It is an emotion. It might be delivered as a behavior. It creates and destroys. It motivates and fragments. It is the king or queen of our emotional and behavioral arsenal. People believe emotions are evidence of truth. What is the truth they are evidence of?
Anger is simply one of our primary emotions. Depending which theorist you talk to there are generally five or six primary emotions. The remainder of the many other emotional responses are known as secondary emotions. Secondary emotions are thought to stem from the primary emotion.
Primary emotions include anger, fear, joy, sadness, and love. Secondary emotions include examples such as frustration, embarrassment, loneliness, jealousy, admiration, horror, and disgust. There are many emotions when you look at primary and secondary types.
Are emotions evidence? Many people in therapy believe that what they feel defines reality. If they are angry they feel justified to take the emotion and create a plan of action based on the anger emotion. I say the emotion is fine but let’s hold off sending anger in to do the job/behavior that might actually belong to another emotion. This statement is often followed by raised eyebrows, a look of puzzlement, confusion, and perhaps more emotions.
What we feel is simply what we feel. What we think is simply what we think. If we are only conducting conversations with ourself it may not matter much beyond our feelings and thoughts. Human beings are largely social animals. We do best in relation to others in some format or another. The soon as we have one other person we now have a responsibility to inventory our feelings and thoughts and to query or consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Reality is not what we decide. It is a place we arrive at upon discourse with others where consensus of some type has been reached. Our feelings are real, to us. Another person’s feelings are real, to them. What happens when you put the parts together? It will depend on how open we each are to understanding one another and being satisfied with arriving at a reality that is a composite of what each feels.
Anger is one of our most powerful emotions. Many people send out the big guns first. They reach for the canon, the grenades, and other weapons of choice. Right beneath anger is usually another emotion with a softer and more meek voice. It says, “But wait, what about me, I think I might have a contribution here.”
Many folks don’t listen to that little guy or gal inside. Instead, they push her or him aside and send out anger, now transformed into an action or behavior to do the job. Ahh. We know what anger looks like. It is in the face, the eyes, the tightness of the body, the clenching of the jaw, and the pursed lips. It is tense and often ugly. It may be loud and it conjures awful words linked together in macabre ways intended to hurt, shame, and render an emotional insult. It is scary and most folks back off unless they too have sent their angry emotion out to become an angry behavior.
Most anger is typically about fear. Remember, fear too is a primary emotion.
When angry we typically don’t pause to ask, “What am I afraid of?”
With a pandemic and the COVID Fatigue that has engulfed us there is plenty to fear. A young teen said to me in his wisest voice, “It’s not a matter of “If”, it is a matter of “When.” He was talking about the COVID-19. He believes everyone will get COVID. He said, “some will get sick and recover, some won’t know they have it or have minor symptoms, and others will die.” He said, “There’s not much any of us can do about it except try to help others feel less afraid.” This teen is only fourteen-years of age.
It is wise to ask yourself about your anger. What are you really angry about? Are you sure your anger isn’t really fear?
Some say, “This is America and I don’t have to wear a mask.” Or, they place things in a political perspective. And, they may even think the whole COVID crises is fake. We can’t do much about what people will think or how they will feel. We can however look at ourselves and offer up the best possible job of understanding. Is is possible many people are simply afraid, but don’t know how to look at their fear or perhaps, even to acknowledge it? Might we be afraid too?
Psychology is about understanding and it is about creating tools based on the sovereignty of each person. Our sovereignty requires a measure of mindfulness. Where do our beliefs really come from? And, what is truth? It is a good thing to consider our emotions, our thinking, and our decisions. It is also an excellent idea to consider what others may be doing with their feelings. There may be a way to help. It may help you be less afraid too.
Thank you for reading.
Wishing you peace.
Nanette Mongelluzzo, PhD