Individuals often experience and express anger as a secondary emotion. This means that when people feel anger, they are often feeling it in response to another emotion that drives anger as a defense mechanism. Beginning to see anger as the tip of an iceberg and discovering what is underneath the surface can help individuals regulate it and other emotions.
Why We Experience Anger
Everyone feels angry from time to time. Different things make different people angry, and anger often looks, feels, and means something different for each person as well.
The common denominator in the experience of anger is that it is often felt either when a core need is not met or when a boundary has been violated. Anger presents itself to protect individuals in defense of whatever the present threat is.
Anger as a Defense Mechanism
Although anger is a valid and important emotion for discovering needs and enforcing boundaries, it is often unleashed as a protective measure resulting from other, unexpressed emotions.
Individuals can think of anger as an iceberg in this way. For example, maybe someone criticized another for being who they are, and they felt infuriated in response. While the anger felt in this situation is valid, it may only be present as a result of the unexpressed feelings of sadness and unworthiness that are under the surface.
It can be difficult to view anger as a defense mechanism while the feeling is activated, but it can help to build awareness around when and how anger usually presents itself. Awareness is the first step in creating change. Beginning one-on-one psychotherapy can kickstart this learning curve.
Creating Space for Anger
The goal of beginning to see anger as a secondary emotion is not to suppress the anger, but rather to learn to express it in ways that allow individuals to recognize and remedy the unmet needs, crossed boundaries, or unexpressed feelings that drive it.
In learning to regulate anger and whatever lies below the surface, it can be helpful to name anger without making it mean something; simply allow it to be as individuals get curious about what may be below the surface with non-judgment.
Beginning to befriend anger is a process, one that includes digging below the tip of the iceberg to see what may be causing anger. Through learning how anger works, learning how it serves as a defense mechanism, and creating space to respond to anger rather than react to it, individuals can avoid letting anger take over.
Learning to respond rather than react to emotions such as anger is an integral part of expressing rather than suppressing emotions. Anger is often experienced as a secondary emotion, where there is an unmet need or unexpressed feeling below the surface. At Avalon Malibu, we recognize how challenging it can be to see what’s below anger when you are angry, and we are here to help you learn to regulate your emotions in a way that allows you to stay connected and true to yourself. Call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992.