Anger: What No One Will Tell You – Part 1

Anger is a universal human emotion. We all experience it, but the way we experience it can be unique to each individual person. Some of us experience anger by our rapid heart rate. Some of us feel our face get hot. Some of us sweat!

Despite the fact that all of us have felt anger at one time or another, it tends to get a bad rap. It’s easy to conflate the effects of uncontrolled anger and the experience of anger. People tend to judge others when their anger results in physical violence or cutting words. After all, when anger controls anyone the resulting behaviour rarely results in a positive outcome for anyone involved!)

It’s easy to look at the effects of anger and decide that anger itself is the problem. But it’s not.

But we should be cautious of confusing the effects of anger with the experience of anger. It’s not wrong to be angry! But it’s also not okay to be controlled by your anger.

In this article, you’ll learn how to reframe your perspective on anger. When understood properly, it can be a wonderful tool for you to understand yourself and your fears.

We’ll cover:

  • What anger is
  • Conventional signs of anger
  • Signs of out-of-control anger

In this blog, we’ll cover some of the basics of anger before we dive into deeper issues. (Next time, we’ll talk about how your anger is a symptom of a deeper emotion and what you can do about your anger.)

What is anger?

The American Psychological Association defines anger as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.”

Anger is a feeling. Feelings are important to listen to, but it’s critical to realize that feelings are not facts. You have every right to feel what you feel. But your feelings may not accurately reflect reality.

Anger can occur as the result of an injustice, whether real or perceived. Or, you may feel anger over something that has happened to something else.

Anger results when something that should never happen, happens. We’re angry when we see innocent people put in jail, or when we hear of peaceful protestors being beaten. You may feel it when you are cut off when you are driving on the highway.

Anger can also occur when something that we feel should have happened doesn’t happen. You may feel anger when a waiter or waitress gets your order wrong. You may feel anger when you are passed over for a promotion.

What are some signs of anger?

Every one of us is unique, and so it shouldn’t surprise us that we exhibit anger differently.

Some of us suppress our anger, or try to minimize it. While it’s wise to manage your anger, it’s unhealthy to suppress it. Suppressing it usually backfires. Your emotions are like a stream: if you dam them up, they aren’t going to go away. They’re just going to become more powerful.

Others of us have no issue realizing we are angry and expressing it. We may notice these physical signs of anger:

  • Clenching your jaws
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Your face and neck become flushed
  • Shaking
  • Pain in your head or stomach

We may feel:

  • Like you need to run away
  • Sad or depressed
  • Guilty
  • Annoyed
  • Fearful
  • Resentful

It’s important to note that some of us may not ever feel anger. We may feel passive in the face of wrongs that happen to us, simply accepting poor behaviour from others or the world around you. If you suspect this is you, do reach out to us. Feeling anger isn’t wrong – in fact, sometimes it’s necessary! We can help you connect with yourself in this area.

Signs of out-of-control anger

We all do many different things when we’re angry. When some of us are angry, we may raise our voices, or say things we regret. We may feel the need to punch something or someone!

It’s important to know the difference between unhealthy and healthy expressions of anger.

Healthy anger expresses itself by:

  • Not blaming others for frustrations or triggers
  • Being honest about feelings of anger without using it as a power play
  • Encouraging collaboration to solve the issue
  • Acknowledging responsibility and/or contributions to the argument or conflict
  • Confronting others with gentleness

Unhealthy anger expresses itself by:

  • Sulking and pouting
  • Using sarcasm
  • Avoiding the problem
  • Avoiding personal responsibility
  • Being too forceful or direct
  • Becoming loud and/or abrasive in speech
  • Throwing things
  • Being physically intimidating
  • Hitting or pushing

Again, these are the physical manifestations of an internal emotion that is neither right nor wrong. The feeling itself is not a problem – it’s what you do with that feeling that is ultimately harmful or beneficial to yourself and those around you.

Making Peace with Your Anger

Your anger is an emotional response that can manifest in many ways physically and emotionally. Anger itself is not a problem – but the expression of it can be healthy or unhealthy.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll dig deeper into the roots of anger and discover what you can do about it. 

Want to get reliable expertise about your anger? Reach out to us.We would love to help you find freedom and peace.

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50 Shades of Anger

When was the last time you got angry? If it’s been a while it might be hard to remember what caused it or why you got upset. Maybe it was recent – just this week, even – and right now you can feel your blood pressure spike just thinking about it. Anger is strange like that, isn’t it? On one hand, it can be fleeting and forgettable, and on the other, residual and explosive – even long after the fact.

What makes you angry? If you’re like some of us, it might take something major. If you and your partner were having an argument and – in the heat of the moment – you were called a hurtful name or reminded of an unrelated time you really screwed up, you’d probably feel a flash of anger. In your mind, especially in real-time, they made you angry. They provoked you.

Anger can also be the culmination of lots of little things, can’t it? If you’re not sure, just ask anyone who’s ever overslept – especially the night before something important, like a Monday morning meeting or an exam. Everything from the faulty alarm to their lack of coffee is a perceived microaggression until their rage is eventually unleashed on someone in traffic. Anger, in those instances, sounds a lot like a car horn and looks like a middle finger.

In all of these moments, it’s tempting to point at anger and misidentify it as the problem or the issue. To be clear, it’s okay to feel angry. Anger is a universal human emotion, and to not feel it from time to time would be unusual. So know this: anger is your right.

But understand the truth of this as well: anger is a secondary emotion. In other words, anger is not the primary emotion you experience when you get upset. Think about our examples above.

Arguments and misunderstandings happen, even in the best relationships. But when the disagreement devolved into insults and name-calling, you got angry. But what was below that anger? It’s likely that you felt hurt and shame, especially if something felt like a low-blow. Those were the primary emotions. And instead of being able to calmly state “that hurt me and made me feel ashamed” – both were repackaged as anger and you lashed out with equal force.

And is a fellow motorist really the source of your anger, not to mention the coffee pot or alarm clock? Of course not. Instead, you were probably experiencing embarrassment and fear. You were scared that your job, grade, or reputation was on the line. You were driving to work imaging that you’d be laughed at by your colleagues. Again, those are the primary feelings – the things we’re slow to admit – and anger is how we often express them.

If it all seems counterintuitive, you’re not wrong. When we give ourselves the time and the space to take a closer look at our anger, we’re guaranteed to find the real source lurking below the surface. It’s a lot like an iceberg. The jagged cap sticking out of the water looks dangerous, and for good reason: it will cause damage. But the iceberg is only the result of a much bigger, and much deeper, block of ice below.

It’s easy to play ship captain and spot the icebergs of anger in and around us. But what’s going on underneath it all?

Loneliness.

Grief.

Frustration.

Anxiety.

Regret.

Even rejection and disappointment can fuel feelings and expressions of anger.

Men, in particular, often find it more difficult to identify or name the primary emotions that trigger their anger. Many of us were taught – either implicitly or explicitly – to hide, suppress, or ignore our feelings – that’s what “man up,” “walk it off,” and “suck it up” really mean, isn’t it? That not-so-subtle messaging becomes a part of who we are and how we operate. It’s difficult to stop. That’s why anger is so prevalent. The real cause has been buried. It’s deep down below the surface. The only thing we see is the anger sticking its head out of the water.

So much of the work we do at Social House involves jumping into the water. That’s how we begin the process of understanding ourselves and all of our emotions – by seeing what’s below the surface. Anger is one of the best places to start. It has the potential to damage every aspect of your life – from your relationships to your career – unless you learn what those primary emotions are and how to process them. And there’s good news:

You don’t have to do that work alone.

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