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Feelings of anger can be interpreted as a protective cover for what we really feel underneath.

Anger is a secondary emotion that is more socially acceptable to express than the primary emotions we feel. Showing anger allows us to protect our vulnerable feelings of:

1. Fear
2. Jealousy
3. Shame
4. Sadness
5. Hurt

If someone says something derogatory, controlling, or demeaning to you, it may seem like a personal attack. You may feel fear, shame and/or grief because you are being treated in such a demeaning way. Instead of voicing these vulnerable feelings that you may believe are weak, you lash out in anger to feel more in control. Unfortunately, reacting in aggressive ways like yelling, throwing things, pushing or hitting does not address what you are really feeling.

The next time you begin to feel angry, pause and think: “What am I feeling underneath?” Explore the feeling of sadness, shame, jealousy or fear that your anger is covering. Think about what outcome you want from the situation and the best way to achieve it. While you take time to reflect on your internal thoughts the anger will subside. You may need to count to ten or leave the room. Think of the best way to express your primary feeling to the offending party.

Some examples are:

• I feel hurt when you say xxxx or do xxx.
• I need some time to cool off, can we talk about this in (an hour/tomorrow).
• I am going for a walk to relax and think.
• I am very tired/hungry right now. I can give you my undivided attention after I rest/eat.

It is a good idea to reflect on the times you’ve gotten angry in the past and try to uncover the primary emotion behind your reactions. Think of the best way to express that primary emotion in a calm, clear way and how to achieve your desired outcome. Writing your thoughts down will help you remember and mentally rehearse a better way to respond to situations that trigger anger. The next time you feel angry you will be prepared to express what you are really feeling and better able to get your needs met.