In societal norms, it is common to consider anger as a negative emotion which is either judged or suppressed. And while actions driven from the place of rage may indeed be impulsive or aggressive sometimes, understanding the reasons why this emotion occurs may be the key to not only resolve conflicts, but also to understand yourself and those around you.
Usually, anger may indicate that an individual’s personal boundaries have been disrespected. An unwanted touch or a use of one’s possession without permission may be examples of crossing their boundaries. In other words, we lose our temper once we are put in a discomfort or an intolerable condition.
Another trigger may be an unmet need. According to the Marshall Rosenberg’s “Non-violent communication”, we become angry because one or more of our needs are not being satisfied. For example, a teenager is angry with their parents who are forcing them to choose the profession they do not want. By doing so, the parents do not meet their child’s need for autonomy, support and sense of being heard and understood.
In these cases, anger may be a guide to our true feelings and desires. It can be especially helpful if we are not consciously aware of our certain needs and what’s unacceptable for us. So, the awareness of what place this feeling has come from allows us to learn more about ourselves, and to better articulate what we need and want from an interlocutor, rather than to lash out and act out of anger. Such approach helps to reach conflict resolution more effectively and empathetically.
However, anger can also occur as a substitute emotion. Sometimes we tend to choose to get angry in order to avoid feeling pain. The main reason lies in an attention shift: an individual in pain focuses on their true painful feelings, while rage allows to concentrate on and harm those who caused pain. We occasionally do that because feeling furious feels better than feeling hurt. Such may happen consciously or subconsciously, but the aim remains the same: avoidance of pain and vulnerability.
For this reason, we should be able to distinguish what type of anger it is: a primary emotion or a substitute one, and take actions accordingly, meaning to dive deep into the core of the issue and to express our true feelings and needs, instead of cultivating in hostility, and endlessly having arguments.
By understanding why we are or someone else is angry, we can have more direct and effective conversations, and by paying attention to the origin of this feeling, we’ll be able to know ourselves on a deeper level.
- “Non-violent communication” by Marshall Rosenberg