Angry Mad Irritated Infuriated Annoyed Bitter Furious Resentful Irate
Surely you’ve “felt” all of these at some point or another. Did you ever stop to think about what was underneath these “feelings?”
From mildly annoyed to over-the-top irate, these “feelings” are all a part of the same anger family. Why? Because they are not actually feelings, but rather cover-ups. Underneath anger is always hurt or fear or both. Always.
And why does this matter, you ask? This is one of the concepts I most often talk about in therapy. The deal is that when you are mad, you feel sick (physiological symptoms like higher blood pressure), you can’t think straight, you make poor decisions, and behave badly. Being mad is definitely much easier and seemingly less painful in the moment, but the truth is that it does you no good, and can actually make things worse for you.
Think about the last time you were mad. How did you feel in your body? Tense? Hot? Stomach upset? Rapid heart rate? How did you behave? Did you hold in the anger and let it fester? Did you lash out? Yell? Get physical? Take it out on others?
When you act in anger, though it may feel as if you have no control or, to the contrary, as if you are going to exert total control, the results are never good. If you think about the last time you were angry, you will see. Consequently, you not only create more negative circumstances for yourself, but also deny yourself one of the best ways to heal parts of you that need to be healed. If you take advantage of the opportunity to go underneath the anger, you will give yourself the best chance at feeling better, behaving better, and at not being triggered or bothered by such circumstances in the future.
Here’s how you do it:
The next time you start to notice anywhere from a slight agitation to full on ANGER, Stop. Breathe. Notice and observe yourself without judgment. And don’t focus on the circumstance too much. Don’t do anything. Don’t say anything. Just notice. Next is your big opportunity – Ask yourself what you are feeling underneath. Hint: It is either hurt or fear or both. I have clients say they don’t feel anything underneath. After a bit of observing deeper, we are able to uncover the hurt or fear. It’s there.
Next, allow yourself to feel the hurt or fear. This is the painful part because people feel “weak” and less “powerful” letting go of the anger, but what happens after is the kicker. Suddenly, you are not angry anymore. And the hurt and fear allow you to dig deeper to heal. And each time you do this, it gets easier and easier and the amount of anger, hurt, and fear in your life decreases!
I hope this serves you and your loved ones, and remember, it takes practice, commitment, and non-judgment. You may need some support at first to get to the underlying feeling, but it is well worth it in the long run.
If you or you together with your partner would like more one-on-one support or couples counseling, and you are interested in working with Rachael Stracka, LCSW, please visit the Services menu for more information.