Andrew walked through the busy streets of Hong Kong, waiting for someone to bump into him. As he walked through Central, people would look at their phones as they walked into him. He tried not to get angry, but the tension would build until he would snap and shoulder check or push people who weren’t paying attention.
Andrew could feel his jaw tighten as he walked into the front door of his home. Andrew was not getting along well with his wife; his temper would often lead him to say things he did not mean. They were both working from home now, and both were beginning to resent the other. His wife, Sarah, was upset because she felt like she was doing all of the housework and taking care of the children, plus trying to manage her business. Meanwhile, Andrew worked late nights, missing dinner and the children’s bath and bedtime. Andrew felt that he had to work late hours to support his family. As a result, both were feeling misunderstood and alone.
Andrew understood that he was unhappy and stressed, but he didn’t know why it led to such feelings of anger. When he felt rejected by his wife, he would lash out at her to protect himself. He had a fear that expressing his emotions would expose him and make him vulnerable. As a result, he became tenser, which led him to scream, grit his teeth, start conflict, and lose sleep.
Sarah asked Andrew if he would be willing to see a coach or a therapist. Andrew considered it, and after some thought, he decided to ask Sarah to go to couples counselling with him. He realised most of his anger was towards his wife.
Anger is a powerful emotion that communicates, “I am big and powerful, don’t cross me.” Anger can also motivate people to reach goals. However, anger becomes problematic when your health, relationships, and career are damaged. Anger might feel less vulnerable than sadness or fear. However, when anger lingers over time, it can wear down our immune system and lead to heart problems.
Pushing people away with anger is a way to protect from feeling rejection, abandonment and attack. However, lashing out is more likely to lead to more abandonment and rejection. Demeaning someone can be a way to protect from feelings of low self-worth. Other times people might be reliving trauma and lash out as a reaction. Sometimes, when exposed to aggression, they can become aggressive when triggered.
Here are some questions to ponder about your anger
- Are you repeating words that were said to you? Sometimes when people have been verbally abused, they develop an inner critic that abuses themselves and others. The first step is to be aware of your inner critic and replace it with a nurturing voice. The self-compassionate voice you would use with a child, a loved one, or a pet.
- What are your fears? Fear can feel exposed and vulnerable so that anger might feel safer. For example, are you concerned about losing control of your career or your loved ones? Are you afraid of rejection or abandonment? Understanding your fears can help you to express fear without anger. Anger used to control others damages relationships.
- Does your anger feel out of your control? If your anger feels out of control, it might be an excellent time to seek help. Sometimes reactionary anger stems from trauma or abuse. Reactionary anger can also result from anxiety, depression, PTSD or a personality disorder. Out of control anger might lead to severe consequences such as problems at home, work, and the law.
- Are you worn thin? Sometimes feeling tired, hungry, stressed or burnt out can increase tension and anger. Frustration tolerance might dip if we are feeling resentful or taken for granted. Ask for what you need, and be aware of what you can do to get enough rest, food and downtime.
- Is it related to grief? Sometimes grief can lead to anger. Some of this anger might be linked to feelings of being out of control, abandoned or guilt. Anger might be a natural part of the grief process.
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Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.