“Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.” – Eckhart Tolle

Most of us have experienced our fair share of anger and pain, some more so than others. But did you ever stop to think what’s underneath all that anger? What is the root cause? In many cases, it might be difficult to discern or pinpoint the origin of the emotion or identify the exact cause. All you know is that you feel like exploding, things are just not going right, and you can’t seem to get past it. Sometimes that means you lash out verbally or behave in unhealthy ways, such as drinking too much, compulsive overeating, engaging in promiscuous or risky sexual behavior. At the extreme, you might even cause harm to yourself or others, emotionally and perhaps even physically. Before your anger gets totally out of hand, however, a little self-reflection and some healthy coping measures may save the day.

Allow yourself some latitude.

First, give yourself a little latitude. Recognize that there is a reason for this anger and allow yourself the opportunity to dig into what may be behind it. This doesn’t give you a pass to scream at others, though, to throw things at the wall, to deliberately sabotage your work or someone else’s or to be hyper-critical of anyone’s efforts – your own included. It does mean that you can hit the pause button on your anger and try to figure out the most logical reasons for it and then employ some effective coping mechanisms to overcome the anger and get on with your life.

Figure out the probable cause.

For example, you may be angry at the success of others. Underneath your anger and jealousy may very well be the feeling of pain that you’re not able to provide for your loved ones because you lack the necessary ingredient, combination of luck and circumstances or some other reason that you’re not as successful as the person you think you’re angry at. You are not angry at him or her so much as you are angry with yourself. The root cause here is the pain you feel, being inadequate, a failure, unable to follow through, whatever.

Once you recognize the probable cause – the pain underneath the anger – you can begin to devise a plan or approach to take that will help you move past the anger and pain and onto more constructive actions.

Can you feel pain without it being associated with anger? Decidedly yes, as in the case of physical pain caused by an underlying medical condition. While you might be angry that you’re in pain, the pain isn’t the cause of your anger. Still, anger and pain quite often go hand in hand. Learning how to effectively deal with and manage both is crucial in being able to live a healthy, happy, productive and self-fulfilled life.

Consider various coping methods and approaches.

How to do this? There are several coping methods and approaches to consider.

  • It’s always recommended to see a doctor to rule out a possible medical condition or get treated for one that has already been diagnosed.
  • Learn and practice stress-reduction techniques, including meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, physical exercises, walking in nature, reading an enjoyable book, spending time with loved ones and friends.
  • Talk with a trusted friend, loved one or family member and ask for support as you work through your anger and pain. You’d be surprised how willing those who care about you are when you ask for help. In line with this, be ready to reciprocate when others come to you requesting help.
  • Think before you speak. This delayed response will give you time to weigh what you’re about to say, potentially saving you from making a colossal blunder by saying something inappropriate when it could have lasting consequences. Employ this technique wherever and whenever you would normally just blurt out what’s on your mind. Examples include: cursing at or flipping off a reckless or inconsiderate driver, muttering angry words at your boss or co-worker when you don’t like work that’s been unceremoniously dumped on you or you feel you’re getting shortchanged while others skate, taking out your anger on loved ones and family members, and dashing off a rude or emotional text or email, among others.  
  • Work on improving your diet so it includes good amounts of healthy food.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated. Your body requires fluids for optimal health and functioning.
  • Stimulate your brain with challenging puzzles, word games, devising creative solutions to everyday problems.
  • Be grateful for all the good that you have. Gratitude is a life-empowering emotion.
  • Share your experiences with others so that they may benefit from your accumulated wisdom.
  • Laugh often. Laughter is free and generates good amounts of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Emphasize your spiritual side with prayer.
  • Strive for a sense of balance in life: at home, work, with friends, neighbors and acquaintances.
  • Eliminate distractions when you’re trying to relax. Reduce tech time so that your brain can disengage and revitalize. This, in turn, helps decrease stress.
  • Be a good friend and co-worker and neighbor.
  • Make a list of goals you want to pursue and act to achieve them one by one.
  • Dream big. There’s something incredibly liberating about thinking about items on your wish list. If you desire something strongly enough, you can find a way to realize that ideation, even if only partially.
  • If toxic anger continues and spills over into other parts of your life, causing negative consequences, see a therapist to help you find a way past it.

Remember that while anger and pain may be causing you problems, you can do something about these emotions. It isn’t necessary to live with them. Nor should you resign yourself to doing so. It is, however, your choice as to what you do, in most cases.