From Dr. Jane's Notebook
ANGER... The Secret Emotion
Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a growing sense of resentment over
something that was said? Have you ever felt as though your rights were violated in some
way? Have you ever found yourself seething over an event in which you feel you were
embarrassed or disgraced? If so, then you may be familiar with the cycle of anger which
grows in our minds and spreads tension throughout our bodies... with the resulting sense
of unfinished business.
At some point, we have all felt the emotion of anger. But many of us have also been
taught not to act on this feeling. Not reacting to our anger certainly has its benefits
for civilization. But when we are civilized to the point of repressing our feelings, it
can create a host of physical and psychological symptoms ranging from ulcers and anxiety
to high blood pressure and headaches. If we truly wish to be healthy, learning to deal
with our anger is critically important.
- Anger is a natural emotion. First, we must be willing to accept that
anger is a natural reaction and that our anger contains a message for ourselves. The
message may be a warning that someone is not trustworthy or respectful. Anger may be a
reaction to our feelings being hurt. To ignore such messages would be similar to crossing
the street without looking for cars... next time may be even more painful.
- Repressed Anger causes Emotional Indigestion. Being civilized, we often
rationalize the events that have made us angry, in hopes that these feelings will go away.
We hope that it is possible to forget or ignore them. But repressing these feelings
usually does not work... it only begins the process of accumulating anger which will
probably grow and eventually explode.
- When expressing anger, the sooner... the better. Even if we do explode
when we express our anger, it is better to express anger over a single episode, than to
bring out an entire laundry list of things you've become angry about over the past several
months. When anger simmers, it multiplies in intensity and issues often get jumbled
together. When this happens, we may appear as raving maniacs and our real message can
become lost. It is better to express one idea clearly, then several ideas all at once.
- Assertive Anger need not be hostile. When anger is fresh, it can be
dealt with calmly and assertively. Early on, it is usually possible to make a statement
about how you felt about this or that. Then things can be resolved. But when time has
passed and hostility has set in, the hostile tone in our voice can turn off the listener.
For best success, try to keep your listener's attention by remaining calm and speaking
directly about the issue.
- Protect yourself first. Many people choose to control their anger in
the interest of "not making the other person angry". We are often intimidated by
others, especially if they tend to create a fuss. But repressing your anger is
self-destructive, and withholding our feelings is a dishonest maneuver in a relationship
that will create emotional distance. Don't fear that your partner will "throw a
tantrum" or be "unnecessarily hurt". Consider your own feelings and the
results of not being honest.
Several years ago, I worked with a couple where both came in with their laundry lists
of complaints about the other. They were miserable, but wanted to stay together. I asked
each to decide which item on their list happened earliest in the relationship. Each one
pointed to something that had happened ten years prior. Since the time of that
misunderstanding, their anger and their issues had "snow-balled". Had they
addressed their anger at that time, their relationship might have developed very
differently. Their reason for concealing their anger at the time was fear of hurting the
ęCopyright, 1992, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Personal Growth
Return to Stress Management
Return to Table of Contents
Last Updated October 24, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,