How to Identify and Cope with Anger

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Do you find yourself getting angry, but don’t know why? Has your anger had a negative impact on your relationship? The Gottman Institute examines anger and explains how we can work to ensure it doesn’t hurt those we care about.

Anger is a very charged emotion that comes out when we least expect it. Yet, when it does the result is that there are hurt feelings and a damaged relationship. However, we often don’t know why we get angry in the first place.

The Gottman Institute describes anger as an iceberg. Icebergs are big formations of ice that float in the ocean.  Often these are visible from the surface. However, most of the iceberg’s mass is actually underwater. This part is hidden from view, yet it contains most of the ice.  

Anger is the same way. On the surface we see anger, yet underneath are a variety of emotions. The anger is a secondary emotion, while the hidden emotions underneath are more primary. These include:

  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Hurt
  • Worry
  • Disappointment
  • Rejection

The anger is really a shield on the surface for these other emotions. If those emotions are exposed we feel vulnerable. However, by identifying these more primary emotions we can work to better control our anger. Learning and practicing mindfulness techniques can help us get in touch with these emotions and better understand why we get angry.

There are also things that we can do as a partner to help a loved one struggling with anger. For example:

  • When they do get angry avoid becoming defensive. Seek to understand why they are getting angry in the first place (the primary emotions). This helps build empathy.
  • Avoid telling a partner to “calm down.” This implies that their emotions are invalid.
  • Identify the problem for why they are angry.

Anger is a common human emotion, yet it is also quite destructive. By learning how to identify anger and its causes, we can avoid damaging our relationships. Also, we can be more supportive partners for those struggling with anger too. Read the full post here:  The Anger Iceberg.

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