IS YOUR ANGER REALLY ANOTHER EMOTION?
“I’m so angry at my daughter I don’t know what to do with myself”, “My husband makes me so angry I can’t even talk to him right now”, “I’m really mad at myself for not being able to stick to my diet”.
As a therapist, I hear these kinds of comments over and over and I’m sure you’ve said or felt angry emotions yourself. We all have. We’re often told that anger isn’t healthy and certainly, it’s not good to hang onto anger. Women especially are told either explicitly or implicitly that they shouldn’t feel or display anger. So, anger can be a confusing emotion.
But, is anger really anger? Certainly, we all know what anger looks like and feels like. Sometimes, it feels really good to get angry, especially when we have righteous anger. However, I think that anger is just a cover emotion. In my opinion, anger is really three other true emotions:
Hurt, Fear, Frustration
Think about the last couple of times you were really mad. Now, try this exercise: instead of attaching anger to it, try to imagine what you were hurt/sad about in that instance. Think about it again. What were you afraid of or afraid might happen? Think about the instance a third time. What were you frustrated about? Aha! This changes your anger into something concrete, doesn’t it?
Seeing anger as hurt, fear, and frustration is important for several reasons. You can’t do anything to solve anger. In fact, the angrier you are, the angrier you get. Anger doesn’t let you move past “anger”. You can’t fix it. However, you can look at feelings of sadness, of fear, and of feeling frustrated and definitely do something constructive. Additionally, anger has a lot of energy attached to it. Have you ever noticed that when you’re angry, you’re fidgety, breathe rapidly, pace around, and perhaps say things you wouldn’t normally? That’s the energy and adrenaline that comes with “anger”.
The next time you feel what looks like anger, get out of your immediate environment and take a walk, run, or bike ride for at least 20 minutes (don’t drive a car). Don’t interact with others and don’t drink or use other substances. While you are doing something physical, take a non-defensive look at your feelings of hurt, fear and frustration that are the true cause of your “anger”. You will be amazed at how clear your emotions become and how quickly you can overcome them in a healthy way, without hurting yourself or your relationships.
Take good care.