Anger is an emotion that is useful and necessary as well as harmful. We teach anger management skills as well as interventions for resolving the underlying reasons for an individual’s anger
Anger is one of the most misunderstood of human emotions. Anger, in many cases, is a secondary reaction to an attack on our sense of self-worth or self-efficacy. Fear and/or hurt are often the primary feelings that underlie anger. It is common to feel anger and hurt simultaneously. Some people will find one or the other of these painful emotions more difficult to express. When we are angry and take a moment to look, listen, and stop, we’ll often discover that we are experiencing hurt, pain, or fear behind the anger. Anger is more easily accessed while the more vulnerable feelings of fear, hurt and pain are deeply held and not readily available.
Expressing fear and hurt openly can make us feel vulnerable and weak, revealing ourselves as being inadequate, incompetent or as having no self-esteem. Expressions of anger allow us to feel, at least momentarily, strong and in control, acting as a boundary against further perceived hurt or personal violation.
Anger is a useful emotion for physical and psychological defense. Anger that is justified and appropriately expressed helps us feel a sense of control and reinforces our sense of self, motivating us to take action in positive ways. Anger reactions can also be like a train running out of control and about to derail. The price for anger that is out of control is a loss of self-worth, lack of self-efficacy and will drive away those whom we love most and endanger our daily normal existence. Ultimately, anger is a way to regain control of “self” caused by a fear of loss, akin to a fear of dying. This fear leads people to have anger in order to stop the inner fear that they feel.
Anger can become addictive because of its potency as a defense against fear or hurt.
Whether as an immediate reaction to an isolated event or as a learned pattern of coping from early life experiences, people often get into compulsive and even addictive use of anger, including attempts to control other people. For example, if you saw your parents get violently angry as a way to control or dominate someone over an issue, you may be more likely to use the same approach.
Styles of controlling are varied. There are many ways to try to control other people in order to feel a sense of adequacy and control. Some people are aggressive, while others are passive-aggressive in their controlling behavior. The use of anger and the threat of consequences are common.
Anger is often confused with hostility and aggression. Anger is an emotional state, consisting of feelings that vary in intensity from mild irritation or annoyance to intense fury and rage.
Hostility refers to an emotional state involving angry feelings that result in a complex set of attitudes, values and resentments that are fueled by “conditions of worth.” Hostility motivates aggressive behavior directed at people or things.
Aggression refers to a set of behavior traits directed at destroying objects and injuring or punishing people; it is a consequence of hostility.
To repress anger is unhealthy, and yet to express it impulsively, as we so often do, may give momentary relief, but inevitably will carry negative consequences. If we tend to hold our feelings inside rather than talk them out, we are more likely to have an angry outburst as the pressure increases, much like a pressure cooker. To alter our angry responses, we need to unlearn and replaced our compulsive responses with healthier coping skills. When we are angry and take a moment to look, listen, and stop, we’ll often discover that we are experiencing hurt, pain, or fear behind the anger. Anger is more easily accessed, while the more vulnerable feelings of fear, hurt and pain are deeply held and not readily available. If we can step back and become mindful, we can usually access what the underlying hurt might be and have both alternative responses to the hyper arousal and understand from where it comes.
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