Anger, Depression and Anxiety. These are the most uncomfortable feelings we experience. If you are familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental illnesses, which is about 2 inches thick, and can flip through its pages you will note that most diagnoses have to do with the two main problems that are believed to be the blight of our society: Anxiety and Depression. Most diagnoses revolve around these two emotions. The one emotion that is missing of course is Anger.
So the question arises as to why we do not deal with Anger the way we treat the other two. And the answer is not only that Anger is uncomfortable, since the other two are equally discomforting. No, that’s not the reason. The reason is that Anger is a far more difficult emotion, not for the subject her/himself to handle, but for SOCIETY to deal with! We can deal with people who are anxious and depressed because these feelings are internal to the individual and are not taken out on others. Anger though, has its outlet on the environment, on other things and people who are its targets.
When people express Anger we, as recipients of their ire, are faced with choices. We can discipline or reprimand them, confront or fight back with them verbally or physically, or if their infractions are serious, put them through a court system and lock them up, which is what we actually do with the criminals who fill our prisons. Now looking at the prison populations we realize that they are mostly of the masculine gender, which tells us that men have a greater propensity to express their feelings externally through Anger, while women are more inclined to turn their feelings inward against themselves to become more anxious and depressed. Women tend to be more socially compliant, choosing more often to medicate themselves, perhaps both legally and illegally, but staying as much within the boundaries of social restriction as possible, preferring not to their energy to aggression or violence against others. We can surmise that this is most likely a hormonal difference that has to do with testosterone, which is more prevalent in men than in women. In any case it seems likely that the female of the human species is easier to handle from a societal perspective than the male, being mainly preoccupied with her inward anxieties and depression. But we must ask whether in our consideration of the diagnoses offered in the DSM, are we mainly dealing with women’s issues and ailments, and lumping all the violent men we find in prison into the catch-all diagnosis of Psychopath?
But by far our greatest error in our analyses of human emotion is the distinct impression we perpetuate in psychology that in order to function in a healthful manner, Anxiety, Depression and Anger, on a scale of one to one hundred, should be at zero. This is far from true!
To understand these 3 feelings, think of each one as running on a separate scale of 0 to 100. So we have Anxiety starting at 0. What then should a normal level of Anxiety be for an average human being? Consider that if you had 0 Anxiety, you would have 0 motivation, 0 interest, 0 reason to wake up, your emotions would be flat and you would have 0 appeal to others! In fact you would hardly be functioning but appear to be in more of a comatose or sleep state. So in order to function well, we might theorize you should have about 60% to 70% Anxiety that you could draw on could even potentially rise to 90% or so, for example, for a fight or flight, or other upsetting or challenging situation. But it is when you become caught in a situation of 85% Anxiety or more that you may begin to need treatment and medication, and when you Anxiety reaches 90% and more that you may be compromised in major ways such as not being able to leave the house, suffering from extreme phobias, or being so hyperactive that it become impossible to learn, such as in children with ADHD.
The same paradigm holds true for Depression. At 0 Depression you would have almost no humanity left. In fact, Depression is a most necessary feeling because it enables us to feel sympathy and empathy for others. But even though psychopaths appear to have no sympathy or empathy for others, it is not because they have no Depression. On the contrary, it is because they have in their past been subject to SO MUCH Depression that they have become numb to all sadness to the extent that they refuse to confront it, and it is very hard to conjure up. In a sense, they rebel against sadness, and turn their energy into Anger to act out their revenge on the social environment for the injustices they endured, as if to say “Why should I suffer? I will make everyone else suffer for the way I was treated by this world.”. This again is a typical reaction for the male of the species, but is found in females to a lesser degree. In fact, it is loss and Depression that build empathy and sympathy in every human being because if you don’t know the feeling of loss you cannot empathize with the losses of others. But if losses pile up to the degree that your emotions cannot absorb them, you might imagine that your Depression cup gets so full that the overflow spills out into your Anger cup.
To sum up the topic of Depression, as you may have guessed, nobody lives with 0 Depression because in the course of life loss is a necessary event with the sadness that accompanies it. The defining factor is the extent to which the loss has significance for the individual, and how much emotional toll it takes. In childhood this may be the loss of a parent, a sibling, a change of environment such as moving out of the neighborhood with loss of friends and familiarity, bullying, teasing. But in particular, in line with the emphasis placed on Favoritism in DOLF theory, it is the feeling Disfavor in the Family of Origin as compared with an adjacent sibling that is the undisclosed, but major source of distress.
It is well to note that this process of leveling out and making even the cups of Anxiety, Depression and Anger and the way it affects personality and behavior occurs entirely during your formative years in childhood and asserts itself throughout one’s lifetime.
Again as with Anxiety, an average, “healthy” level of Depression probably falls into the 60% to 70% range. But once we reach 80% or go as far as 90% we are looking at deeper levels of depression that possibly require medication and/or treatment.
Finally in dealing with Anger, as you might guess, the same rule of 60 to 70% applies. However, in the common population, this feeling goes undiagnosed and unconsidered.