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Metaphors of Anger – By Andrew Day

Metaphors of Anger – By Andrew Day

Have you ever felt like you are being ‘consumed’ by anger? Do you ‘go crazy’ or ‘struggle’ to keep your temper? You’re not alone. Many people use metaphors to talk about anger, and this can constrain and enable the way in which they behave when they get angry. If, for example, you think of your body as a container for emotions, you are likely to release tension by doing something physical. If you see your anger as heat, you will self-talk to ‘cool yourself down’ and so on.

Violent offenders also subscribe to a number of these common metaphors for anger, and we were interested if these could help to explain some of their aggressive actions.

Metaphor Explanation Examples
ANGER AS HEAT The most general metaphor for anger. Bill’s a hothead(and conversely:) Keep your cool
ANGER IS HOT FLUID IN A CONTAINER Uses the general metaphor of THE BODY AS A CONTAINER. Notion of exploding involves metaphorical references to volcanoes, bombs, electricity, pistons. I had reached boiling point.He was just letting off steam.I blew my stack.
ANGER IS FIRE Variation on the above. Interestingly, the emphasis is on anger’s ability to consume the angry person. He was consumed by anger.That just added fuel to the fire.
ANGER IS INSANITY Expressions that indicate insane behaviour can also indicate angry behaviour. Violent behaviour, indicative of frustration, is also viewed as a form of insane behaviour. I’m mad. I’m just banging my head against the wall.He went berserk/ bonkers/crazy/bananas.
ANGER IS AN OPPONENT IN A STRUGGLE The opponent metaphor focuses on the issue of control and the danger of loss of control to the angry person. I’m struggling with my anger.I was seized by anger.Her anger is never appeased.
ANGER IS A DANGEROUS/ CAPTIVE ANIMAL As above but focuses on danger to others. Loss of control is equivalent to the animal getting loose. Note in final example the metaphor of the dragon: the dangerous animal that can devour one with fire. He has a ferocious temper. He unleashed his anger.He was breathing fire.

By Professor Andrew Day

Andrew Day refers to the following study in this blog:

Davey, L and Day, A, 2007, The Poetics of Anger Control: Metaphorical Conceptualisations of Anger Expression in Violent Offenders, Psychology of Anger, Nova Science Publishers, p 293-309.

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