Read an Excerpt
A Different Place or Time
People get angry for different reasons. Although anger is a universal feeling, its causes and expression can be culturally specific. What makes a Trobriand Islander mad is probably not going to tick off a New York City taxi driver, and the way they express their anger will be much different.
For example, a Marine once told me about a guy he knew in basic training. This young Marine had gone through extremely rigorous and nasty verbal abuse during boot camp at the hands of his Mephistophelian drill instructor. He had been insulted to the max and had been taken to the limits physically. He had not only withstood, but had succeeded fully in all the trials they could put to him. He was a "stellar" Marine. He was trained to handle the toughest physical and mental challenges out there. However, he went totally ballistic when the instructor called his mother an "old bag."
No doubt, he realized that the verbal haranguing and physical training he was undergoing was supposed to be honing him for his future job as a "devil dog." Clearly, this young man was reacting to one of the "shoulds" from his early childhood that mothers should not be insulted. He lost control and expressed his displeasure physically, resulting in the end of his military career.
Whether you agree with his reaction or not, the only caveat here is to decide if the belief (and the reaction to the situation based on that belief) works to help achieve the desired results in the situation and within the context of the society. Here is where the buck stops.
Sure, we may make some knee-jerk choices based upon that pre-ordained hard-wiring, but, thanks to our brain's frontal lobe, these decisions are normally held in check by our assumptions regarding what we consider "reasonable." Sometimes this chain of consideration and action gets thrown out of whack and problems arise when individuals take action before they decide if their situation is threatening or if their response is appropriate.
In addition, what works for dealing with perceived threats in one society in terms of rules and values may not even warrant a flicker of consideration for folks from a different place or time.