Why We Get Angry
Anger is potentially one of the most understood and villainized emotions. Because it has been so vilified, people are ashamed of their anger and feeling a desperate push to know what to do about it. Especially since society often bombards us with messages that we should never be outwardly angry about things. The good news is that there is a different way of looking at anger and a hack you can use. Once you use it, you will no longer feel powerless and ashamed of it.
In this article, I will first be offering an alternative perspective about anger so you no longer feel ashamed or overwhelmed by it. Due to the length of the topic, I will be writing about the ‘hack’ at a later date. I want you to understand that anger itself is complex in how individuals experience it and this is by no means a complete replacement for other processes as there are many to choose from.
To understand your anger I want you to remember the following statement. I want you to engrain it into your mind. Anger is about unworkability. If you feel anger, it means that you perceive something to be unworkable. When this is the case, it implies that you are going to be powerless to change it. And if you are feeling angry you really need that particular thing to change or else it is ‘ a guarantee of pain’ for the projected future. When we look at anger in this way, it removes a lot of stigma about it. If anger is simply an indication that we are perceiving a threat to our mental/physical/emotional wellbeing and we do not feel it can be changed, we slip into powerlessness. Not the villain we make it out to be then eh?
Here are some examples to consider on how anger is about perceived unworkability: A working mother gets angry because she feels judged by society. Other mothers judge her for working when they think she should be prioritising her child, and colleagues judge her for having a child when her priority should be work. What really hurts her about the situation is that it makes her feel like she’s never good enough. Maybe what she feels is unworkable is other peoples’ extreme and impossible standards. Her inability to change anyone’s mind about what she should do.
To rescue you from this feeling of powerlessness your anger comes in to try to protect you from powerlessness (something we experience as unbearable). This is an effort to empower you. If you understand the anger from its core, you would see that everything I just said suddenly makes the behaviour of toddlers make more sense. I will be writing about this topic further, and usually go into depth about this with clients in sessions. But it's valuable to look at how we are empowered or disempowered by adults when we are growing up. So many adults have been conditioned to believe that they have no capacity to make whatever situation they feel angry about change so that it feels good.
So, this offers a perspective of anger. Perhaps chronic anger is really about perceiving things to be unworkable, even if things are workable.
Have compassion for yourself and others when they express anger, it's not as threatening as it seems. It is merely an attempt to navigate our way out of feeling powerless. Ask yourself, are things really unworkable? Are they as impossible at it seems? Or is there something I can do to empower myself to move out/change the situation?