Heres Why Anger Can Be So Confusing
It may come as a surprise to learn that anger is in fact the most common human emotion. This appears odd because for most of our lives we are told that’s it not OK to be angry, and as a result spend a good deal of time trying to repress this emotion.
Given that anger seems so prevalent, in spite of our best efforts to avoid it, it’s no wonder that so many of us are perplexed as to what it means and how to manage it. Perhaps its time to look at anger differently, and instead of fighting against it we can learn to lean into it in ways that are healthy and helpful.
So why is there so much confusion about anger and why is anger so misunderstood? Well, part of the problem lies with the fact that many of us received very poor training when it comes to anger. We were not taught to deal with our anger emotions in appropriate ways, instead we received negative messages that ‘anger is bad’, and ‘don’t be angry’. We were inadvertently taught to fear anger; ours and other peoples.
Instead of expressing anger rationally we learnt to silence it, which is completely counter-intuitive to its real purpose. So what happens when the stress builds up and we can no longer stuff this intense emotion down? We explode and do more damage than if we had dealt with the emotion in the first instance. It’s this destructive reaction to anger that is the problem, not that we feel anger in the first place.
Too many of us were witness to our parent’s anger. The failure of our role models to emotionally regulate themselves, with appropriate anger responses, was passed onto us. As young children we were often the recipients of our parent’s aggressive and damaging behaviours. This was our template for how to deal with anger, and without questioning it we took on these same dysfunctional responses.
Generally our experiences of anger taught us that anger is a negative emotion but this is not true. Anger is not in and of itself bad. It is not something to be avoided, feared and repressed. Anger tells us when something is not right and alerts us that action needs to be and to remedy a situation that has gone off track.
Anger is usually playing a protective role in our lives when we are feeling sad, scared, hurt, fearful or alone. Anger has a positive role to play, but only if it’s used in way that elicits positive outcomes. Anger moves us to action it does not dictate what those actions are. That is our own individual choice.
And it is our choice in how we respond to our anger emotion. It can be in an honest way that reveals our vulnerability or it can be attacking and hurtful. In order to deal with anger appropriately we have to roll back all those years of using anger incorrectly and start afresh and takes commitment and a willingness to see things differently.
If you want to be less confused about anger stop seeing it as the enemy, let go of any aggressive and reactive behaviours, and begin to pay attention to the real emotions that that lie beneath the anger. When you start to recognise and express your true feelings about a situation the anger emotion is transformed from a potentially hurtful experience into one that is healing and restorative. For more on anger management consider our online anger management course that will take you step by step from frustration to calm.