By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
Of all the emotions we experience in our lives, anger seems to be one we all experience frequently in one way or another. When we think of an angry person we might picture someone getting loud or aggressive; or someone who is critical and mean. But anger is also expressed in other ways as in a person who is depressed and turns their anger inward. Or in a person who is afraid or frustrated or lonely.
Most often when we experience feelings of anger they alert us to an underlying emotion(s). That is, there is something behind our anger. For example, we might feel angry because we have been hurt by what someone said to us. So the underlying emotion here is hurt. Once we recognize this and deal with the hurt we will be able to release our anger. We might also feel angry because we feel frustrated that things did not go as planned. Realizing why we are angry and then dealing with the frustration will help us release the anger.
Sometimes when people are angry they don't realize that they are also experiencing other feelings as well. Identifying what other feelings besides anger they are experiencing is an important first step to learning what is really behind their anger. Then those feelings can be faced. Sometimes it is so much easier to feel angry than it is to face other feelings like shame or guilt or rejection. Those feelings can be unpleasant and uncomfortable and that is why so many people run from their feelings or try to bury them. Drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, promiscuity, work holism, gossip, etc., are all evidence of this.
So how can we face what is behind our anger and release it? It all depends. We might need to accept certain people or things in our lives. We might need to forgive someone. We might need to work on our self-esteem. We might need to make changes and take action. We might need to learn how to manage our emotions. Acceptance, forgiveness, and taking responsibility will help us to let go of anger that weighs down our hearts. Anger that is unresolved and not motivated to positive action keeps us from having peace and a calm, untroubled mind.
Anger is not all bad. It is a God-given emotion that helps us to experience life in all its fullness. It is what we do with our anger that matters. We can learn to manage and control our anger before it becomes destructive. If necessary, we can get professional help to deal with it. We do not have to feel ashamed or guilty for feeling the way we do. Each one of us experiences anger from time to time. Anger has no control over us when we choose to release it. We can manage our anger, let go of toxic emotions, and experience freedom.