Millions of years ago, our humaniod ancestry would travel in packs, tools in hand, searching the lands for food and sustenance. At this point in our history, a threat would stimulate a few simple responses from our body that helped us outlive other species and grow into the people we are today. No response was as quick as our anger.
For some of us, more practiced angry people, anger is a booming outburst that can help us get our way, can protect us when we need it, and can hide us from other more threatening emotions like hurt or fear. As advanced as we are, we still carry so much of our cavemen psyche and from time to time, often without our awareness, they come out from their caves to fight and hunt for us.
Our anger can create single minded thinking, almost as a throw back to the days where thinking was less neccessary and experiencing other emtions was out of the question. Yet while there are many reasons why it benefits us to experience anger, there are also many reasons why we should experience the emotions that it so effectivly hides. Anger is almost always covering up an underlying sense of fear, or hurt. Anger is an easy emotion to express and is often the emotion we learn first – it can become the ‘go-to’ emotion for us and prevent us from digging too deep into a place that we may not be able to navigate or find our way out of – we are scared of what is causing our anger. I challenge any person to give me an example of a time they were angry and could not think of another emotion that was at the very source of the anger. Even simple road rage, which I have been guilty of in the past, can be pinpointed down to our sense of entitlement or ‘hurting’ our sense of ourself.
There are many programs which are designed to provide “anger management”, but I am beginning to believe they are somewhat misled or at times misdirecting. We dont need anger management, we need emotional awareness. Once we are aware of what emotions lie beneath our anger, the anger itself almost dissapates – it has no real use once it stops protecting us from discovering the more complex, harder emotions of pain, regret, fear, dissapointment, anguish or anxiety. I dont believe we should rid ourselves of our anger becayse there are many ways in which it could actually work for us, and if we werent meant to have anger, we simply wouldnt. I do believe if we are always relying on anger to function in life, we are robbing ourselves of the awareness of other potentially more powerful emotions.
Lets try not to judge anger, but accept it. Observe it and work out what lies beneath it.
Next time you find yourself feeling angry, ask yourself – what is underneath this anger. What other emotion could be the root of this feeling?
Ray Medhora can be found practicing child and family therapy in Sydney Australia as well as training other aspiring counsellors to help them reach their goals.. Ray always feels odd writing in third person.