Anger: Friend or Foe?

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What comes to mind when we think of anger?

For most people this brings up images of a loss of control and negative associations such as frustration, hurt, and fear. Anger can be either an emotion that brings our focus to something that needs our attention, or it can be a powerful force that influences us to act in irrational ways. Anger is a signal that we do not like what is happening at that moment in time.

Anger does not go away if we ignore it, deny its existence, or fail to resolve the source of the frustration. When we ignore angry feelings, the emotional energy goes "underground" where it makes "terrorist type sneak attacks" on our health and relationships. Buried anger in the form of rage often surfaces when a crisis presents itself, making the impact of the crisis much more intense.

Anger is an intense emotional response triggered by our subjective interpretation of events or circumstances which violate our boundaries. Personal boundaries are the invisible place where we end and the world around us begins. Boundaries are also the place where we can feel comfortable and protected within ourselves. When this sense of personal space is violated, we feel uncomfortable, as if we are having our feelings crowded.

Anger serves to reinforce and protect this sense of where our boundaries exist by letting others know when they are stepping on our emotional toes or sensitive areas. Often we fail to recognize annoyance, irritation and displeasure as low-level responses of anger, which will build into full-blown rage, if left to accumulate over a period of time.

The Roots of Emotion

The roots of emotion, the things that anger us, and the way we express our emotions vary according to culture, age, sex and relative power in a situation. Emotions are universal. When and how we respond to emotions—such as with anger—will vary, depending on individual and learned patterns of coping responses.

Anger usually begins with a loss, or the perceived threat of a loss, such as:

  • Loss of self-esteem. We become angry, often with ourselves, when we believe we have failed or let ourselves or others down.
  • Loss of face. Public exposure of failures or inadequacies can be humiliating and infuriating.
  • Threat of physical harm or violence. In this type of threat, anger helps us to activate our self-preservation instincts.
  • Loss of valued possessions, skills, abilities or roles. Regardless of who is to blame, losing something that we are proud of or attached to can cause both hurt and anger.
  • Loss of a valued relationship. Anger is often a naturally occurring, though not always healthy response to the loss of an important relationship.

You can have control over your anger – call today to find out how we can help 604-574-6555