Everyone experiences anger from time to time.
It is a strong feeling of irritation, displeasure, and hostility that occurs when we feel physical or emotional pain. As a secondary emotion, anger is aroused as a response to other emotions, such as fear, hurt, or shame. At its core, anger is a normal and useful emotion. It occurs as an important part of the Fight or Flight response, that serves to protect us against a real or perceived threat.
Why Do We Get Angry?
However, instead of visibly expressing anger, you may bottle up your feelings and withdraw and isolate yourself from others. You may become depressed. Or you may become passive-aggressive. These behaviors can be damaging to your health as suppressed anger can lead to anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems.
Likewise, people may experience anger as a substitute for other emotions that are so disturbing, we tend to cover them with anger. For example, you may make yourself angry to mask the feelings of embarrassment or hurt. This masking process happens consciously or unconsciously.
In adolescents, anger often serves to mask depression. A major depressive disorder in teens is hard to detect and diagnose as they often do not exhibit the symptoms of adult depressive reactions but other signs such as impulsive behavior, rebellion, and anger.
Why Do We Mask Emotions with Anger?
Anger is usually triggered by emotions that we experience as negative, such as fear, worry, anxiety, disappointment, hurt, jealousy, guilt, rejection, and embarrassment. We perceive these emotions as threatening and respond with anger to protect ourselves. For instance, when we feel rejected, hurt, or jealous, the feeling of justice associated with anger provides a strong boost to our weakened self-esteem.
Also, we often use anger to cover feelings of vulnerability. We get angry to mask the painful feelings of helplessness or worthlessness and convert them into feelings of power and control. Sometimes it is more satisfying to feel angry than to experience these painful emotions. Over time, some people develop a habit of transforming all of their hurtful emotions into anger to avoid having to deal with them.
So, it may be any of these negative emotions that hide behind your anger.
Journaling as a Way to Manage Your Anger
Anger won’t resolve the problems that triggered negative emotions in the first place. Similarly, anger can’t make your negative emotions disappear. Even distracted with anger, you will still feel sad, hurt, jealous, or embarrassed. On the contrary, anger will only create further problems in every aspect of your life, including your health, relationships, work, or school.
To manage your anger, try expressive writing or journaling.
Research shows that expressive writing can have therapeutic benefits, as it helps remove mental barriers and allows emotional expression. While writing activates the analytical and rational left brain, the creative and intuitive right brain is free to explore and create, allowing you to better understand your feelings and thoughts.
Journaling can help you recognize, acknowledge, and process your negative emotions, which activates your emotional regulation. Also, by helping you reduce and control negative emotions, journaling motivates you to search for constructive and creative solutions to your problems instead of masking painful emotions with anger.