Some myths about anger
Anger is a natural emotion and serve a purpose. Basically we get angry when something that matters to us is at risk or under threat – just think of the ruthlessness of any mother animal when her young are threatened. And healthy human parents are no different – they’ll do what it takes to protect their children, and anger gives us the energy to get things done. We get angry when someone violates our values or steps over a line, or challenges our beliefs, threatens our safety, gets in our way, or insults or offends us in some way.
There are also many social and cultural myths about anger. Some people resort to anger too quickly, some confuse anger with violence, and some suppress their anger and instead become passive-aggressive. Our beliefs were often learned at a young age, and can act to control or inhibit our anger, for instance:
¨ Anger is bad
¨ Women should not get angry
¨ It’s natural for men to be angry or violent
¨ Anger is destructive and harmful
¨ Anger equals aggression
¨ Anger doesn’t achieve anything
¨ Anger is only a feeling and not to be taken seriously
¨ When we’re angry we always think and behave irrationally
¨ When we’re angry we always think and behave illogically
¨ Angry people are out of control
¨ Anger is sinful or anti-religious
¨ It is disrespectful to get angry with your parents
Some of the beliefs we hold relate to our fears and fantasies about what would happen if we get angry or others get angry with us. “I’d wreck the room.” “No-one would like me.”
You may also experience anger-promoting fears, believing that getting angry is the only effective way to get heard and noticed and to get your needs met. Knowing what your fantasy is in both giving and receiving anger can give you much more control over how you respond to a situation.
It is important to realise the difference between your fantasies and the reality. You might think, “I will get rejected if I get angry here” - but it is possible to be angry and to express that anger appropriately and not be rejected.
Feeling angry does not automatically lead to acting angry; no matter what the provocation is you can still choose safe and socially acceptable ways of expressing yourself. You may not choose your feelings, but you can choose your actions. Feeling strongly is often assumed to be incompatible with thinking straight – but it is possible to think and feel at the same time.
A lot of people start to experience guilt when they feel angry. Guilt is often experienced by individuals who feel they must respond to the needs of others before they see to their own needs. When they do assert their own needs they often feel guilty.
It is important to find out if your anger is authentic – a direct response to a situation – or a feeling that was acceptable in your family. If the latter is the case then you need to find the authentic feeling that the anger might be covering.