The Forum: Anger

Tuesday 16 February

9.00am-10.00am

BBC WORLD SERVICE

Feeling angry has always been part of being human, a natural response to being attacked, insulted, deceived or frustrated. But some people say that modern life conspires to make us angrier than before. At the same time, modern neuroscience is starting to understand what goes on in our brain when ‘we snap’.

Joining Bridget Kendall is R. Douglas Fields, Chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section at the US National Institutes of Health. He explains that key to our experience of anger is a high-speed pathway, which runs from the retinas in our eyes to the centre of the brain’s threat detection region, bypassing those parts of our minds that are involved in deliberation and reasoning. This pathway is there to allow us to react quickly to threats, but when it malfunctions it can trigger ‘misplaced’ anger and sudden aggression.

Tiffany Watt Smith is a cultural historian specialising in the history of emotions. She argues that what seems like a modern debate about whether it is better to suppress or vent one’s anger, has actually much older roots.

Criminologist Raymond Tafrate, Professor of Psychology at Connecticut State University, advocates clinically driven approach to anger reduction. He says that since classical times philosophers and physicians have identified anger as a human frailty that can lead to violence and human suffering, yet we still do not have the science to assessing, diagnosing, and treating pathological anger disorders.

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