Before anger, there was sadness
In my clinical experience, anger is almost always a secondary emotion. The primary emotion is the feeling of sadness or hurt. For some this may seem counter intuitive or flat-out wrong, but consider depression, especially in men. One of the criteria for a diagnosis of depression can be irritability. For kids, depression can be masked by acting out in an hostile or angry manner. The image of a depressed person is usually someone sitting alone and crying. However, depression can present in an aggressive manner, such as yelling or fighting.
In my post, The Psychology of an Extremist, I lay out the idea that before we see the rage, there is a pattern of sadness (e.g., rejection, isolation, alienation, worthlessness). The same applies to moments of uncontrollable anger.
How to understand your anger
Get to the real source of your anger. You might be wondering why I'm talking about sadness in a post about anger. There is a reason. In order to control your anger, you first have to figure out why you are angry. If your friend is late for dinner, are you angry that your friend is late or are you hurt that your friend doesn't value your time and that is what makes you angry?
Listen to your body. I wrote a general piece about how your body is constantly sending your mind feedback about your emotional state. For anger, reflect and be thoughtful about what is happening with your body when you are feeling angry. Are you shaking, sweating? Is your heart pounding, hands balled in a fist, jaw clenched?
Get in your head. Be aware of what you are thinking. Are you having thoughts of hurting someone, yourself? Are you fantasizing about yelling or other aggressive acts? When experiencing uncontrollable anger, you are probably experiencing thoughts that are out of your character. Along the lines of depression, it's common for angry feelings to turn into self-deprecating thoughts of inadequacy and worthlessness.
How to control your anger
In the next post, I'm going to write more about strategies to utilize to manage and control your anger. Some techniques will work for you while others will not. Like anything, you have to try something to determine if it is right for you.
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