Archie Bunker: What’s wrong with revenge? That’s the perfect way to get even.
– Norman Lear
Emotional Intelligence and Anger.
The real test of our ability to understand, respond to, and manage our emotions is the way we handle anger.
1. Do we use it in productive or counter-productive ways?
2. Does our anger lengthen or shorten our lives?
There are several important things to remember when speaking of anger.
• A powerful survival tool.
• A source of energy.
• A secondary emotion.
• When angry, our brain “downshifts” to the primitive and instinctual level preparing for “fight, flight or freeze” response and higher level thinking momentarily ceases.
• Anger that lasts for a long time is harmful.
• Anger held-in is also very unhealthy.
• Anger is a universal emotion everyone shares.
Anger is an Energizer. Anger is a natural emotional state and is designed to help us stay alive. Anger sends signals to all parts of our body to help us fight. It energizes us and prepares us for action. Often, the perceived need to protect ourselves comes from what amounts to psychological attacks from others.
Use Anger Wisely. When we feel energized by anger, it is smart to ask ourselves how we put this energy to its most productive use. How we wish to channel this energy. As with the use of other forms of energy, we want to use anger effectively and efficiently, not wastefully.
Anger is a Secondary Emotion. Beneath anger is always a primary emotion, such as fear, frustration, or sadness. The primary emotion comes from an unmet need. Our anger can become a signal to look for our unmet needs and care for them.
Anger – Its Role.
Anger, as a secondary emotion, rises out of some primary emotion, such as fear or loneliness, that signals an unmet human need, such as the need for connection.
Anger – The Visible Emotion.
Anger tends to feel powerful at the time. It gives us an illusory sense of control. It blinds us to our primary emotions, since they tend to feel weak and uncomfortable. We rarely notice what lies
beneath our anger.
Primary Emotions Are Signals.
We rarely notice our primary emotions. We quickly move through them and into anger. Becoming aware of our primary emotions gives us the choice of proceeding to anger or examining our needs.
“Negative” Primary Emotions.
When we feel angry, our primary emotions are “negative” emotions. “Negative” means that they come from unmet needs: An unmet need for connection to other people may give rise to loneliness, a negative emotion.
“Positive” emotions come from fulfilled needs: When our need for connection is fulfilled, we may experience happiness or love, both positive emotions.
Working Effectively with Primary Emotions.
By ignoring our primary emotions and emotional needs, we may actually move further from fulfilling them: If we act out our anger, we tend to push others away from us. This leaves our need for connection unfulfilled and increases our loneliness. If we look beneath our anger, we can discover what we need and work to get our needs met: realizing that we need to connect, we can use appropriate communications to connect with a friend, or we can learn to soothe ourselves with self-talk, taking care of our unmet needs.
Unmet Needs – The Root.
By understanding our unmet needs we can develop a strategy to fulfill them. We can share them with people who are close. We can work to calm ourselves, self-soothe, to help ourselves positively instead of acting out.
Unmet Needs – A Time To Heal.
Often, when using the Anger Log, ABCD process (Beliefs, Feelings, Actions, Dispute), we discover that our beliefs are immature: “I want to do what I want to do, and I get angry when anybody gets in my way or I don’t get my way!”
If we don’t act out our anger, we practice changing our old habits by using self-control. We develop maturity! By using the Anger Pyramid to discover and fulfill our needs, we demonstrate to ourselves and others, our growth and maturity and we discover inner resources – strength, self-confidence, and trust in our abilities to cope with situations and other people. We discover more reasons to be positive and fewer reasons to act out.
Tom Wentz, Ph.D., C.A.M.F.
Faculty Member, Anderson and Anderson