This Secret About Anger Can Heal Your Relationships

As the pollen count grows, allergy sufferers, like me, are a little miserable. I’m not complaining. I could have worse things to deal with, but it can make me a bit foggy and cranky.

It also made me think about how we often take out our anger or feelings on the people closest to us. Why is that? In our society, it’s dangerous to walk around being mean to strangers. Strangers are unpredictable and you don’t know how they are going to react. They could hurt you if you try to dump your anger on them. So, subconsciously, we decide that someone who is close to us is less likely to hurt or leave us. It’s easier to dump your anger on the person in your life who has shown you that they really care about you because they won’t leave.

But, you still pay a price for releasing your anger on the people who love you. The people who really love you will forgive you, but it may lead to them not trusting you. Over time, it will create resistance and resentment in your relationship. Our relationships are where we go to share our feelings, but no one wants to feel like a target for yours.

So, here is something I am learning. Your feelings are more about you and less about the other person. The other person’s actions may trigger you into an emotion that you don’t feel comfortable with. What we tend to do is to look at the other person as the problem, but where you feel triggered is a clue to something about yourself.  It’s often when people behave contrary to our expectations that we feel anger.

“You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.”- unknown

Anger is a cover-up emotion. It accomplishes two things. It hides the true vulnerable emotion and it creates distance. When an animal is cornered and afraid for its safety, it bears its teeth and threatens to attack. In human beings, it’s very similar. When we feel attacked by someone’s lack of understanding instead of feeling sad, disappointed or hurt, it’s easier to lash out in anger. Because if we were to open up and reveal the true feeling, it requires us to be vulnerable and open to a negative reaction.

There is also a chemical payoff to anger. It releases adrenaline into our system which is a temporary high as you are in fight or flight mode. It can make you feel powerful, but you will feel worse as it drains from your system. There are multiple things going on that could make anger your go-to emotion. But, in our close relationships, it’s important that anger is not your go-to emotion. It will damage your relationships overall. It will harm your view of yourself and it can have negative consequences for your health by creating underlying stress.

It’s important to explore your true feelings. Feeling anger may not be your choice, but expressing it is within your control. When you feel it, you have a choice. You can ask yourself:

  • Would it benefit my relationship to lash out right now? How would hurt my relationship? 
  • Is this person really trying to hurt me?  Are they being mean or are they just not meeting your expectation? What is the expectation they are not meeting? 
  • What is the true emotion I am feeling? Am I sad, disappointed, hurt or afraid? Why?

Take a moment. When you find your true feelings and the expectations you feel were ignored, express those to the person instead of your anger. If the person truly loves you, they will create a safe space for you to share. I’m sure they will welcome your honest, vulnerable feelings rather than you anger. On the flip side, when you experience someone else’s anger, you can view it the same way and ask the same questions of them. If you can figure out what they are really feelings and what expectation they feel haven’t met, you can use anger as a good dialogue between you. It’s also an opportunity to set clear expectations between you and the person so you can avoid being triggered in the future. But, you may also find that once you face the truth of why you are angry, you won’t feel as triggered in the future. The benefit of facing the dragon is that you realize it was really an illusion.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

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