Written by James Ogle, LCSW
Attention To Wellness
Anger is often described as a negative emotion. People tend to forget there is a purpose behind all of our emotions. Anger can be a healthy emotion when experiencing a flight or fight situation when you perceive your personal safety is threatened. However, anger can cause problems for people when that person acts out his or her frustration during times s/he believes they are being treated unfairly. When we hear about situations where individuals act out in anger, we often empathize with why the individual was agitated, but at the same time, feel we cannot condone their actions. It is important to remember that when someone experiences anger, they almost always have a corresponding belief that they are being treated unfairly. It is also worth considering anger is always a secondary emotion. If you are feeling agitated or angry, you are also experiencing sadness and/or fear. Most times, individuals are often not aware they are experiencing other feelings when angry.
When I work with individuals who have acted out in anger, I first work with the person to learn acceptance in situations where s/he has perceived being treated unfairly. This can be challenging for individuals to shift their beliefs. However, I find people are often willing to work towards acceptance when reflecting on the fact that the desired outcome was not achieved as a result of their actions and they experienced natural consequences. Then I assist the individual in identifying the primary emotion(s) they are experiencing. I find this to be a more challenging process for men. Though society does not condone people who act out of anger, men are often viewed as being weak when expressing a feeling of sadness or being afraid. There is also a societal bias that it is only acceptable for men to express anger. When both men and women are able to recognize and process the primary emotion(s) they are experiencing, feelings of the secondary emotion, anger, will be reduced.
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