The Aggression Curve: What It Is And What It Shows About Our Emotions

Aggression curve

How many times have we gotten angry and felt like it wasn’t going to go away? But, of course, we ended up calming down. We can’t be angry all the time, because in addition to being exhausting, we can make the mistake of doing something we regret.

Everything that goes up ends up coming down, and anger is not free from this universal maxim. Human beings experience something what has been called the aggressiveness curve a process of several phases in which we experience the escalation and de-escalation of our emotions of anger, hostility and aggressiveness

Knowing how this process occurs is useful not only to understand human behavior, but also to avoid further increasing anger the next time we find ourselves in a situation of high emotional tension. Let’s see why.

What is the Aggression Curve?

We have all gotten angry on more than one occasion. And whoever says no will at least have witnessed a fight between friends. When you get angry, you start to get more and more angry. The anger increases, but not infinitely. There comes a point at which hostility reaches its maximum peak and then falls until it reaches calm This is known as the aggressiveness curve.

Nobody remains constantly angry, although it is true that there are people who get angry every now and then and that may be the feeling they give. Anger and the associated emotions follow the logic of gravity, that is, everything that goes up must come down again. Or if you prefer another metaphor, that after the storm comes calm. It is a matter of time before the anger fades and relaxation comes.

It is said that aggressiveness is an emotional state motivated by hatred. It really isn’t entirely like that, but of course this, along with displeasure and misunderstandings, play an important role in the manifestation of this emotion. Being aggressive can serve to achieve something, to invest energy in achieving an ambitious goal and defend oneself from anyone who wants to take it from us. However, In a civilized and social world, aggressiveness is rarely completely effective because it ends up hurting someone, be it another person or ourselves.

Let’s see how the aggressiveness curve occurs, analyzing its phases and what behaviors characterize them.

What is aggressiveness?

Human aggressiveness manifests itself in a set of behaviors that are characterized by the use of force with the intention of causing harm to other people, animals or objects. In the case of aggression towards people, The damage can be both physical and psychological It is an emotional state that, as we have previously mentioned, is usually accompanied by feelings of hatred.

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Aggression can manifest itself physically or verbally, both separately and in combination Physical aggression refers to an attack by one individual on another using weapons or bodily elements, therefore carrying out motor behaviors and physical actions to cause bodily harm. On the other hand, verbal aggressiveness is the emission of words that are offensive to the recipient, in the form of insults or comments of threat and rejection.

The continuous there

In popular language the words “aggression,” “hostility,” and “anger” are used interchangeably. They really have their nuances, something that can be seen in the proposal of Charles D. Spielberger, Susan S. Krasner and Eldra P. Solomon who used these three terms in their continuous aggression-hostility-anger or AHI (in English AHA, from anger-hostility.-aggression).

In this model, emotions and affects (anger), cognitions and attitudes (hostility) and manifested behaviors and behaviors (aggression) come together. Anger and hostility are factors that can predispose to aggressiveness.

Anger can be understood as a reaction of irritation, anger or fury caused by feeling that our rights have been violated This emotion can also arise when faced with the difficulty or impossibility of achieving a certain goal. It is considered a moral emotion, as it can arise through betrayal of trust, lack of respect and consideration for others, or an accumulation of experiences felt as unfair.

Hostility is the attitude of resentment towards someone. It usually results in the commission of implicit verbal or motor responses. It is a negative emotion, characterized by expressions of anger and irritability.

Stages of aggression

The Aggression Curve and its phases

The aggressiveness or hostility curve is a graphic representation of how the escalation and de-escalation of hostile behavior occurs.

As we have mentioned, it is a phenomenon in which there is first an increase in aggressiveness but, later, it ends up decreasing and causing the person who was feeling emotionally tense to end up entering a state of relaxation There are mainly six phases of this curve and knowing them will help us know when and how to intervene to prevent an aggressive situation, such as a fight between friends, from escalating.

1. Rational phase

Most people are in the rational phase most of the time It’s about being reasonable most of the day, about not necessarily being in a very good mood but not being in a bad mood, and being able to maintain a calm and civilized conversation. It is the appropriate emotional state to argue or debate without escalation.

We are often able to stop when we notice that if we continue like this we are going to get angry However, sometimes it happens that this is not the case, that the conversation continues and if things are said that neither party likes, there begins to be tension and it moves on to the next phase.

2. Shooting or exit phase

The firing or exit phase is the point at which Pandora’s box opens. Irritation becomes present and the perfect factors begin to occur for aggressiveness to trigger If we add to this some other behavior on the part of the other person that can be interpreted as a provocation, that is when the actual shooting occurs.

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The result is that rationality is cornered along with the possibility of the situation calming down immediately, and there begins to be a discharge of hostility that will only increase.

3. Slowing phase

We can’t be irritated and angry forever The situation will have to stabilize and calm down sooner or later, but it should be said that for this to happen as soon as possible it is important that the person who is already angry does not perceive new provocations. If he receives new provocations, there will be a new escalation of aggressiveness.

4. Coping phase

At this point, The behavior of the other person can determine whether or not a new shot is fired or whether the situation ends up stabilizing If we are “the other party”, our thing is to try to empathize with the person who has been a victim of anger, although without agreeing with him in every way.

In addition to the fact that he or she may not be right, if we give it to him or her just because, he or she may interpret it as if we are agreeing with him or her like fools, that we are making fun of him or her and, basically, they are going to get angrier. .

5. Cooling phase

If the person feels validated, they may understand that they have lost their temper a bit for something that doesn’t deserve it so much, and it will calm down little by little.

6. Problem solution phase

Once everything has happened, The angry person is able to regain control of his or her thinking and behavior discuss in a more rational and calm way and find a solution to what has started the conflict.

  • Related article: “How to release anger in a healthy and appropriate way: 4 tips”

When is the best time to intervene?

The best time to talk to the angry person is during the coping phase. It is at that moment the ideal moment to say something. Intervening earlier could be interpreted as a new provocation that, as we have mentioned, would generate** a new escalation of aggressiveness** and we would have to wait again for the fumes to calm down a bit.

Therefore, you should avoid trying to calm or reason with the angry person before the coping phase. If we are the ones who have made him angry, whether we are right or not, it is best not to try to justify our behavior. And, for what you want most, do not interrupt him with your arguments in favor

The best thing we can do before the coping phase is the following:

  • Make sure you are properly protected against a possible physical attack from the other person.
  • Monitor for the possibility of self-harming behavior and notify professionals.
  • Wait until you see that the emotional tension is decreasing.
  • Listen without judging or feeling attacked.
  • Avoid showing disbelief or lack of attention.
  • Keep calm.
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Added to this, there is three steps to follow to get the angry person to calm down a little.

1. Control the context

To the extent possible, We must try to control the context and the stimuli received by the person who is out of his/her mind If we are the main source of stress we should get away, and if it is the situation or other people that stress the person we should try to get them away from there. We can invite him to sit if he prefers, something that can help him calm down faster.

2. Try to calm down

It is better for only one person to be angry than two. We must try to calm down, avoiding shouting or responding to “provocations” of the other party with more provocations.

3. Let him vent

The angry person may not be right in the slightest, but opposing them right now is not going to help them at all. The ideal is to let him vent, let him vent by releasing everything he needs to let go and express himself When she does, we must avoid judging her or giving advice, it is not the best time and she will not listen to them.

Once you have calmed down, you will be able to see and understand the many disadvantages of having acted this way, reflecting on how to act in a way that brings more benefits and fewer problems on a social level. When he is calm it will be the perfect time to try to make him understand what the other party’s feelings are and begin to propose consensual and positive alternatives to solve the problem that caused this entire situation of hostility.

The usefulness of knowing the aggressiveness curve

In an idyllic and wonderful world conflicts did not exist. But we live in the real world and the fact of living in society implies that certain conflicts inevitably arise. We cannot avoid being involved in stressful situations, and sometimes it is almost impossible for us to avoid reacting aggressively, although not necessarily engaging in physically violent behavior.

But we must also understand that Anger is a human emotion that has played a fundamental role throughout our evolutionary history Depending on the context, aggression and anger are natural and adaptive responses, motivating us to carry out attacking behavior in the face of a threat that may endanger our lives.

In social life, knowing how the aggressiveness curve occurs can help us both to avoid getting more angry and doing something that we regret later, such as avoiding adding more fuel to the fire if we have a person who is angry in front of us Knowing the five phases we go through when we are angry will help us avoid any new escalation.

It pays for us to control our aggressiveness, not only to avoid making bad decisions and hurting other people, but also because being angry for a long time is tiring.