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Understanding Our Anger

Understanding Our Anger

Posted by rachelmcdavid in Anger 31 Jan 2011

Understanding our Anger

Have you ever noticed how your judgments about what you think is happening can quickly fuel and escalate a situation?  And later look back and see that much of what you were thinking, and the intensity of what you were feeling, had very little to do with the situation at the time?

Our anger is often a result of compounded situations that have not been dealt with, which add fuel to whatever is stimulating us at the moment.  It is as if we are on automatic pilot and are only able to see what is painful to us.  When we get “triggered” we seem to lose all rational understanding.

It’s as if we no longer know how to take care of ourselves, and so lose our ability to navigate our emotions.   What is going on?  How can a tone of voice, or a look, set us off to the point where we lose all reason and rationality?

Have you noticed times when you were angry with someone and found the anger diminishing when you were able to understand their point of view, and their intention? 

When that happens it often illustrates how anger has very little to do with the person who stimulates it.  Our “wild thoughts” and old habits and hurts are often responsible for the anger.  Anger is often based on fear or hurt and when we are afraid or hurt, we do things to protect ourselves from vulnerability, like getting angry instead of being vulnerable and showing our fear or pain.  When this happens we tend to “attack and defend”.  We forget about our humanity and the humanity of whomever or whatever is stimulating our anger.

Anger is an important emotion.  It lets us know that needs of ours are not being met.  Yet when we go into a reactive response, we are often not very effective in getting those needs met.  Our reactive anger becomes the issue instead of the issue, which often means the real issue is not dealt with.  It’s important to express emotions fully, yet when we are in a reactive response, we are not expressing ourselves from a place of awareness.  In these moments we often don’t know what is happening inside of us except that we are upset.  How can we get needs met if we don’t have the presence of mind to know what we want?

This is when it is time to step back and do some internal investigation.  Take some time for ourselves and find out what it is we want that we are not getting.  It often is an old core wound that continually replays in our minds.  It could be something like wanting to be fully seen and understood or accepted and loved. 

By focusing on our needs, being seen, understood, accepted and loved we shift from our thoughts and judgments and get a better understanding about what is actually going on for us.  When we have a clearer understanding in ourselves we may become less agitated and more able to articulate what it is we want.

Rachel McDavid facilitates the Women’s Anger Group and One-Day Anger Workshop at Midtown MFT.