Now I know what you are thinking, “Of course it is. I have felt anger before.” But over the years I have started looking at anger in a different way. Anger functions as a warning system. Like the canary in the coalmine, it lets you know that something is not right.
In my experience, anger comes up when we are feeling an emotion we do not like. So in other words, we feel anger because we are feeling something else—hurt, embarrassed, shame, sad, etc. Anger may feel safer than feeling those other emotions.
Or those other feelings make you feel icky and anger can feel “better” than feeling those icky emotions. No one likes to feel hurt, embarrassed or fearful. Anger can feel more empowering.
Anger can also be a way to “punish” the person who just made you feel bad. The equivalent of “you hurt me so now I’m going to yell at you to try to hurt you back.”
Maybe certain emotions were not “allowed” in your family of origin. I received the message while growing up that there were two acceptable emotions “happy” and “angry”. As a result, over the years I’ve had to learn to decode my anger. For a long time, when I felt angry the first thing I did was explore the question of “How did I get here?”
Inevitably when I look under my anger, there is another emotion there. It used to take me awhile to figure out which emotion was behind my anger. I had to learn to sit in my anger and not react or respond. I learned to focus internally versus lashing out externally.
With practice, I have gotten much better at identifying my emotions. Now when I feel a flash of anger, it really is only a flash of anger. The flash is then followed by awareness of the accompanying emotion that created the anger. After all this time, it really is just a flash and then I go straight to the underlying emotion.
So next time you are feeling angry, look underneath that anger and see what is there. Anger never arrives alone. It always accompanies other emotions.