UPDATED 1/22/2019 Why are you angry? It’s a simple question with probably several answers. Fear is likely one of them. Fear of the unknown, fear of situations, and fear of others. Managing your fears is a critical part of anger management. In fact, it’s sometimes called fear management.
How fear causes anger
When you get angry, what does it drive you to do? Do you punch a wall, yell, or throw things?
For others, it drives them to be violent. While that may not be the case for you, looking at society’s most violent offenders provides clues into how fear is often the root of anger.
School shootings, murders, and other violence surround us. In time, we usually find out the suspect was angry about something. Whether they’re angry with a person due to political or religious reasons, or an employer, or school system.
While their anger is often the focus, when psychologists dig deeper, they often find something drove them to be that angry. That’s because anger is not a primary emotion. It’s a reaction to something else. This research of extreme behavior has meaning even for your own life.
Criminologist Scott Bonn has candid conversations with violent criminals. He’s found fear-based anger drives criminals to be violent. Through his interviews, he’s found the most violent criminals have fears of rejection, inadequacy, failure, and abandonment that stem from their childhood.
In fact, Bonn believes fear is the root of all anger whether it leads to violence or not. So, think of your own life. The last time you were angry, what happened?
Perhaps while driving, someone cut you off, forcing you to slam on your brakes; the driver behind you nearly smashed into your car.
Your boss passed you over to promote a colleague with fewer credentials and less experience.
Your spouse or partner has been having phone conversations they keep secret from you.
All of these situations could, understandably, make anyone angry. But why?
We are afraid of how the effects of a perceived offense will affect and impact us. A reckless driver could cause damage to your car or seriously injure you. A boss denying an opportunity for growth and advancement could mean your contributions to the company aren’t as appreciated as you thought they were. The person you love could be cheating on you.
While we often think of controlling this powerful emotion as anger management, Psychologist and author, Pavel Somov, writes in The Huffington Post that anger management is really fear management. Simple but true.
Think about what you’re fearful of and embrace it rather than running from it.
“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Was FDR right? What are you doing to recognize your fears and adjust your reactions in order to keep them running your life and ruining your health. Consider the following options as you inventory the fears that may be causing discomfort and stress.
- Don’t be afraid of fear
- Have faith
- Don’t absorb the fear of others
Are you ready to start tackling your fears and ultimately your outlook?
Chronic anger thrives on your (unconscious) desire to avoid the primary emotion. The next time you feel your blood boiling, ask yourself, “What am I actually upset about? Why is this making me angry?” Dig deep. Acknowledge what you’re really feeling and you’re one step closer to controlling your anger instead of your anger controlling you.
Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, says you shouldn’t be afraid of fear. It’s a sign you’re moving closer to the truth.
To begin living a life full of happiness, and less anger, track your fears. What is really at the root of all your apprehension?
Use this anger log to get started.
Take the time to reflect and see if you notice a pattern of worrying about things that never actually happen. We can all fall into the trap of “what if-ing,” and before we know it, we’ve developed the bad habit of allowing fear to become our normal way of viewing the world.
Second, have faith and focus on positivity. Bonn believes that’s the antidote to fear. Have faith in something whether its religion or otherwise. Then, let that faith guide you toward positive action.
Bonn says this practice works for reformed violent criminals so it’s possible to make it work in your own life!
Bonn suggests finding faith in something greater than yourself and then using that faith to help others. It’s a challenge that can transform your life like it has violent criminals.
So what can you have faith in other than the obvious – religion? Bonn suggests the limitless powers of the universe, the beauty of nature, and service to others.
Learn to live a life of compassion and gratitude, and you’ll transform your frustrations in life.
Don’t absorb the fear of others
Have you ever found yourself afraid of something that never used to bother you? Ask yourself when the fear first started. Have you succumbed to a steady drumbeat of anxiety, which may actually come from the people around you? Have you been told one too many times that bad things might happen? They certainly can, but waiting around in a hyper-vigilant state isn’t likely to give you the safety bubble you’re hoping for.
Design a Plan B for your fear and then let it go! Letting go of your emotions will bring you freedom from them.
Honor your fear and then map out a contingency plan to address the potential consequences if your worries materialize into an unavoidable situation. Reframe your fear into a stepping stone to courage. Taking steps to relieve your fear may lead you to a place you might not otherwise ever have traveled.
Have you developed any of your own strategies to reduce your fears and the stress they can generate?
(Personal Insight MD, LLC, PeopleTweaker, and Insight MD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are feeling extreme anger with thoughts and actions harmful to yourself or others such as physical/verbal abuse or acts of violence, find yourself self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, etc., expressing your anger in such a way that threaten relationships or your job, etc. seek professional help immediately and call 911 if necessary if you find yourself in an out-of-control situation or have the urge to hurt yourself or others.)