Aggression, anger and dialogue


With the understanding of what aggression is, confusion often arises, since in Gestalt therapy it is understood somewhat differently than in everyday usage, where aggression is often synonymous with anger and hostility. It seems to me not superfluous to remind this again and add a few points related to personal boundaries.

By aggression, I mean the translation of an internal impulse into an external action (based on the earliest meaning of this word in Latin and Proto-Indo-European - “movement towards”). Any of our actions in the outside world is a manifestation of aggression, and the only question is how actively we influence ourselves, other people or objects. To be aggressive in the original sense is to act in the external world to satisfy one's own needs. Without aggressiveness, the hunter, in principle, will not be able to get food for himself, the tribe will not be able to overcome the obstacles that arise in its path, and so on. Aggressive here is equal to "actively and purposefully acting."

Natural for any biological organism is aggression directed outward - all living beings continuously interact with each other and with the world in order to survive and continue. Two more unnatural variants of the manifestation of aggressiveness have “bloomed” in a person - passive (an attempt to achieve what is desired without direct contact) and auto-aggression (we begin to endlessly demand and achieve something from ourselves).

Aggressiveness of a person is “pumped up” with energy with the help of different emotions. She can feed on sexual arousal - without internal permission for her own sexuality and for her direct presentation, a man will not even have an erection. It can be fueled by love and care for loved ones - and then we become active defenders or conductors of their interests. Or theirs, of course. Maybe fear.

Accordingly, anger is also an emotion that feeds aggressiveness, and one of the main ones (because of which this “bridge” occurred). The experience of anger signals to us that, firstly, some of our needs were not satisfied when it was relevant and “demanded” attention to itself. Secondly, it is a signal that someone has violated our personal boundaries. Thirdly, it is a requirement for ourselves or for other people to do something to satisfy our needs, which are frustrated.

What will happen if our personal boundaries are inflated so that it is a matter of course for us to demand that everyone around us behave in the way we think is right? There will be constant anger at people and, if there is no prohibition on direct aggressiveness, constant attacks on them in order to force them to behave the way we want. The grander our Self, the more anger we will experience - people will constantly strive to trample on our dimensionless boundaries - for example, they will dare to love what we do not love, and this, of course, is wrong.

Anger as an emotional expression of the demand "you must be like me" feeds aggression - a purposeful activity to correct the world. For me, the signal that I somehow got too “bloated” is that too many people began to “enrage” me.

Aggression merges with anger and hostility even when other people with their own boundaries disappear from my consciousness. There is only me and my desires, and the rest of the people either adjust somehow, or go away. When meeting with someone else's stubbornness (and this is, in fact, any “no” or “it’s different for me”) then there is not “stop, we go into negotiation mode”, but “Oh, how dare you!” or "well, get out of here."

There is another extreme - when our personal boundaries are so strongly compressed, pressed into ourselves that anger does not arise at all - where there is no feeling of "one's own", there is no such experience (more precisely, it exists, but is not realized - but manifests itself in somatic symptoms such as headaches). Well, if one's own needs are not realized, where does aggressiveness come from?

There is such a paradox - we can aggressively defend OTHERS interests, but instantly collapse into a black hole as soon as it comes to our own. On the other hand, there will be more than enough auto-aggression - this is a demand for oneself to become somehow different (that is, what a hostile-aggressive person demands from the people around him, an auto-aggressive person will demand from himself), and endless self-punishment, up to physical pain.

And here such an interesting moment arises. Dialogue in its true form (where there is a desire to understand the position of the other) is possible between two aggressive people who actively demonstrate their positions, but at the same time are able, sensing someone else's "stubbornness", to stop and become interested in it (and not push through). In all other cases, a good dialogue will not work (why - see above).

Therefore, there are so few dialogues in our lives - our natural aggressiveness is either suppressed or fueled by anger, hatred, fear , and not, for example, curiosity or anticipation of something good. This is about internal dialogues too))

And one of the tasks (and for some, the main result) of psychotherapy is the creation of the ability for this dialogue - and first of all with oneself.


  1. Our natural aggressiveness is naturally fueled by anger, hatred, partly fear and only physical death...
    Selfishness cannot be suppressed, aggression makes it possible to enjoy itself Yes, a serious problem is to switch the arrow of pleasure to curiosity or anticipation of something good, and even increase for the sake of society - without malicious intent.

  2. Super article! The arrows are directed exactly to the goal - to raise the culture of communication, to be able to hear and listen to a person.
    Thanks a lot to the author.

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