Anger: The “Black Sheep” Emotion

Anger is such a misunderstood emotion. So often I hear clients refer to anger as something “problematic” or “undesired” that they want to “eliminate” from their lives; however, the truth of the matter is, anger is a natural and healthy emotion we all possess. The emotion, anger, in and of itself is not “problematic,” sometimes the actions we chose to make based in that emotion may be. Both within personal and professional experience, I have seen the impact negative behavior based from anger can have on individuals and the people around them. When left unchecked, behavior based on any emotion can be an issue, as generally acting out of emotion is reckless and illogical.

How can we better understand anger and our other emotions, too? Feelings play a major role in therapeutic work. Therefore, it’s my responsibility as the therapist to help my client better assess and gain awareness of their emotions. For instance, a person may present for anger management, and after delving into experiences, we find that the underlying emotion is hurt or fear. Anger, though a healthy and important emotion, is sometimes used as a defense mechanism to isolate or hide from the root feelings. It is also quite possible that through processing what feelings are present, multiple emotions may be occurring at the same time. This is normal and even healthy, exhibiting factors of emotional maturity.

We are each responsible for our own emotions and for the decisions we make regarding our actions. Understanding that anger is okay and valid, allows a person to accept the feeling, consider how they want to respond and then make a conscious decision to act. For example, a healthy expression of anger might include: assessing and recognizing the anger, taking time to think before speaking and then making a statement to the person with whom you are feeling angry using, the “I feel…” model to explain. For some, taking time to cool off may be a necessary step in addition, before addressing the person you feel anger towards. Calling “time-out” or “pause” during confrontation, as needed, is beneficial and can be effective in conflict resolution.  Learning how to effectively communicate our emotions significantly reduces the “knee-jerk” reactions we may have found ourselves using previously. If you are having difficulty understanding and/or managing your anger and/or other emotions, individual, couples or family counseling may be helpful in finding the answers you’ve been seeking. Just know it’s okay to feel angry, and all of your other emotions, too.