
It is about the intrinsic moral worth of your experiences and the people around you. You compare them to a standard of what should be. And if they donâ€™t measure up to your standard, you may begin to get angry.
A second form of judgment is called toxic labeling. Here your mind transforms the very normal process of recognizing and labeling experience into a series of global judgments: people are stupid, incompetent, crazy, lazy, and so on.
Toxic labels are a reflection of worth used to legitimize anger and revenge. They are difficult to shake once applied.
Attribution: The Blame Game
Our mind is wired to attribute underlying causes to events. We naturally seek to discover the why of things. This drive is the basis of scientific thought and work.
The natural tendency to make cause-and-effect connections can go sour when we have a painful experience (the cause); our minds work to figure out why and then look for someone to blame (the effect).
Instead of thinking â€œSomethingâ€™s wrong, Iâ€™ll find the source and fix it,â€ we get trapped in the blame game. â€œSomethingâ€™s wrong (Iâ€™m in pain). Iâ€™ll find who did this to me, and then Iâ€™ll attack them till they fix it.â€
How blame works?
- Blame keeps you helpless because youâ€™re now depending on the other person to solve your problem. And you may use anger flowing from the blame game as a tool to coerce other people.
- Blaming is a major source of human misery. It doesnâ€™t undo the past, nor does it fix the pain.
- What it does do is keep you stuck and alienated from the very people who would help you live a better life. So the problems and your pain continue. And your anger grows from periodic to never-ending.
Escaping from the blame game requires that you take responsibility for yourself. When youâ€™re in pain, you need to be the agent of change. Looking around to see whoâ€™s responsible wonâ€™t help here. You and you alone are responsible for your experience.
Blame keeps you from seeing this simple fact. It leaves you waiting to be helped, wanting, desperate to be rescued and vindicated. All of this fuel more blame, because the source of help and responsibility begins and ends with you.
Assumed Intent: Becoming Mind Readers
Since we are wired to organize experience into cause and effect, we hate ambiguity. We are especially disturbed when other people do things we donâ€™t understand. Our minds try to solve these mysteries with something called â€œassumed intent.â€
Assumed intent is our effort to explain ambiguous behavior in others by trying to guess their intentions, feelings, and motives-essentially mind reading. The trouble is weâ€™re often wrong. And since the intentions and motives we guess at are usually negative, we get angry for nothing.