Anger is perhaps the emotion that we find the most difficult to live with. That is most likely because anger has marked differences from other emotions. It is our fight mechanism which is essential for our survival, but it can have such damaging effects on our relationships and our well-being.
A recent survey which explored how we relate to our emotions asked over 2000 people about their experience of anger. They discovered that 28% of this sample was worried about the level of anger that they regularly feel and identified an unsureness about how to deal with it.
While feeling and expressing anger can have negative consequences, anger holds high intelligence, helping to protect us when we feel threatened.
Here are five ways anger is not like other emotions.
Anger propels us into an energised state; the sympathetic nervous systems come online. While other emotions tend to make us withdrawal from others and life, anger drives us to engage. Anger moves us towards interaction with others; those we feel are negatively impacting our life, making us feel unsafe in some way. Anger often pushes us towards situations that will bring about change. Anger is a necessary activating emotion to try and move us towards safety.
Anger is Complicated
Anger is not a singular feeling experience. When we step into anger, it is because we have felt into another more vulnerable place. We may have felt marginalised, hurt, disrespected, neglected bringing up sadness, fear, pain or shame feelings. However, for many different reasons, we don’t feel able to share these more vulnerable feelings so to protect ourselves, we go to anger.
It Yearns to be Expressed
Other emotions can often be felt without much external evidence; this is not so easy for anger. Fury and rage often insist that it will be expressed out loud. Unfortunately, most people misdirect their anger, revealing it at the wrong times and to the wrong people.
It can be Turned Inwards or Outwards
Often we direct our anger outwardly, sometimes towards the wrong people. However, we can just as quickly direct it inwards towards ourselves. We generally don’t even realise we’re doing it until we have done emotional damage and start to deal with symptoms of depression, anxiety or coping behaviours such as addictions.
Anger Can Be Harmful to Your Physical Health.
While feeling sad is very uncomfortable, being angry is bad for your physical health. Researchers are discovering that individuals prone to anger are more risk for heart attacks and other chronic illnesses.
Anger can be destructive to our relationships and health; it can also energise us to positive life changes if appropriately harnessed. The key to healthily using anger is to become aware of when you feel it, recognise the roots cause of it; the more vulnerable feelings discussed above.
It is also essential to develop self-compassion around the things that trigger us and understand that the origins of those triggers are complicated.
Sharing our struggles with a supportive loved one can help us to manage these painful feelings and experience more intimacy in our relationships.
If you are having trouble dealing with anger or watching a loved one struggle, please contact me today. I’d be pleased to speak with both of you about how I can support your relationship. I offer sessions from my office in Hove and online.