Four questions you might ask yourself about vulnerability, awareness, needs, and the past.

Are there times, when the turmoil of your anger has finally blown over, and you sit down, upset by your harsh response or embarrassed by your dramatic display, wondering if the recipient of your anger was really the person who inspired your reaction? Maybe the anger you feel — no matter how argumentatively, abrasively, or belligerently you poured it out — is really directed at yourself. Are you the person you’re really bothered by? Are you the person who just won’t get it together? Are you the person whose emotions and behavior are rubbing you the wrong way? Think about it: Anger is not necessarily about the reason we may originally think it is. When annoyance starts to rise in your chest, ask yourself a few questions about the real reasons for your anger:

  • Are you angry at your own vulnerability?

     You don’t want to feel hurt, unsafe, afraid, or ashamed. It may be that you are frustrated or frightened by how difficult it is to express your perceived weaknesses and insecurities. A look or comment may trigger uncomfortable feelings of abandonment and of not measuring up. To cover the helpless emotions, you get angry, deflect, and attack, removing the need to express yourself openly and risk rejection.

  • Are you angry at your own lack of self-awareness?

     You don’t know what you want or how to feel. It may be that you never developed the ability to tune in to your emotions before they spin out of control. Whether your childhood, a trauma, or some other factor has damaged your emotional intelligence, you may feel threatened by another person’s push against your emotional comfort zone. You may become angry at the fact that you aren’t sure what the appropriate emotion is and use anger to push people away.

  • Are you angry at your own unmet needs?

     You want to feel loved, seen, or appreciated. It may be that you want something that you either can’t get from the recipient of your rage, or you have inadequately expressed what you are wanting and you know it. So, by the time you recognize you’re probably primarily responsible for shortchanging yourself of the love and appreciation you are looking for, you may act out by “giving” the silent treatment or outward acts of punishing anger to try and ease the frustration of not being able to articulate what you feel inside.

  • Are you angry at your own perceived emotional “replay”?

     You don’t want to revisit a painful, unresolved issue, event, or time period. It may be, that on some level, your interaction with others resurrects old memories, pain, or uncomfortable feelings. That awareness causes your defenses to rise. You could really be lashing out in anger at something historical. Your interaction with the person in front of you becomes a pressure-filled container of past issues, anger at yourself for not resolving them, and the powerless feeling of being stuck and out-of-control. The person with you is just caught in the explosion.

Anger is a signal that something inside is unbalanced. Your equilibrium is off. Managing anger requires a truthful, consistent desire to shift from thoughts and judgments to understanding. It’s best to start with an understanding of yourself.

by Laura Olsen