Know the truth, and it will set you free. This is certainly true of anger. Know the fears that your anger may be defending against, so that you can learn to get ahead of it. Let’s start now.
Mask One: Anger can be a mask to cover up hurt. To some people, it’s less threatening to show anger than to show that they are hurt. Hurt means they are weak, ineffective, and out of control. This can be hard on intimate relating, because hurt always turns into an angry argument. Feeling ignored, devalued, underestimated, and unlovable are core hurts that stem from our childhood, but can reappear in the relationships that we have today. When our self-esteem is endangered through criticism or rejection, it revives self-doubts. If you see yourself here, you have to work on loving yourself more, so that people and situations do not rock how you feel about yourself. If you feel deficient in some way, you may unconsciously look for situations to express this deficiency as anger toward others, that ends up hurting you and loved ones.
Mask Two: Anger can be a mask to self-soothe inner tension. Some people get angry to relieve themselves of inner tension. These persons’ nervous systems make them especially sensitive to threat, real or imagined, so that they live with a high level of inner discomfort. For them, anger is a psychological salve, especially if they are prone to violence. The excitatory nerve chemical, norepinephrine, gets secreted during the arousal of the anger, which acts as an analgesic for inner tension. That’s why the release of anger can make us feel better, at least temporarily. Internal anger and upset activates the release of norepinephrine that simultaneously numbs physical discomfort. This mask of anger is very harmful to relationships, but nonetheless crucial in enabling many vulnerable people to emotionally survive in them. Hopefully, this is only until they learn better coping mechanisms or get medically treated for this problem.
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