Have you been deceived by anger?
Anger is a hard emotion to resist. He takes over and then, bam!, suddenly we aren’t operating as ourselves. Here are a few ways Anger and his super-crafty ways deceive you and hurts those around you:
Anger pretends he’s come to visit over rather trivial matters. Sure, it is frustrating when spoons get put in the fork section of your silverware drawer. It’s also maddening when drivers go three miles per hour below the speed limit in the left lane. (It’s for passing! Pick up the pace!). Oftentimes, though, what has set you off is actually a decoy. It is easier to get pissed off about the silverware drawer or traffic than it is to address what is really bothering you, and has probably been bothering you for years, even decades.
Anger masquerades as righteous indignation. A visit from Anger is usually uncomfortable and awkward. If you don’t have coping skills to keep him at bay, then you might be tempted to attribute your anger to righteous indignation. Perhaps a more convenient narrative is that something has happened that violates your value system when really the anger has been festering for a while. Sure, responsibility and accountability are important, but is your banner cause really the way other people use their turn signals? Once you are operating from a place of righteous indignation, it is easy to blame others for your feelings and abdicate control over your sense of well being.
Anger serves as a decoy for emotions you’d prefer not to experience. Are you scared? Are you sad? Are you ashamed? Oftentimes, anger feels safer. After all, it is hard to accept feelings of fear, despair, and shame. When Anger comes to visit, he can serve as a shield and protector from emotions that render you uncomfortable and vulnerable.
Anger can convince you that aggression is an appropriate response. How often have you acted out against others and the regretted it? When you are overcome by Anger, behaviors such as belittling, name-calling, yelling, huffing and puffing, or icy-cold withdrawal can seem perfectly justifiable and appropriate. Instead of leaning on loved ones for support, Anger says, “You can’t trust anyone. They are all out to get you. Push them away.” That mindset leads to more isolation and shame. After you’ve acted out in aggression, you may regret it. That regret and shame can create further distance from people you love and wouldn’t want to hurt when you are in a calmer state of mind.
Anger pretends to be manly. Music, movies, and other media tell us that Anger is the manliest of all emotions. Anger is behind vindication, crusades for justice, and the pursuit of fairness. The brooding, vindictive angry male is such a common trope that it is easy to think that Anger is part of manliness. Really, though, operating from a place of anger makes you one-dimensional. Consider exploring other feelings– compassion, sadness, melancholy, regret. It is easy to put all uncomfortable feelings under the umbrella of anger because anger is often linked to masculinity. Sadness, fear, and guilt, on the other hand, are often portrayed as incompatible with manliness. Anger considered strong, while sadness and fear are weak. Courage is facing uncomfortable emotions and not hiding behind Anger.
Anger isn’t always the enemy. Anger be a friend, a powerful source of motivation and a call to action. Sometimes, though, Anger can lead to destructive behaviors. Next time you are feeling mad, take the time to examine what is behind those feelings and what is really bothering you. Addressing what is underneath can help you find a path to a more centered, fulfilling life and avoid taking actions you might regret later.
Photo: Flickr/Guilherme Yagui