The Anger Scale


   The following scale may be helpful to you in becoming more aware of and resolving your anger effectively. Most people find that they can still make good decisions up to level 2 or 3, and after that the emotions start taking over and interfere with clear thinking. Here’s how the scale might look:

Anger Scale


You are feeling totally calm and relaxed. You may feel happy and excited about something or not. You have no anger or irritation at any level.


You feel a very slight anxiety or irritability, but it’s not affecting your behaviour. You can barely notice it when you try. Your mind is open, and you’re very aware of the “big picture” perspective.


The irritation/anxiety is a little higher, but still not enough to bother you or affect your behaviour. You can still see the big picture.


You are starting to notice negative responses to people, places and things around you. You are still keeping it all inside, but you are just not settled. Your focus is starting to narrow slightly, but you can still think clearly and make good decisions.


Now you are starting to think about yelling at that other driver, or calling that talk-show host and giving him or her a piece of your mind. But you don’t act on the feelings. Your tone with others might be just a little short, or you might try to cover your feelings by being extra nice. Tunnel vision is starting to set in.


Now you are definitely not having fun. You are mad at yourself, others or the world in general. You’re still in control of your behaviour, but others can tell that you’re not feeling that great. You are moving into a single-minded focus and your decision-making process is impaired.


You start thinking of getting away from the situation. You might fantasize about escaping somehow. You might also tell someone off at this point, but you make an effort to be controlled and even somewhat considerate. Your mental clarity has become erratic. You have lost sight of the big picture.


You are starting to say things to yourself like, This is driving me crazy. I can’t stand this anymore. That person is driving me up the wall. How can they be so (fill in the blank)? If I could, I’d like to really let them have it! Your thoughts are racing, and your muscle tension is becoming noticeable. Your vision is narrowing further.


At this level, a plan of action starts to form. Now your anger is so high that you are ready to do something about it. You are so upset that you really have no choice. Your thinking is not clear, and your plan of action might include revenge and retaliation, or just a desire to hurt someone you perceive as a threat or problem to you or someone you love. You have become almost completely irrational.


Now you are acting on your anger. You are telling someone off, and possibly trying to hurt them or “put them in their place” with your words. You also might be planning how to abandon, neglect or reject them. Your thoughts are obsessed and totally focused on your pain, fear and anger whether you know it or not. You are ruled by your emotions and starting to lose control.


At this level you are dangerous to yourself and/or others. You are in the depths of fight-or flight, and your primitive survival-based brain has taken over. You have tunnel vision and single-minded thought. All you can think about is how to make the pain and/or stress stop. You are desperate, and you are willing to take desperate action. Your fear and anger are doing the thinking for you.

   If you have major anger issues, you may escalate straight from 0 to 10 without any awareness or self-control. If you have successfully suppressed your anger, you may live constantly at a level 3, 4 or 5, never taking action or feeling any better. Many people are mildly irritated much of the time.

   Being emotionally healthy means living around a level 0-2 most of the time. In extreme circumstances a healthy person may escalate to a 3 or even a 4, but will take positive, effective action to resolve the problem and return to a sense of well-being.

Adapted from:

Anger- Deal with it, Heal with it, Stop it from killing you

William Gray Defoore PhD   ISBN 0-7573-0111-8   Health Communications, Inc.

Rev. October 15, 2008

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