Ironically, we all do things to avoid other people’s anger, but we can often be quick to anger ourselves.
And even though we dread another’s anger, we still use our own to control other people.
Anger can come from two different places:
The first anger comes from our adult self. It’s a logical place and looks a lot like outrage. Outrage is the feeling we get when confronted by injustice. Outrage spurs us on to take appropriate action when harm is done to ourselves, others, or the planet.
Outrage is a positive, forward-moving emotion; it moves us into action—to stop crime and violence or clean up the environment. Outrage comes from within, a place of integrity, caring, and compassion.
But anger can also come from a scared, adolescent place. This is deep within—a wounded part of ourselves that fears being rejected, abandoned, or controlled by others. This anger feels like intense frustration.
Anger that comes from the scared inner child’s place greatly fears embarrassment, humiliation, disrespect, and helplessness. It is an iceberg of anger. When these fearful feelings are triggered, this adolescent part does not want to feel helpless no matter the consequences, often resulting in attacks or blaming.
The anger is set off by a feeling of being controlled by a person or situation. This adolescent, blaming anger is almost always stemming from something else—our deep-seated, unresolved wounds from childhood. Although healthy and protective when we were scared children, these habits and patterns of knee-jerk reactions and anger do not serve us as adults.
The key to letting go of this kind of anger:
We have to start taking responsibility for our emotions—sort through them. We must take care of ourselves and look back at the roots and causes. If we continue to blame others, to intimidate them into changing so that we will feel safe again, we will never feel safe. Ultimately it is always us who will need to make the change (by taking full responsibility).
Adolescent anger causes many relationship problems. If this juvenile, blaming anger is ignored, it can create many problems within our relationships. None of us likes to be blamed for another’s feelings—period.
Nobody wants to be emotionally intimidated and manipulated into taking responsibility for someone else’s wounded self. This adolescent anger generates resistance in the other person—never-ending power struggles.
The person on the receiving end of the anger might submit, but this is called caretaking. It is another form of gaining control. This person starts thinking it’s more comfortable to do what they want—to stop the discomfort—but this never works long-term.
The calm, submissive person will start to dislike and fear the angry person. As the resentment manifests more and more, they will (consciously or subconsciously) find ways to resist passively. Or they might entirely disengage from the relationship.
When anger comes up from a wounded place, it is always unhealthy to dump or suppress it. The only healthy alternative is to learn from it—grow from it. And the only healthy, loving action to take when someone is dumping their anger on you is: disengage (lovingly).
But how do we do this?
Our anger toward another person or situation is a chance to learn, grow, and take responsibility for our feelings and needs. We need to accept that our anger is our own—fully; no one is responsible but us. Once we understand this, we can start to recognize the anger before it gets to a point we can’t control.
Unfortunately, if this sort of anger continues in a relationship without any healing, it becomes abuse.
This is why understanding and making peace with our wounds is so important.