I see quite a few angry people in my practice. Unchecked anger is a tragic, defensive emotion. Its a sign that something is seriously wrong in our relationships with people we love. It often occurs when we feel threatened, hurt or ignored.
Anger can also be a defense against depression. When feeling hurt or unloved, we can avoid or delay depression by becoming angry instead.
The pain and fear that underlies anger is usually not expressed as such. Rather than simply saying we're hurt or frightened or feeling unappreciated, we strike back. It is as if we assume the best defense against emotional pain is a good offense.
It would take courage to express our anger as the real fear or hurt it is. To say openly and directly that what a loved one has done hurts us or causes us to question whether he or she cares would be to run the become locked into a cycle of hurt and anger.. To be hurt is to hurt back which only pains the other person who then strikes back at us. We both then become so understandably defensive that no possibility for trust or genuine communication becomes available to us to resolve out conflict and reduce our mutual hurt.
We also become locked into a cycle of mutual blaming. If asked be changed, each. would launch into an angry tirade about the injustices committed by the other and the need for him or her to change first risk of further hurt or even rejection in return, I don't care if I hurt you because I don't love you anymore. But to attack in the other person will say of hurt is to invite a counterattack and so who started it, each would blame the other. But, of course, change becomes impossible in a situation in which two hurt, defensive people are pointing angry fingers at each other and shouting, Its all your fault. You must change.
Its a tragic interaction to witness but not uncommon. History and current events are replete with examples of this interaction between nations or peoples when the harm inflicted by the one results in retaliation by the other. Some marital relationships are doomed to end in divorce unless the hurt-anger-blaming-defensiveness cycle can be interrupted.
I see it in parent-child relationships in which, for example, father yells too much at his teenage daughter because he really cares about her but is frightened she's headed for serious trouble. Understandably, she interprets his yelling as not caring which only hurts and angers her.
I especially see it in custody disputes between two parents who once each other but whose anger and mistrust is now so unrelenting that the mental health of their children caught between two warring parents is being eroded. These parents are tragic evidence that love and hate are closely related, the flip side of the same coin of human interaction.
There's a simple answer to this cycle of hurt, anger, blaming and defensiveness.- Its called love, and its been promoted with mixed results since people first began talking about religion and philosophy.
Love is an ideal that is difficult to achieve. It calls for a putting aside of self to understand and respect the position of another person. Treat him or her as you would have him or her treat you.
Hatred begets hatred, violence begets violence, mistrust begets mistrust, but only love can overcome anger.
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