So there you are, you’re there, burning with anger. You no longer try to silence your anger, and you don’t feel controlled by your anger responses. You treat yourself with self-compassion but still, this anger keeps swirling around in your mind. Perhaps it keeps you up at night or when you wake up in the morning, there it is, making you feel as angry as you did when it first happened.
What can help you get over that hurdle?
Understand your anger
There is a close link between fear and anger. When we are afraid, we are vulnerable. We feel the strength of our need of another person. We experience their ability to hurt us. We feel weak and powerless. Anger gives us power. Anger pushes away that vulnerability. Anger puts us in control: I thought you were hurt and I would die from the pain of it, I was so powerless. But now I am angry, I am going to kill you myself, I am completely in control Patricia Wilcox, LCSW
Professor Paul Gilbert of the University of Derby, United Kingdom, and author of The Compassionate Mind, writes that anger is often an reaction to feeling frustrated, blocked, thwarted, ignored or criticized; “something or someone is not as we want it or him/her to be.” Our anger then gives us the energy to overcome the blocks to our goals or fight harder in a conflict situation.
Anger can also be experienced as a powerless or impotent anger, which means we may feel unable to do anything about what we feel angry about. When we feel this way, we may also feel subordinate to others and feel that others have “far more power than we do.”
In Overcoming Depression, the professor writes that the most common triggers of anger are a perception of some kind of threat, damage or block to things we personally value. Actions that illicit anger are perceived damages or threats to:
- our sense of self (physical self or self-esteem)
- our possessions
- our plans and goals
- our way of life
These actions can manifest themselves in threatening situations or transgressions. Threatening situations are often the most important source of anger. Anger from a threatening situation can happen in a number of ways.
Also from Paul Gilbert’s book, Overcoming Depression:
Frustration related: Frustrative anger occurs when things in the world don’t go as we want them to.
Injury related: We can feel anger when others pose a threat to us and/or injure us in some way. Physical or verbal attacks can lead to feelings of anger. Anger is likely to be greater if we think the injury was deliberate, or the result of carelessness.
Exploitation related: This is when we think someone is taking advantage of us, using us or taking us for granted. Most of us have a desire to feel appreciated and for relationships to be equitable. This is true in child-parent relationships, between friends and lovers, and even between countries.
Lack of attention: Anger can arise when others don’t give us the attention we want. They may ignore us or dismiss our point of view. At times like this “we want to renegotiate our relationship, not necessarily destroy it.”
Envy and jealousy related: This kind of anger arises when we think that someone is getting more of something than we have. Envy is more related to coveting what some one else has. Jealousy arises when we think someone we value might prefer to be with a person other than ourselves. Sexual jealousy is more likely when a partner sees the other as a possession.
Lack of social conformity: This anger relates to feeling that others should do as they are told. The anger occurs because, in some way, we see the other person’s conduct as potentially damaging to our own interests or way of life.
Compassionate anger: This is when we feel anger be seeing harm come to someone else. This anger fuels the desire for us or others to do something. At this point it is good to remind yourself that anger happens when things are not as we want them to be and we place a high value on the things we are angry about.
As I wrote in an earlier article, if we brood over the things we are angry about, it may have the side effect of making us experience the raw feelings of the situation all over again. Which makes us angry again. It will be far more helpful for you to explore the connection between your anger and your fears, hurts, or vulnerabilities.
Next up: Label your feelings.