In my last post, I discussed the person who gets angry but does not express it and I gave some suggestions this individual might use to express (or increase) his (or her) anger.
In this post, I will talk about the person who does not recognize that they are angry. This individual gets mad but does not identify the emotion as anger.
What might account for someone developing in this manner?
Upbringing, lessons learned, and indirect anger.
Well, suppose you grew up in a family where anger was either strongly denied or egregiously displayed? In response to these messages, you might have decided that you would never allow yourself to get angry.
Well, the unfortunate truth is that the emotion of anger, while it may lie dormant or be indirectly expressed, is a part of you and has been with you since birth.
Some people express their anger indirectly through passive-aggressive behavior. Through a process of delay, making excuses, not completing goals, procrastination, sarcasm and so forth, one can “get back” at a potential threat without acknowledging anger.
If this applies to you, it might be in your best interest to explore how you avoid interpersonal threat and, with help, learn to acknowledge the threat directly, allow yourself to get angry, and interact more directly with others.
Anger by a different name.
There are emotions which you might feel comfortable expressing which, while not identified as anger, actually are elicited by a perceived threat. Examples include annoyance, frustration, bitterness.
To the extent that these emotions are a reaction to a perceived threat and motivate action to deal with the threat, what you are experiencing could very well be anger. You just are not labeling it as anger.
Think about it for a moment. The message of anger is that the angry person perceives a threat he believes he can eliminate.
The message of annoyance and frustration is that an event has occurred that is perceived as an unexpected obstacle that needs to be handled, bypassed, or worked through. In either case, the event is perceived as an inconvenience rather than a threat.
If you have been taught that you should never get angry because your anger will make you act out and hurt others, then you may have chosen to “eliminate” this emotion from your emotional toolkit. It’s okay for you to be annoyed but not angry.
It is important to note that sometimes, frustration and annoyance just reflect being frustrated or annoyed. Your goal has been blocked and you don’t like it. There is no threat, just an obstacle that needs to be overcome.
No threat— no anger.
The good news and the bad news.
If you are substituting anger with indirect behavior or other feelings, your anger is still a part of you.
You may see this as bad news if your goal is to eliminate your anger.
It is good news because you have a tool you can learn to use to improve your life and your relationships.
Maybe this will help. Let’s say you are not familiar with power tools and you have always used a screwdriver when needed. You are about to build a fence and you are dreading all the screws you will need to use. Someone introduces you to an power screwdriver and your job has been transformed.
Now I am not saying that you have to get angry.
What I am saying is that you were born with a very good threat detector…your anger.
While it is important to recognize that while some people may do harmful things when angry, their behavior is ALWAYS the result of the choices they make. Anger alerts you to and prepares you to deal with a perceived threat. Anger NEVER causes or forces you to do anything.
You can learn to both recognize and master your anger. In fact, my book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool will help you do that. You can download the first two chapters by scrolling up to the Welcome Post above.
I welcome your comments.