Anger seems to be raging all around us these days. We feel threatened, and we're ready to snap. Again and again, we find ourselves in a fight or flight situation.
Most animals on the planet respond to a threat by either fighting or fleeing. Ww humans get threatened, too, either physically or psychologically, and usually we use the civilized, modern method of fighting—with rage. Some words slash and wound; other words demean and destroy.
“If you get angry easily, it may be because the seed of anger in you has been watered frequently over many years, and unfortunately you have allowed it or even encouraged it to be watered.”—Thich Nhat Hanh
Anger helps us prepare for potential danger. The emotion stimulates adrenaline to alert the brain and arm the body to fight or flee a threatening situation, and that situation can be an assault to our core principles and beliefs.
Rather than attribute our anger to our fears and vulnerabilities, we blame something else. That denial, justification, or lie disguises what's really bothering us.
Protecting that vulnerability is a life-and-death matter to the angry person. Therapists assisting in anger management understand what fear means to their patients and do not eliminate the defenses and expose those fears prematurely.
“Angry people want you to see how powerful they are... loving people want you to see how powerful YOU are.” Chief Red Eagle
Six Fears (or Vulnerabilities) Anger Can Hide:
1) Anger can cover up hurt. Sometimes it's less threatening to show anger than to show we are hurt, ignored, or devalued. When we feel unlovable due to criticism or rejection, we respond with anger rather than admit our self-doubt.
2) Anger can be used to self-soothe our inner tension. For very sensitive people, any threat, real org imagined, can cause a constant state of insecurity. The release norepinephrine caused by anger numbs physical discomfort.
3) Anger can hide the fear of emotional intimacy. People attach to one another through anger. Many couples use anger in their communication, relating to one another constantly on that basis. It's a power struggle, and it's all they know.
4) Anger can hide self-consciousness. Combative or oppositional behavior often stems from being self-conscious and any situation that exacerbates that feeling will bring about an angry response.
5) Anger can hide self-empowerment. Unassertive people often use anger to gain a moment of power in relationships or in work situations.
6) Anger can hide sadness and/or grief. When a loved one divulges his or her own pain, we often resort to anger as a defense. We are sad and have no ability to express our emotions except through anger. We want to rescue someone and we can't; we feel helpless and get angry.
In his book, Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men: How to Free Yourself from the Grip of Anger and Ger More Out of Life, Thomas J. Harbin says, “This intense desire to control is an attempt to maintain dignity in spite of low self-regard. Think about it. In addition to keeping everything safe, the exercise of power temporarily boosts angry men's low self-esteem. [...] Like many kings and other powerful people, however, angry men will soon doubt the affection of those they control. They will always wonder if they are "really" loved by family members, or if their family is just acting that way out of fear.”
What do we do when the motion overtakes us?
Journal! Writing out your feelings in specific detail gets those hostile, negative, counter-productive thoughts out of our boiling insides and onto the page.
Walk away. Take ten deep breaths. Exercise. Run around the block twice.
“Whenever you are angry, take a beautiful object in your house and smash it to pieces. The pity you feel for what you have done is silly compared to what you are doing to your mind: taking a sacred moment to be alive and desecrating it by being angry.”
― Kamand Kojouri