To be transparent, there is also disagreement within the world of psychology about anger and it’s role as an emotion. Some consider anger to be a “secondary” emotion – meaning the thing that triggered your angry emotions is not real culprit, but something else entirely. In this sense, anger is indicative of some other unmet emotional need you have buried deeper within. And some argue it’s not quite accurate to say its ‘secondary’, because anger has a healthy purpose and is part of our human evolutionary design. It’s there to alert us to something going wrong in our world.
Anger itself is a normal emotion. How you show your anger, and how long it takes to recover from a trigger are really where the heart of the conversation lies. In women, anger can be triggered by our hormonal cycles. Our fuses are shorter, we might be more argumentative, we might be more prone to making a “mountain out of a molehill”. Hormones also influence men and testosterone is known to play havoc with young men’s lives. Some cultures or communities in our society tell us that for the most part, it’s wrong to express our anger outwardly, so we work hard to suppress these emotions. However, when we suppress our feelings, rather than process and feel comfortable to talk about them, we can run into trouble. Its also important to remember, our hormones have a natural function – perhaps they give us the courage to let these emotions come to the surface – in essence saying – “hey, pay attention to me, I need your help.”
Is it really that harmful to get angry?
Specifically, it can be hard to manage our feelings of anger when,
- We are under a lot of ongoing stress,
- If we are resentful when we realize we didn’t get as children the things we really needed,
- When old traumas or disappointments are triggered, or unresolved situations keep resurfacing.
What can you do?
Talk to someone about, or start to write down, where your negative thinking starts to spiral out of control. There are many errors in thinking we all make as humans (called cognitive distortions), and only when you start to slow this process down, can you begin to pinpoint exactly where you can make a meaningful change in your relationships, and ultimately your life.
As we become more aware of all of our “fight or flight” physical responses, we can also start to use proven strategies to cool down in the moment. Then the work of understanding how our thoughts got us into this mess in the first place can start to really take shape. Finally, finding new, more effective strategies for making yourself heard, and resolving some of these lifelong issues can start to help you move forward in a new healthier way. Learning to focus on the present moment is not easy. It takes dedication, practice and a lot of self-compassion.
The good news is, there is a way out of the anger spiral. The even better news is, you’re human, and its normal to get overwhelmed with your emotions from time to time. Learning to connect the dots in your emotional world can help provide the clarity you may be seeking or needing, in order to move forward. In the next post (Part II), I will address some proven strategies for recognizing your triggers and learning new ways to both manage your emotions and contribute in a positive way to the relationships in your life.