Our anger gets more intense, and triggered more often, when we fall into negative thinking patterns

How we think about and interpret a situation (especially things people are saying or doing) plays a big role in how angry we feel. 

When I started to really take a closer look at what was happening in my brain when I got angry, I realised how far from reality I’ve been soaring” – Toby, 34

Here are some of the most common negative thinking patterns (more formally known as ‘cognitive distortions’) to watch out for:


Overgeneralizing involves drawing broad and sweeping conclusions about oneself, others, or the world based on limited or isolated instances of experience

For example, we might think: 

  • “I can’t believe I messed up that interview, I’m never going to be able to get a job.”
  • “I have the worst luck, nothing ever goes right for me.”


We all hold beliefs about how the world ‘should’ be, or how people ‘must’ or need to behave, which we (often unknowingly) use to judge others or ourselves. This way of thinking can also make us feel like we’re ‘owed’ certain things or that we should be treated in a certain way. 

For example, we might think: 

  • “What the fuck! I should be leading this group, I’m the person with the most experience here.”
  • “I can’t back down, I need to stick to my point or I’ll lose people’s respect” when dealing with a tough conversation, making you unwilling to compromise.


Some guys get into the habit of assigning blame when things go wrong, often:

  • Blaming others (while minimizing our own role in the problem)
  • Blaming ourselves unfairly and getting worked up
  • Getting caught up in vindictive feelings and developing grudges against someone

For example, we might think:

  • “It’s all my fault, I always fuck up, I’m worthless.” 
  • “They got it all wrong, it’s their fault I’m in this mess.”
  • “They can’t do that and get away with it – I need to teach them a lesson, they’ll pay for this.”


We do this when we only imagine things going as badly as possible. In small doses, worrying can help us be prepared for when things go wrong, but it’s exhausting and stressful to always assume the worst.

For example, we might think:

  • “If I don’t ‘step up’ I’ll lose everyone’s respect and I’ll never get that raise.”
  • “I can’t believe this traffic, if I’m late for work I’ll lose my job” (which may cause us to start driving more aggressively).


This means making ‘snap judgements’ about a situation because we think we already know what’s going to happen. Sometimes we assume we can read other peoples’ minds, or know exactly what they ‘really’ meant by a comment (but usually our interpretations are much more negative).

These jumps in thinking can lead to major misunderstandings and arguments.

For example, we might think:

  • “He walked right by me and didn’t say anything. I guess we’re not friends anymore.”
  • “My girlfriend should have been home half an hour ago, I bet she is messing around with another guy.”


Sometimes we get caught up in focusing only on the bad, and forget all about the good. If we get used to thinking this way, everything can seem irritating – aggravating us to the point where our anger is constantly blown out of proportion.

For example, we might think:

  • “I hate how my brother always interrupts me, he’s so irritating,” which may cause us to forget all the other good qualities he has and snap at him to shut up.


We can get used to thinking in extremes, with nothing in between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. But thinking like this can make things a lot more stressful and feed into our anger, especially since real-world situations are rarely black and white.

For example, we might think:

  • “Damn-it, he’s always late – what a shit friend. Fuck this, I’m leaving. I don’t need to make time for him.” 


This happens when we interpret things as personal attacks against us and our character. Often when we’re thinking this way, we’re reading too much into a situation and making negative assumptions. Some guys also have a lot of negative self-talk and are their own worst critics, which often stems from underlying self-esteem issues.

For example, we might think:

  • “They keep hanging out after work without me. Why don’t I ever get invited? There must be something wrong with me.”

If we can slow down and examine our thoughts when we are angry, we’ll probably notice some of these negative thought patterns that are keeping our anger going or making it worse.

Knowing which thought patterns are connected to our anger is the first step in working toward reframing these thoughts into more balanced and objective ones. If looking for negative thought patterns is connecting with you, see our article on 16 Negative Thought Patterns in Depression for more common cognitive distortions.