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Why Do We Hurt Others? - All About Aggression and Aggressiveness

Misbah has always wanted to pursue writing as a career. She has done her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Fine arts.

For years, aggression has attracted the attention of researchers interested in human behavior. But so far no uniform definition and concept explaining this psychological and social phenomenon has been found. They are commonly understood as hostile behavior aimed at causing harm to someone: physical or mental.

Most researchers believe that aggression can only be spoken of when it goes with a clear intention to hurt someone. Other scientists, however, consider it regardless of intentions, treating it as a tool to achieve a person's personal goals.

Two faces of aggression

In understanding the above definitions, it may be helpful to introduce a division into hostile and instrumental aggression.

The Enemy aggression — the purpose is to inflict pain and suffering on the subject of our actions; it is usually preceded by anger.

Instrumental aggression — as a tool for influencing others. Its effect may also be pain and injury, but it is, in a way, a side effect of the action taken (according to the principle, the end justifies the means).
Since aggression is a heterogeneous phenomenon that manifests itself in many different forms, it is worth applying criteria that will make it possible to recognize it. They are as follows:

- Emotion criterion — emotions such as anger, irritation, resentment, etc. are associated with aggressive behavior;

- Intention criterion — aggression is accompanied by the intention to do harm, the desire to harm someone;

- The criterion of effects — a person who is the target of aggression suffers both emotional and physical losses;

- Social context — aggressive behaviors belong to social behaviors because they are realized in contact with another person and are subject to evaluation.

In the definitions of aggression presented in the literature on the subject, the above criteria are usually considered separately.

Aggression and Aggressiveness

The term "aggression" is often accompanied by the term "aggressiveness", but these terms should not be confused. Aggression is understood as an activity and aggressiveness as a property. Aggressiveness is a personality trait acquired and developed through social learning. It is characterized by frequent and inadequate aggressive reactions of significant intensity. Aggressiveness is the readiness of a person to react with aggression.

We say that a person is aggressive when:

  • Cannot control his aggressive reactions,
  • He is characterized by permanent hostility towards others,
  • Aggressive reactions are inadequate in relation to the existing situations,
  • His behavior is characterized by many aggressive behaviors

Aggressive attitudes are also differentiated due to:

1) moral aspect:

  • anti-social (destructive) aggression
  • pro-social aggression (protecting the interests of society)

2) aspect of intention:

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  • affective aggression (because of experienced emotions of agitation)
  • Instrumental aggression (it is a way of achieving the goals, plans, and tasks of a person which manifests itself)

3) the motivational aspect of the activity:

  • Attacking aggression (aims to attack)
  • Defensive aggression (aims to defend)

What are the sources of aggression?

There are many concepts that try to answer this question. These theories can be organized into two basic groups:
1. Biological theories

These concepts look for the determinants of aggression in the innate features of the organism. They emphasize biological, neurological, and physiological variables. Sometimes, damage to the nervous system can lead to the so-called pathological aggression, although it is also adapted by social factors. However, it should be emphasized that linking the genesis of aggression only with the biological side of human functioning has not been confirmed empirically.

2. Psychosocial theories

A) The "frustration-aggression" a theory created by scientists from Yale University, was once very popular. The classic version of this theory is based on two main theses:

Aggression is always preceded by frustration: every frustration causes aggression to occur.

  • Frustration occurs when obstacles appear on the way to the desired goal that delays or prevent achieving it. In this approach, it is the main and only aggressive stimulus. Because of repeating frustrating situations, a person can learn constant aggressive behavior.
  • This theory has undergone many significant modifications. Today, it is already known that not all frustration causes only aggression, while aggression does not have to be the result of frustration.

B) The theory of social learning
Emphasizes in turn environmental factors in the formation of aggressive behavior. Research shows that children learn aggressive behavior most effectively and quickly through imitation and modeling.

Anyways, this concept does not ignore the role of biological and genetic determinants and psychological factors.

When does aggression appear?

  1. The closer we get to our goal, the more frustrated we feel when we encounter difficulties and the more prone to react with aggression.
  2. Aggressive tendencies increase when frustration hits us unexpectedly or when it has happened to us unfairly. Frustration usually does not lead to aggression if we understand its causes when no one has contributed to it on purpose.
  3. Aggression is caused by relative deprivation until, that is, the feeling that you have less than you deserve or less than people like us.
  4. The occurrence of aggression may be related to the desire for retaliation when we encounter this type of behavior towards us. Usually, we want to pay back the same. However, we do not always respond with aggression to aggression. We do not do it when we previously knew who and why could behave this way to us.
  5. Aggression may be a response to a psychological threat to self-image, personal dignity, or lowering self-esteem. The behavior of this type is often a way of rebuilding your position or trying to increase your self-respect.
  6. Aggression can be triggered by items associated with it, e.g., weapons. Research confirms that there is a close relationship between the number of homicides committed and access to firearms. Countries, where its possession is banned, have far fewer murders than where it is not.
  7. The basis of aggressive behavior may be the blocking of needs such as affiliation, social recognition, acceptance, respect, and love.

How Can I Deal With My Anger?

Research shows that the suppression of feelings and their free expression has negative effects. However, there are forms of expressing anger that does not involve aggression.
1. Saying about your anger.
This procedure, which is fairly simple to perform, usually relieves tension and makes you feel better. Research confirms that speaking of your anger does more than shouting, cursing, throwing objects, or suffering in silence. Ideally, we can tell directly about the anger to the person who caused it. If this is not possible for various reasons, it is beneficial to share your feelings with others.
2. An apology.
We do not feel aggressive if we are convinced that the one who caused our anger did not intend to do so. The person who contributed to it can also effectively counteract our aggression. It is enough for him to feel responsible for his actions and to promise improvement.
3. Learning non-aggressive behavior.
One of the ways of preventing aggression is to develop interpersonal skills. It is good for people from early childhood to learn constructive, non-aggressive ways of coping with difficult or conflict situations.
4. Shaping empathy.
Empathy plays an important role in preventing aggressive behavior. The more we display it in relation to others, the more difficult it is for us to express our anger aggressively.

Web References:

Bibliographic References:

Human Aggression and Violence: causes, Manifestations, and Consequences

Edited by Phillip R. Shaver, PhD., and Mario Mikulincer, PhD

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Misbah Sheikh


Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on May 12, 2021:

For years, aggression has attracted the attention of researchers interested in human behavior. But so far no uniform definition and concept explaining this psychological and social phenomenon has been found.

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 25, 2021:

Thank you, Dr Billy Kidd, I appreciate you, for taking the time to read my work

I Respect your thoughts and opinions

Blessings to you

Dr Billy Kidd from Sydney, Australia on March 25, 2021:

Leading an anger management group, i found that a big issue justifying anger was to blame the other person: "she made me do it."

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Thanks a lot for appreciation, Rosina

I am glad that you found the hub interesting and helpful. I wish it could help people.

May you have a blessed and blissful week ahead

Peace :)

Rosina S Khan on March 22, 2021:

I am glad, Misbah, you have addressed the issues of aggression and aggressiveness in this article. I hope with all my heart it will be helpful for those who lose their temper easily and show off anger. You have mentioned several coping strategies which should come to aid of these people. Thanks for sharing.

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:


Thank you for the lovely visit, Amara

I am glad to know that you found the article informative

May you have a prosperous week ahead

Blessings always

Amara from Pakistan on March 22, 2021:

A well written, comprehensive and informative article about aggression.. Good work done..

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Thanks a lot Devika, Nice to see you here. I appreciate your thoughts

Wishing you a blessed week ahead


Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Yes, Moondot, we all show aggression to some extent but One shouldn't opt it as a behaviour. It makes great complications in our daily life and relationships.

I am glad you liked it and found it informative

Wish you an awesome week ahead

Blessings to you dear

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Yes, Peggy, you shared a nice point, there are some classes, seminars, and sessions for learning how to deal with aggression.

Thanks for reading and commenting

I appreciate your thoughts

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 22, 2021:

Misbah life is just that full of surprises and hurting each other can be meaningless from the other person.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on March 22, 2021:

I think we all show aggressive behaviour to some extent. Our intentions may be different—positive or negetive, but in short, we must try to control it.

This was very informative read, Misbah. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2021:

So many things go into the formation of how a person thinks and acts. You have covered the topic of aggression well. For those who anger quickly, there are anger management classes. Of course, a person must be a willing participant for those classes to work.

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Mr. Bill, the way you always remember your parents, that they brought you up very well and gave you a good environment, it shows how much you miss them and how much you love them, May Their Souls Rest In Peace, Ameen!

Much gratitude

Wishing you a blessed and blissful week ahead

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Thanks so much Chitra Di,

I am glad you liked it, thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts with us.

Wishing you a successful week ahead.


Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

Oh Pamela, you honored me with your kind words.

I am so glad you learned something from my hub

Blessings to you dear

Have a blessed week

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

I am thankful that I do not have much of a temper and that I can control the temper I have. I was raised in a loving home by loving parents, and I think that helped greatly.

Very interesting analysis, my friend.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 22, 2021:

Well written, comprehensive and insightful article about aggression, and aggressive behaviour. Obviously, there are so many factors responsible for such kind of behaviour. Thankfully, it can be dealt with, if identified, by self and others who care.

Thank you for sharing this excellent article.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 22, 2021:

This is a well-written and researched article, Misbah. It is very interesting. I learned several things about aggressive behavior. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

Misbah Sheikh (author) from "a Serene Land" (This Existence Is an Illusion) on March 22, 2021:

True Indeed, my brother. Let us hope we learn to compromise and bring positivity in our lives.

Always try to see one thing from two different point of views.

Thanks a lot for sharing your beautiful thoughts.

Stay well and blessed.

Wishing you an excellent and successful week ahead.

manatita44 from london on March 22, 2021:

Well-written and seems well researched too. You've done another Excellent article. Wonderful from the relative, topical and human point of view.

Let us say loosely that there are two kinds of growth:

1. Involution --the soul comes down.

2. Evolution --the soul ascends upwards

There are four forms of life: -

1. Mineral

2. plant

3. Animal

4. Human

Before the human life begins, the soul has already been exposed to surviving in the other Kingdoms and so, to some extent, aggression was already developed. Many humans still walk around with a very gross animal Consciousness.

One of the major contributions of aggression, is that I see things one way and another sees it in a different way. Compromise is limited by the dominant ego and so we fight. Again, much of what happens is related to the laws of cause and effect and is necessary for the growth and development of each soul.

Love you, my Sweet. Hari Om!

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