Anger is a secondary emotion

Anger is a secondary emotion

If you or someone around you has anger outbursts, is quick to anger or has other anger issues, you may be wondering what causes anger.

What really causes anger: other underlying painful emotions that aren't getting dealt with directly. 

A quick look at Demystifying Emotions book, help with emotions including anger, how to build emotional intelligence,

Anger is the tip of the iceberg.

With an actual iceberg, about one-third of it is visible and two-thirds of it is hidden under the surface.

With anger, anger is the visible response, and some sort of emotional pain is hidden under the surface. Instead of dealing with that pain directly, we turn it into anger as a way to release it or redirect it.

It is much healthier to learn how to identify and process directly the pain that’s underneath the anger.

That emotional pain under the anger could be many things.

Sadness can get turned into anger. Anxiety can be turned into anger. Rejection, shame, resentment, or any other uncomfortable or painful emotion can show up as anger. 

A single incident of anger might have one underlying emotion, or it might have many different contributing emotions.

Anger iceberg graphic. Anxiety and anger. Sad and angry. What Causes of anger issues. Angry meaning. Anger management activities for adults.

Learning to identify the particular emotions under specific incidents of anger will help you manage anger -- your own anger and other people's.

What to do with anger

Anger can become a useful tool, helping you understand what’s going on for you.

When you feel anger rising, ask yourself “What’s really going on for me? What’s the emotion under this anger?”

With the answers to those questions, you can make decisions about what you might do to deal with the situation. You can ask yourself what would be helpful to change -- in yourself or the conditions you find yourself in.

I’ll use the example of a parent losing a child in a store to demonstrate:

The parent is afraid that the child is lost and fear mounts about all the horrible possibilities of terrible things that might have happened to the child.

Instead of expressing the fear to the child when he or she is found, the parent expresses anger, possibly shouting at, berating, or even hitting the found child. 

It would be better for the parent to express his or her fear to the child in a verbally direct message. For example: “I was really scared that you were lost or taken by somebody.” That can help relieve the parents pent up fear and give the child more understanding about why they shouldn't have wandered off. 

You can get to a place of experiencing a lot less anger when you learn how to deal with emotions directly. 

I explain more about anger, the underlying emotions, and how to get over anger, in my mini book, "A quick look at Demystifying Emotions". It's easy to read, but chock full of helpful info and tips. Check it out:

emotional intelligence learn helpA quick look at Demystifying Emotions









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  • Ann Silvers
Comments 2
  • Ann Silvers
    Ann Silvers

    Hi Erin. I’ll reach out to you using your email address. -Ann

  • Erin Holbrook
    Erin Holbrook

    May I use the image of the iceberg in a personal blog post? I can also quote your book (though I haven’t read it, yet, it is on my list).

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