Experiencing extra anger?
September 26, 2022 at 4:12 p.m.
...by Ariele M. Huff
In written work and in life, understanding our emotions is central to success.
I’ve already covered Understanding Pain (a sensation) in a previous column.
Per anger: First, we are not born with this emotion! It is a secondary emotional response…for getting us what we require or want. Learning how to master anger is crucial, so we can have it when necessary and let it go when it is detrimental.
We are born with Sad, Scared, and Happy—our primary emotions. When babies get what they need and want—like food, a warm bed, a dry diaper, and touching—they are happy. They coo, smile, and look relaxed.
When any of those needs aren’t met in a timely fashion, the baby usually becomes sad at first, whimpering and giving weepy looks. Adding a darkened room and absent caretakers often makes babies frightened. Crying gets louder and is accompanied by widened eyes and nervous clutching at parents when they show up.
If these strategies get what the baby requires and desires, it may take a while to get to anger. However, when whimpering isn’t answered, and then crying doesn’t work, at some point, most infants will “up” the performance to screaming. Parents note the change in tone. It’s no longer, “Hey, I’m wet and the bottle is empty. Boohoo.” Or “How long are you going to leave me wet and hungry? Wah, wah, wah!”
Nope. An angry baby has that tone of voice we recognize. “WAH! Get in here and do something or I’ll toss everything out of this crib and scream until you help me…WAH!”
Mad comes in when Sad and Scared don’t work.
However, with grownups, we have to recognize that SOME anger arises from craving things that we may not have earned—or where there is no reason to believe we “should” have those objects or circumstances.
In situations like those, people frequently use furious behavior to acquire what they want…whether they’ve earned it or not. They feel entitled only because they desire something.
When dealing with others or seeing it in yourself, note that some of us use anger as a weapon…whether we have a reasonable cause for being upset or not. We’ve learned that anger is a more powerful emotional expression than sadness or fear.
Bullies know that and control other people through fear. Some of the most famous tormentors (Hitler and Pol Pot for example) were known to suffer feelings of inadequacy. Their early failures demonstrate how Sad can lead to the worst kind of malfunctioning personalities.
In fiction, characters that act in this way are always the villains. Rehabilitation can happen (as with Scrooge and Darth Vader) but is a seldom used strategy. More often, they are simply to be sent off into space (Superman’s villains) or are melted (the Wicked Witch of Oz) or lose a hand to a crocodile (Captain Hook, of course).
In nonfiction, real people who use anger as a weapon often lose money, jobs, homes, friends or family. In more extreme cases, they are imprisoned or killed.
Many adults are experiencing extra anger at this time. The trick is to find what sadness or fears are underlying that feeling so it can be better expressed to those who can help us OR so that we can find ways to fulfill those needs. Living in anger is neither really comfortable nor pleasant to be around.
The best secret about anger is that it can help us move forward to a better place. Anger can motivate us into action, and it can move us into courage when we’ve been mistreated, ignored, or unheard. The outcome is even stronger when we look in the mirror and find how we are participating in our own lack or loss. Time to “boot-strap” our way to improvement.
A great example of anger well used is in the formation of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. People were motivated by their grief-caused anger to create something good. Pride in doing this has brought them some comfort and a better situation for us all.
In my own life, I discovered that PTSD around a couple of near inflight accidents finally made me angry enough with myself that I did what it took to get over fearing flying.
Hey, I LOVE flying, used to pilot a small plane, and NEVER thought of myself as losing this great pleasure.
A good practice is to recognize your feelings as they come and go. That allows you to take steps to accommodate them.
When sad, allow processing the loss you’ve had. When scared, allow yourself to reach out to courage. When glad, allow yourself to enjoy. Celebrate the wins. When mad, check back to the sad and scared to see the cause, then get into action.
It’s well known that the highest of pleasures is in the moment of moving beyond sadness or fear.
Oh, and those moments are the best ones in books and movies too.
Connect if you’d like a copy of “Understanding Pain” or if you’d like a list of classes offered by Ariele at email@example.com. (Writing classes as well as Processing Loss, Get Rich $tay Rich, Ancient Healing Methods for Modern Stress, and more.)
Ariele M. Huff hosts Sharing Stories, creates Writing Corner, gathers poems and edits them for Poetry Corner. She teaches online, ZOOM, and Skype classes; edits manuscripts; and authors books—over 30 on Amazon; and publishes herself and others on brands Candy Bar Books and Band Aid Books.
SHARING STORIES is a weekly column for and about the 50 plus crowd living in the Puget Sound region. Send your stories and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell local or personal stories; discuss concerns around aging and other issues; share solutions, good luck, and reasons to celebrate; poems are fine too. Pieces may be edited or excerpted. We reserve the right to select among pieces. Photos are always a plus and a one-sentence bio is requested (where you live, maybe age or career, retired status, etc.).
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