Anger is considered a universal emotion as well as a secondary emotion. What does that mean? Short version, it means that 1) Everyone feels anger, and 2) Underneath anger lie other emotions.
Even though some of us may have been raised to see and feel anger as "bad", we cannot avoid being angry. I'm sure that even Mother Teresa of Calcutta got angry at something!
Truth is each one of us has their own triggers. Those small "buttons" that when pushed too far make us lose our cool. When that happens, we feel as if a fire is lighting up from the inside and we need to release this tension. Hence, anger is neither good nor bad. It is normal to feel angry and it has a protective nature. Which leads me to the second point.
Some authors talk about anger as a secondary emotion. Their belief is that behind anger are other underlying emotions such as fear or sadness. These primary emotions are associated with feelings of anxiety and vulnerability whose discomfort we are not keen on dealing with. Expressing anger seems therefore easier and a faster way to communicate our feelings to ourselves and to others.
Anger can be shown internally or externally. For some people, when they feel hurt and wronged, they will turn the anger inwards. They judge themselves and feel guilty. While for others, the injustices and pain express themselves from inside out, projected into the ones surrounding them (especially their close ones).
Next time you are feeling angry, try to explore what are the feelings underneath that anger. Remember what we have been talking about increasing your emotional awareness and connecting to the root cause. This is a good opportunity to dig deeper and de-construct these feelings of anger.
Let's say you are arguing with your partner and start to feel that burning sensation, that need to scream or release that inner tension somehow. Ask yourself what is lying underneath that anger. Are you perhaps hurt and afraid of losing that person? What buttons are being pushed? What needs are being left unattended?
Or for instance when you feel as you are losing control of a situation or of your life in general and feel angry at everything and everyone. Again, ask yourself what is behind your anger. Could it be that your anger is masking feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability? In other words, is it easier to express anger than to be vulnerable?
Each of us deals with anger differently. Each of us feels anger in a different way. Each of us is triggered differently for anger. Take time to observe your relationship with anger, be curious and peek behind the curtains of your vulnerable self.
By peeling the layers of fear and sadness you get closer to your truth - your primary emotions. You may find out that you have some unsolved issues, unresolved grief being one of them (since we focused on grief last week). Or perhaps that you feel scared about something in your life that you have been avoiding. Whatever you may find in this self-discovery journey is crucial data to feed your emotional awareness.
Instead of looking at anger as an ally or an enemy - depending on your experience with anger - see it is a way-through cultivating more inner peace.