And… what can we do about it?
Does Anger get the best of you? Understanding the emotions of anger.
I grew up with a father that had rage and anger. I have memories of his anger, and how scary it was for me as a little girl. Anger is scary. Most of us who were affected and touched by anger know how deep a wound and trauma it carries.
Many of us were also told that ‘Anger is not OK’.. we were sent to our room, or put on time out, with the message ‘you can come back when you are not angry anymore’, causing us to learn from an early age, how to suppress our anger, and to live with it under the surface, inside of us, causing harm, in-authenticity, and disconnect, and eventually an explosion.
As I have learned later on in life, when my father chose to take his life, that under the anger there is so often helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, and fear.
So many times in my psychotherapy practice, I help clients uncover, explore, and discover, how underneath their anger and rage, there is so much buried fear, sadness, loneliness, longing, separation and loss. We then can start to move toward learning and practicing, how to find the way to healthy expression of needs, fears, sadness and longing.
We are not taught and educated as to how to deal with anger, how to express it from a place of need, we do not learn to manage, regulate, cope, talk about it, be open and vulnerable with it; we only learn to suppress it, or default to it’s blunt, and at times abusive expression of destruction.
As we go through the therapy process, we start to unpack the origin of the anger, the places and times in our lives, when our alarms over separation and unmet needs was not heard. We uncover some of the origin of the anger, we explore and learn to accept it’s strengths and weaknesses, and we learn to express it healthily, as we begin to uncover what is underneath the anger.
As we develop more understanding about our anger, we realize that the anger is masking our fears and sadness. We can then learn to reach out with our needs. We learn how to develop healthier and more vulnerable ways to talk about our fears and protests about separation and panic of disconnection.
In an article Behind the Veil of Anger the author writes about how unfortunately, while expressions of anger may help to cope with the threat, it typically does little to resolve the underlying causes of anger.
“One of the most difficult emotions to understand is anger. Mental health professionals know that, from an evolutionary perspective, this complex emotion is vital to survival. Even in the modern world, anger is an emotional tool in an arsenal designed to protect us from real physical threats. More often however, anger is an expression designed to protect ourselves not from what’s happening around us, but from what’s happening inside us – from underlying fear, anxiety or insecurity.
Anger is almost never a primary emotion. Even if it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. Clinical experts that study anger have come to understand that the outward expression of anger masks many underlying emotions that assault our sense of self-worth and control.”
Anger is a character in Inside Out. He is one of the five Emotions inside the mind of a young girl named Riley, along with Joy, Fear, Disgust and Sadness.
Lewis Black describes Anger as follows: “He’s angry. He knows the group is well-meaning and they try hard, but they don’t get how things should work as well as he does. So he has to stay on top of everything, and the only way he knows how to get their attention, keep it, and make sure they get things done right is by getting angry. He is comfortable with his anger. It makes him happy. But when pushed too far, the top of his head bursts into flames.”
In our relationships, we often find ourselves getting angry with our partner for many reasons. At times couples tell me, ‘we were doing fine, and then this anger storm came out of nowhere’… Anger, rage, and fights in our relationship are again, signal of loneliness, separation, and disconnection.
Anger in a relationship can often signal a ‘protest’. We maybe protesting the lack of connection, the separation, the danger of disconnect. It could be a sense of not being seen or understood, respected or loved, and it can be about abandonment, rejection and betrayal. When we feel that a loved one is ‘not there for us’, it can send signal of danger to our brain, resulting in a ‘fight-flight’, or a ‘freeze-flee’ response.
That danger signal can easily be translated into fear, and when we are hijacked by that fear, we will often default to anger, and rage.
In healthy secure relationship, we can attune to our partner’s anxiety, fear, and even anger, with attunement and connection. We can then understand that underneath the anger there is a protest of disconnect, the fear of separation, and even sadness. We then can reach out with our vulnerability, and address the issues underneath the anger and fear.
In couples therapy, couples learn how to attune, and understand their cycle of anger, protest and disconnect. They can then learn to respond and repair.
Like in any protest, there is a hurt, a pain, at times unmet needs that are creating anger, frustrations and discontent. As we do not know how how else to ask for our needs, we go ‘onto the barricade of protest’, expressing anger, rather then what is underlying that anger, the fear and sadness.
Dr. Sue Johnson writes about the dance of disconnection: “Losing the connection with a loved one, however, jeopardizes our sense of security. We experience a primal feeling of panic. It sets off an alarm in the brain’s amygdala, our fear center, where we are highly attuned to threats of all kinds. Once the amygdala sends out an alarm, we don’t think—we act. The threat can come from the outside world or from our own inner cosmos. It’s our perception that counts, not the reality. If we feel abandoned at a moment of need, we are set up to enter a state of panic.
It’s what we do next, after those moments of disconnection, that has a huge impact on the shape of our relationship. Can you turn around and reconnect? If not, you’ll start engaging in fights that follow a clear pattern. I call these “demon dialogues.” If they gain momentum, they start to take over and induce a terrible sense of emotional aloneness. Your relationship feels less and less like a safe place, and it starts to unravel. You start to doubt that your partner is there for you, that he values you. Or that she will put you first.”
At our Hold Me Tight couples workshop, in a safe, intimate, private setting, we hold space for couples to become vulnerable and open to explore, experience, touch and talk through issues that have been untouched. We help couples learn how to reach for your partner at times of ANGER, anxiety, disconnect, fear and uncertainty.
This is a great opportunity to have a deeper and vulnerable look at your relationship, develop new skills to recognize the cycle and patterns that inflict the relationship and keep you separated and apart, and It is also a beautiful time to connect and highlight the strengths of your relationship, and built on the positive that already exist.
Looking forward to sharing the workshop with you. To sign up please go to www.daliaanderman.com/workshops
Please do not hesitate to contact or call me with any questions or for more information regarding the workshop or therapy.