07 Feb

Emotions can be a tricky realm to navigate when working with couples creating additional level of complexity in navigating areas of concern. Anger in particular can be an emotion charged with extra layer of intensity that is often difficult to understand and socially accept.

At times our mind creates scenario in our heads responding to past events creating an illusion of reality making us belief that we are dealing with the past situation in the present moment. During those times little seeds of concern turn into big worries that we feel need to be confronted with our partner immediately. What we respond to and the intensity of emotions we experience might be disproportionate to the event itself. 

During those time often our younger versions  are responding to past events when we felt hopeless and powerless in interactions with other people in our lives .  We feel hopeless, misunderstood and unprotected again and now years later we feel strong enough to assert our views and fight for what we believe is justice. 

The problem is that some of these worries projected onto our current experiences now can be confusing and troubling to our partner, who do not fully understand the bigger context the situation that we are resonating with. Our mind similarly responds to the danger reading it as if it occurred in the current moment. 

The role that emotion play further reinforce the intensity of the situation. What started off with a seed of doubt and anxiety quickly change its shape into explosion of anger, resentment and frustration, an avalanche of emotions difficult to contain. 

What is important to understand is that there is a reason for every emotion that we experience, not always immediately clear, due to hidden nature and complexity of some of the feelings we deal with. Some of them are more visible and easy to depict, others hardwired to our responses yet not clearly understood. 

The role of every emotion we have is to signalise things that are happening for us internally whether as a warning or a reflection of our internal state of mind. As noted by Renee Brown in her ‘Atlas of the Heart’ if we look across the research what we learn is that ager is an emotion that we feel when something gets in the way of a desired outcome or when we believe there is a violation of the way things should be. Anger is an emotion characterised by action mobilising us to take a stand and act. It activates our nervous system putting us on alert to protect ourselves and through this can also hijack our thoughts and behaviours. 

This can have significant impact on both our physical and mental health. Anger is often a catalyst of other emotions sitting deep inside us including: sadness, shame, fear, frustration, disgust, worry, disappointment, jealousy, hurt etc. Anger is often a catalyst of some of those emotions. The reason why anger is often described as a ‘secondary emotion’ is that it  often conceals other hidden emotions mentioned above that are harder to recognise.

 Sometimes anger can mask a far  more difficult emotions like grief, regret or shame. It may take us time to really understand deeper feelings hiding inside us and we may need to dig deep into what we are really experiencing. 

Anger is one of the emotions that is often socially disapproved of due to its components of emotional dysregulation often accompanying it. Many people hold onto anger not expressing it, which may result in feelings of exhaustion and resentment. 

As noted by Renee Brown internalising anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalising anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It is one of the emotions  that we need to transform into something life-giving like: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. How can we be-friend our anger? 

Tips to practise with: 

  • Observe anger in yourself: noting specific situations and triggers that evoke anger in you
  • Take a moment to reflect on the function anger plays in your life? Perhaps there are other primary emotions concealed underneath anger that you have not yet recognised
  • Understand the function anger plays in your life? What does anger make you feel do? Any specific urges you experience feeling angry?
  • Practise opposite-actions when dealing with the urges ager provoke in you e.g. when feeling like verbalising your frustration, take a step back and take a few deep breaths; approach the situation only when you feel fully composed in control of your emotions
  • If there was another more positive way of reframing anger as a change-agent wanting to motivate you to action, how can you use that motivation to your benefit as a factor stimulating and giving you energy to work towards change
  • Try to spend time getting closer to the angry part in you, understanding how that part was created in the first place. Having more understanding for the role this part played in our life acknowledging the intensions this part had in protecting you might lessen the intensity of emotional response you experience when feeling angry

R.Brown, 2021, Atlas of the Heart, London: Penquin Random House UK

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