Music is a widely available means of communication that can influence attitudes and manipulate emotions. Listeners look for something that reflects or improves their emotional state. Contrary to what you may think, listening to songs that refer to anger and aggression can be a healthy way of processing these moods.
Anger: Origin and symptoms
From pain, all negative emotions take place. If pain is the emotional reaction to a wound, the moment you recognise and identify the cause of the pain, it becomes anger toward someone or something.
Anger is an evolution of pain; we can define pain as anger without an object. Sometimes, there is only a fine line between anger and sadness; this takes over pain as an awareness of being unable to remedy something negative that happened to us. Both arise from a sense of frustration, but sadness is frequently associated with a sense of defeat, and for this reason, you may try to drive it away by hiding it behind anger.
We feel anger when we feel attacked, when we feel wronged or when we feel threatened. Unlike fear, however, in this case, we assess the threat within our reach, and we are driven not so much to run away but to react, attacking in our turn. Here, we aim to defend ourselves to adapt to the environment.
At the physiological level, it is manifested by the acceleration of the heartbeat and blood pressure, a higher frequency of breathing, increased muscle tone, and the feeling of “a closed stomach”. The narrower the eyes, the more intense the anger will be; the eyelids will be stretched, the eye will tend to protrude, and the lips will be tightened. The intensity of anger can also vary from irritation to fury.
In many cases, we feel anger not because a particular situation has occurred but because, in that specific situation, we expect that we have to experience those certain emotions. This is because our feelings and underlying moods guide our emotional reactions.
Let’s take an example: imagine being resentful towards a person who has offended us. When this is addressed, we tend to react with anger, while to the same words spoken by a friend or someone indifferent to us, we will probably respond differently; we’ll be more forgiving and careless. So it is not the words for their actual content that irritate us, or not only these but the context in general.
Anger is not always harmful
Emotions can be used to make others arise and thus induce a specific reaction. Expressing anger, for example, can arouse attention and actions to correct a particular behaviour or situation we want to change. Unlike fear, which blocks and isolates from context, anger is an active emotion that arises in response to interaction with the environment and leads to reactions to frustrations.
The music that expresses anger is characterised by the use of chaotic, loud, heavy and powerful sounds, with emotional voices often accompanied by content of anxiety, depression, social isolation and loneliness, with aggressive lyrics and titles.
Perhaps because of these musical characteristics, it is believed to lead to anger and expressions of aggression, delinquency, drug use and suicide.
However, we can also think that metal and related music can be chosen when a listener is already experiencing a state of anger because the exciting nature of the music can correspond to the already present inner excitement of the listener and allow him to explore and process this emotional state.
This is the restraining function of music, according to which we are driven to listen to songs we know to recall experiences and experiences.
We have already tried before and provoked an emotional adjustment.
Music to calm the anger
If they told you that music can help to calm your anger, you would probably feel like sharing this statement, but if they asked you to think about which genre is best for this purpose, you would hardly think about metal music. Instead, a 2015 study by Dr Leah Sharman, a UQ School of Psychology researcher, can surprise us.
If it is true that those who listen to metal music do it mainly because they think it reflects their mood, it has been shown that this genre decreases hostility, irritability and stress.
The study consisted of this: The participants were asked to remember past events that had angered them to awaken that sense of anger. Later, they were divided into two groups; the first played music expressing anger, while the second was left in a silent room.
At the end of the experiment, the participants of the first group stated that they felt more inspired and happy, with a greater sense of well-being, demonstrating that they had used the music they listened to to to regulate their emotions.
When we feel angry, we like listening to music that can satisfy our offence, which helps us explore the full range of emotions we feel, helping to soothe them. Levels of hostility, irritability and stress decrease after listening, leaving us even more active and inspired.
Annalisa Balestrieri holds a master’s degree in modern literature, with a psycho-pedagogical specialisation, from the State University of Milan.