138. Angerum Initiatus

[This post is serious, just to give you a heads up.] I deal with the emotion of anger a lot, my dear bloggies, in my muted natural-colored office. Lots of folks have a problem with anger; most I’d say. It’s right up there with fear. So I thought I’d write a brief treatise on anger.

First of all, anger is just one of hundreds of God-given emotions. Somehow, though, most folks don’t want to own their anger. They don’t want to be known as an angry person. But let’s look closer. Anger is also a secondary emotion; it follows hurt; so it’s a reaction to a reaction. Even though anger often appears to be immediate and first line, it follows some form of hurt. In fact, anger is often used to cover over the hurt, which may appear like weakness. Anger, so most people believe, is an emotion of strength. As a secondary emotion anger is intended to push out the hurt, to defend oneself. It’s a defensive emotion, a protective one. But like all emotions it must be ex-pressed, or “pushed out”. Unexpressed anger is like unexploded ordinance; it does no good.

I work with two kinds of angry people: the overly expressive/explosive type, and the underly expressive/implosive type. (Yes, I realize that underly is a  questionable construct.) The first type come in for anger management counseling. They have trouble containing their anger. They offend others often and deeply. By the time they come to see me, they are also angry at themselves for failing to contain their anger. They are emotionally irresponsible. The other type feel anger but refuse to honestly express it. They avoid confrontation, which is another way of saying they are people pleasers. (The only person not pleased is the people pleaser. How about that?) So these folks walk around with megatons of unexpressed anger that usually tries to find a way out in fatigue or depression, acid reflux, bowel problems, migraines, and misery. The under-expressives over contain their anger and choke on it. Some are so afraid of any anger that they nearly dissociate in frozen fear. Many wind up depressed under the crushing weight of their own anger. Theses guys are overly responsible and try to manage others’ feelings and lives. (So, who do you think works harder?)

I have looked into the root word for anger and found that it is the root of anxiety also. Both words originate with a sense of choking, which is a common result from anger or anxiety. Explosives often unbutton their collars as their necks swell with rage. Implosives find it hard to swallow and breathe when they are bombarded by anger. I find this fascinating though you may not. Go ahead, blog kittens, get angry and claim it. Oh, I see, you don’t want to. You’ll do it later. Okay.

Okay, let’s go back to the origins of anger. Often the hurt comes from one’s expectations not being met. “I thought you meant a Caribbean cruise not a cruise on the Inner Harbor! I’m so  disappointed…and angry.” The appointed expectation is not met and hurt rises up. Depending on how much hurt there is, anger may follow. [If the original cruise was on the Carnival Triumph, perhaps the reaction is one of joy and not anger.] So, blognogs, if you are careful with setting reasonable expectations, you can practice proactive anger management.  Yippeee! Say it with me, “Practice proactive anger management”. It begins with a deep breath and a new perspective about what you expect. It’s also fun to say. “Practice proactive anger management.”

Another point to consider is that angry people fool themselves into thinking that by gripping anger, they are in control. They shout and attempt to dominate others with hostility, and maybe even get physically violent. But they are just hurt folks, like the other persons who don’t express their anger. The implosives dive for cover when anger erupts. They are ready to surrender to a raised voice or an eyebrow. This reminds me of the time I was playing paintball with my daughter. She and another girl were the only ones left on their team and were being attacked by a man who had no more paintballs in his gun. He was simply firing compressed air and yelling for them to surrender from their bunker. They complied, not knowing that they had the only power left on the battle field. They surrendered control. The loud guy never had control, only the illusion of it. I wonder how it would have gone if Grace had yelled out, “Hey Dude, fire one in here before we move. We have plenty of time and ammo. How about you?”  What a fun shift in power dynamics that could have been…but fear carried the day.

Calling out the bully takes confidence that the implosives lack. Bullies count on it. They (the bullies) also lack confidence but double down on aggression to convince others of their immense and seemingly fearless threats. Implosives operate on fear, and therefore shrink back from these aggressive tufted guinea pigs, who puff themselves up to appear like tusked wild boars. Like demons, bullies suck their power out of their fear filled victims. When the victims stop trembling, the bullies get nervous and tremble.

So let’s review. Anger comes from the root word “choking”. It’s a God-given emotion meant to be expressed and not turned into a career of imploding or exploding over and over. It’s a secondary emotion that follows hurt. If handled responsibly, anger defends one from the hurt. If handled irresponsibly, it leads to explosive displays of offensive anger and rage that burn others, or to implosive non-displays of anger that corrode the angry person, leading to depression and anxiety. Often the source of hurt is unmet expectations.

In the end anger must be released. You can yell it out, bust windows, punch people, set things on fire, etc. You can pout and cry, wail and weep. Choose one.

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