Emerge Therapy

Sometimes it’s Not About Anger!

General

In my last blog post “Does Anger get a bad press” I explored the roots of anger in our biological systems that developed to keep us safe from threat. I showed how anger can be linked to our fight or flight response and how, when channeled assertively, anger can be a powerful force for change. So why do so many of us have a problem with anger? In a 2008 report for the UK government over 25% of survey respondents admitted being worried by their own anger.

Psychologists have developed the concept of primary and secondary emotions. Primary emotions, as I explained anger above, are linked to our biological development and play a role in helping us understand the world around us.They are experienced by people in all cultures and by many species of animal. The four core primary emotions are anger, sadness, fear and joy. If you have a pet you have probably seen all these emotions displayed at relevant times.

Secondary emotions have a different feel to them. They are sometimes called substitute emotions because they replace a primary emotion which is considered unacceptable. This can be a difficult concept to understand at first so let’s look at how this may develop in young children.

From a very early age young boys are taught that they need to be strong. This message is reinforced in the language the hear, the clothes they wear and the toys they play with. In hundreds of small ways boys begin to learn that acts of strength are good and signs of weakness or vulnerability are not acceptable. Even a mother comforting a young boy will instinctively say “don’t cry”. Whilst the intent is loving and nurturing the underlying message is still the same – boys don’t cry.

As the child gets older these subtle messages become more overt. How often have you heard “man up”, “don’t be weak”, or “don’t be a girl”? So overtime the infant boy learns that signs of vulnerability, or fear or sadness are unacceptable and expressing these deep emotional needs receives a negative response. Conversely getting angry leads to the child getting the attention he craves. By the age of 6 many boys have no other outlet for expressing emotions but through their anger. When these young boys mature into adulthood and end up in my therapy room they are no longer aware of the underlying emotion, just the waves of anger and rage that seem to consume them.

Most clients who present with anger issues are expressing secondary anger. This is why however much you vent it never seems to go away. Because the real emotional need is not being expressed. For me the real challenge of anger management is too see through the surface anger to the real unmet emotions that lie deep below the surface. Think of an iceberg – what is visible is the 10% above the surface while hidden from view is a vast mass of of frozen ice. In the same way anger is the visible 10% that covers a myriad of emotions like fear, sadness, vulnerability, rejection and powerlessness. I suspect you can name a whole list of emotions that fit for you.

The hardest part about transforming your anger can be making the choice to look  inside at those emotions that lie deep below your anger. Having a therapist that sits alongside you with empathy and non-judgement can help you face and process those emotions that seem so unacceptable.

If you are ready to transform your anger visit my specialist anger site at www.emergefromanger.co.uk

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In my last blog post “Does Anger get a bad press” I explored the roots of anger in our biological systems that developed to keep us safe from threat. I showed how anger can be linked to our fight or flight response and how, when channelled assertively, anger can be a powerful force for change. So why do so many of us have a problem with anger? In a 2008 report for the UK government over 25% of survey respondents admitted being worried by their own anger.

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