By Ray Navarro MS
When I was a kid, I was an angry one. I was bullied, picked on, and at times I was even chased from school all the way home. I grew up hating people. I used my anger as a way of not just protecting myself but also as a way of getting respect. I felt if people were afraid of me then they wouldn’t mess with me. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, people just avoided me. They didn’t see the hurt kid that was lashing out because he was sad, they saw an asshole that was making everyone else’s life a living hell.
As a therapist I’ve come to learn that anger is a secondary emotion. What does that mean? That means that anger can’t come from itself. You don’t automatically become angry, there is always a trigger, whether you see it or not. Cause guess what, anger also clouds the mind. There are many reasons to get angry but over the years of working in mental health I’ve broken it down to just a few. 1. Sadness. Anger is a defense mechanism for sadness because most of us perceive sadness as weak and how dare we be sad because of what someone else did to us, “they deserve to pay”. 2. Ignorance. This one usually evolves into hate. Many people are confused by what they don’t understand. And confusion can cause a whole mess of issues with self-esteem and self-confidence, so what does the brain do? It defends you. “I’ve never seen blue people like that, they must be different than me, they must want to use me or hurt me, they’re gonna mess up our country, they’re going to steal and hurt our women and children” complete idiocy through ignorance. 3. Fear. This is one that strikes home for many people. How many time have you been scared to do something but you got that nagging friend or parent that keeps insisting you do it? What eventually happens? “Leave me the hell alone I already told you I’m not doing it and I’m tired of your BS” or maybe you even blame the other person for your fear so that you can deflect your own fear without even knowing!
The last one on my list of anger triggers was given to me by another therapist, “the fear that an injustice has been committed”. Maybe you see veterans getting yelled at in the airport; or an old lady being pushed to the floor by some young delinquent; or maybe you thought you did better on that evaluation than your boss gave you credit for. All of these are good reasons to be angry, the problem is in how we react to that anger. Anger is normal. Its human nature, but it’s something that needs to be managed not controlled. We can’t hold anger forever we’ll eventually blow up. You have to let it out little by little. Use introspection, why am I angry? Use a ten second rule before responding when you’re angry, it’ll give you time to bypass the emotion and use logic. Exercise is my favorite coping skill, just run it out or go to Jiu Jitsu. The one thing I know for sure is that if you’re not using your anger to fight injustice than your anger has no point. Anger is perspective, stress is the number one killer in our country, add them together and your angry perspective will literally kill you. Or at the very least cut some years off your life.
Next time you get angry ask yourself two things, “is this worth my health” and “is this going to improve my situation”. If the answer is yes than rage away, but if it’s not, take a breath and give me a call. You are never alone.
Ray Navarro MS