While chances are good that you or someone you know has ‘anger issues’, there is much more to anger than you probably realize.
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
In our society, most people are not in touch with the majority of their emotions. You are likely familiar with joy and happy, and sometimes even bliss. You can recognize sadness, and will likely assume that you or someone else is experiencing grief after a significant loss. You probably know about numerous other emotions, but primarily as a definition. Most people do not know what they are really feeling, especially when it comes to what our society refers to as the negative emotions.
Anger is certainly recognized by society as a negative, yet it also seems to be the most accepted, or expected, of emotions. This is especially true of men who are discouraged from expressing sadness, worry, and many other feelings. Historically, it has been frowned upon for women to express anger, yet increasingly women do so as well.
An interesting fact is, though incredibly prevalent, anger is not a primary emotion. Actually, it is the expression of other emotions. It is only when you identify that underlying experience and its corresponding response, that you can stop your explosions.
The next time you begin to feel the buildup of anger, I urge you to look deeper to find the origin. Here are a number of emotional possibilities that can guide you to the root of your anger:
- SADNESS can lead to anger if you don’t allow yourself to acknowledge and express the sorrow.
- FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real), WORRY, and ANXIETY are very uncomfortable and create inner tension. Some people are more prone to release this tension with tears, some with movement, and others by striving to control their world. When this control is not successful (it rarely is), angry outbursts are often the result. Therefore, fear is one of the first emotions that I look for when I see anger.
- FRUSTRATION occurs when you think you are trapped and disempowered.
- DISAPPOINTMENT with self, others or scenarios (real or imagined).
- EMBARRASSMENT leading to anger can be a cover story for shame, anxiety, or perfectionism.
- JEALOUSY can really be a questioning of your own sense of value.
- HURT feelings are often your “inner child” (see below) being triggered, leaving you feeling vulnerable.
- Being MISUNDERSTOOD can be an indicator of not being seen as Who You Really Are.
- GUILT’s purpose is to learn from an experience. One’s perfectionism (and subsequent shame) can lead to anger.
- SHAME is one of the most complex. Author/psychologist Dr. Brené Brown explains: “Guilt says: I made a mistake. Shame says: I AM a mistake.”
- SENSORY OVERLOAD is when you are overwhelmed by the five senses or by an onslaught of emotions, triggering excessive inner tension that explodes as anger.
Learn to defuse and neutralize your anger with these steps and ideas:
- To familiarize yourself with the precursors, go through each of the emotions above and identify an example that occurred at some time in your life.
- Plan to identify your anger-precursor any time that you explode, or even better, when you feel anger mounting.
- Learn ways to release your inner tension. These are similar to the strategies for decreasing stress and anxiety:
- MEDITATION or MINDFULNESS
- REFRAMING YOUR INTERNAL DIALOGUE by recognizing truth instead of assumptions
- Learn to express yourself to others assertively, not aggressively.
- Be willing to acknowledge your true self so that you know what you really need rather than “being the good boy/girl” and “not making waves”.
- Recognize that many of the emotions listed above are carry-overs from your childhood. This is called your “inner child” and s/he thinks s/he is warning you about events in the now, but s/he only has the perspective of the powerlessness of childhood. S/he needs to be assured that you, the adult, have the ability to handle this situation from an adult perspective. And you do!
- Write a letter that is NOT sent, expressing how you feel. If you prefer a more verbal method, do this orally (without the person present).
- Release the inner tension and your deepest feelings with singing, art, or movement such as exercise or dance.
- Share your frustrations and hurts as they occur while they are still small, bearable and manageable, so that you don’t need to experience the erupting volcano.
Please seek the assistance of a professional if you are unable to identify your precursor emotions, you can not defuse your angry response, your anger leads to the damage of property, you find yourself wanting to hurt yourself or others, or you find previous traumas being triggered. Emotions are neither good nor bad, so enjoy learning and identifying!
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to ‘Remember and Become Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Eydis Magazine October 2015