Emotions often serve as a compass, teacher, and have evolutionary significance. Anger is one emotion that people often struggle to express in healthy ways—often because of an increase in adrenaline that may be difficult to control. It is also important to remember that anger is a protective mechanism, triggered by the flight or flight response in our brain, to cover up feelings of fear, sadness, and pain.
Consider anger as an iceberg, specifically where a large piece of ice is floating on the ocean. The majority of the iceberg is hidden beneath and below the surface. Likewise, when humans are angry, it is often difficult to identify the underlying feelings that the anger is protecting.
The next time you feel angry, consider what emotions may be “lurking” beneath and below the surface. For example, exhaustion, fear, loneliness, sadness, stress, embarrassed, shame, helpless, exhausted, offended, envious, disrespected, uncomfortable, worried, insecure, hurt, etc.
Other tips to reduce anger include 1) not taking it personally (become curious about why the other person may feel angry rather than becoming defensive), 2) reframing from saying “just clam down” or you’re overreacting” as those messages invalidates the other person’s feelings, and 3) and asking what obstacle may be blocking a personal goal—which escalates feelings of anger.