Sometimes clients will come to see me believing that they have an anger management issue. However, after further exploration, it sometimes turns out that anger is not the real issue but a symptom of something else.
Anger is sometimes referred to as a secondary emotion, in certain circumstances. Basically, this means that while it is anger, which is being expressed, underneath there may be more vulnerable emotions. These are called primary emotions.
The primary emotions underlying anger include fear, hurt, and sadness. However, when we feel vulnerable we are less likely to admit this to others or ourselves. And apart from anything else, anger can make us feel powerful and pumped up, which is quite different from allowing ourselves to feel more vulnerable emotions.
Also, it is sometimes far from wise to admit to certain people how we are really feeling, if it is not safe to do so.
But it can be quite liberating when we can check in with ourselves, to find out what we are really feeling. Allowing ourselves to get in touch with our sadness, hurt or fear can give us a lot of useful information, and be therapeutic.
And despite what many people think, nothing bad will happen to us if we just allow ourselves to name and feel our emotions. And in doing so, they often pass.
Many men have been raised to believe that allowing themselves to feel any emotion, apart from anger, is a sign of weakness and is unmanly. Big boys don’t cry! Furthermore, many men are unfamiliar with how they feel and may struggle to name their emotions.
But it is far healthier to name and experience how you feel, than to be constantly angry all the time or to express your anger in ways, which complicate your life and cause, hurt to others.
Please note that I am not saying that if you feel angry, that it is always about something else. There are times when anger is a genuine response to what is happening in your life or to how others are treating you. It is a valid emotion in its own right.
In addition to the above, anger may also be a symptom of issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and grief.
If you are depressed or feeling low, anger and irritability may be a symptom. Likewise, if you are feeling anxious or stressed, you may feel less tolerant and more likely to snap or lose the rag.
And anger is considered part of the grieving process. It is not uncommon for loved ones to feel anger towards the person who has died, or towards medical staff who they believe could have done more to help.
Anger can often be present in relationships in response to various issues, such as feeling unjustly criticised or put down by your partner, for example.
So, whether you are trying to deal with anger issues that you feel are out of control or whether your anger is a symptom of other problems, it can help to talk to a counsellor or therapist to help you to understand your anger and cope better.