Different Emotions: Anger
My name is Joseph Aslaner, and I am a Clinical Therapist at Trafalgar Addictions Treatment Center. Today, I’d like to talk about anger.Anger is something we all experience from time to time.
Some experience it more than others. But I like to talk to you about the process that tends to happen whenever you experience anger and how knowing this process can help us to better manage our anger.
So, to illustrate this, we will be using a thermometer we will look at four different stages in the process.
The Stages of Anger
The first stage, which will start at the bottom of the thermometer, will be the triggers. Triggers are things that begin this process. A trigger can be a loved one, saying something hurtful to you, a co-worker not doing their job properly, your partner leaving their socks on the floor. Anything that has the tendency to bring about anger. So the triggers hit.
The mercury is rising in the thermometer and then hits our second stage, which is the underlying emotions. So after your trigger hits and before you reach the anger, you experience other emotions.
This is because anger is considered a secondary emotion.
So, to use another illustration to explain what I’m talking about here, let’s look at the iceberg example. Anger would be on the tip of the iceberg, right above the water. It’s easy to identify, but there’s always something going on underneath the anger. That would be the underlying emotions I’m referring to.
There could be sadness, shame, embarrassment, feeling overwhelmed. The list goes on. These underlying emotions exist underneath the surface and push up the anger, which is the third step of the process or anger.
Now, we’re moving up the thermometer. So a lot of times I hear people say: “As soon as I’m triggered, I just feel anger. I don’t recognize the underlying emotions and that can’t happen.”
That doesn’t mean the underlying emotions aren’t happening, but it just jumped to the anger or it can happen so quickly, you just feel angry and oftentimes you skip recognizing you’re angry and you just react. We hit our reaction, which is the last stage at the top of the thermometer.
The reaction is something we want to try to avoid as much as possible.
This is the yelling, the shutting down, throwing things, whatever physical reaction you have to the anger. If this happens, we want to do our best to leave the situation, go for a walk, go to a separate room and do some deep breaths, practice some mindfulness exercises. Anything we can do to allow your thermometer to come down from the reaction stage. Down to the anger stage and then eventually we ask yourself, what are the underlying emotions that I’m experiencing?
And we want to be able to ask ourselves that question so that we can better communicate what those emotions are.
For example, when you didn’t pick up your socks, I felt disrespected and not heard.
Thas been much more effective than reacting to the anger.
And so by asking ourselves, what are those underlying emotions that I’m experiencing, it allows us to not only better communicate what’s going on for us, but also it allows us to process what’s going on for ourselves.
We can better understand where is this anger coming from? Why am I feeling this? What’s going on for me? And so it helps us to better understand our own anger and what’s going on for us, as well as being able to communicate that to the person that needs to hear it.
If you’re unable to identify those underlying emotions, I want you to go to your favourite search engine and type in emotional vocabulary wheel. Download it. It’s just a PDF worksheet handout, print it out.
It can be really helpful to allow you to identify some of those underlying emotions. It just gives you a broader emotional vocabulary to choose from when you’re asking yourself what am I feeling? What’s going on for me? And then you will able to process it and communicate it.
If you do that and you’re still having trouble identifying those emotions, talk to your therapist about it.
Talk to your therapist about helping you to identify these emotions that are going on underneath the surface. And again, when you do this, it can help you become a better processor. It can help you to better understand what’s going on for you, where this anger is coming from.