Anger is one of the most basic and among the most powerful human emotions. It’s an emotion we all feel at some point in our lives that can lead to reckless behavior. We’ve all seen people get out of control when they’re angry; perhaps you have experienced it yourself.
So, why is it that people classify anger as a secondary emotion despite it being so powerful? Let’s take a closer look at what triggers anger and how you can handle this emotion.
What Are Secondary Emotions?
Secondary emotions are your reactions to primary emotions and are typically ruled by our biases and beliefs.
For example, if you feel anxious about an upcoming event but see others being just fine with it, this anxiety or nervousness may manifest as shame because you may feel you’re not as confident as the others or aren’t in control of your emotions.
Another example is if someone hurts you, instead of expressing that hurt, you may express anger as it is easier than displaying vulnerability.
So, emotions like anger, shame, irritation, etc. are considered secondary emotions because they are reactions to our primary emotions. However, the problem with secondary emotions is that they’re avoidant and tend to mask the real emotion. And if you cannot identify and learn how to deal with secondary emotions, they can also cause great harm to your social life and relationships.
Understand Anger As A Secondary Emotion
Anger is a complex emotion that everybody has felt to varying degrees.
It can cause you to act aggressively, and because it is considered a social response, there’s always someone who’s taking the heat from your outburst. It could be your friends, family members, or even your dog — the only thing they did wrong was being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.
Thankfully, there are ways to manage it. And the first step is understanding where your anger comes from.
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning it is an emotional response to other emotions. It is raw, intense, and protective. Notable mention must be made of the Plutchik Model of Emotions, which pairs eight primary emotions with their counterparts. This makes it easy to better understand what you’re feeling, which can help you address underlying issues.
At the heart of it, there’s always some other emotion that triggers anger. This is called the “anger iceberg” — anger is what you’re feeling right now, but beneath the surface, your primary feelings could be something entirely different, such as helplessness, frustration, and disrespect, or feeling cornered, offended, or attacked.
When these feelings intensify, we lash out and say things or act in ways we don’t mean without considering whom we’ll hurt from our outbursts.
Why We Mask Out Primary Feelings With Anger
Coming to terms with our primary emotions is no small feat — they make us feel vulnerable and weak as if we have no control over what happens in our life.
That is why we mask our primary emotions, be it sadness, hurt, betrayal, jealousy, guilt, frustration, worry, humiliation, or rejection, with anger to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.
So, when we subconsciously move into anger mode, it covers up vulnerability and makes us feel as if we’re in control.
However, it’s important to remember that anger is not a healthy emotion or a substitute for your primary emotions. It could cause you to respond in ways that feel good at the moment but could wreak havoc in your relationships, harming not only yourself but also those you love.
Anger can also cause major shifts in your body and brain, activating feelings of loathing and resentment towards yourself. This frustration may even lead to depressive illness.
Depression And Anger: Is There A Connection?
Studies show that conflicts and difficulties in coping with overt or suppressed anger — which could lead to intense feelings, such as sadness and hopelessness — could play a role in the onset and persistence of depression.
Depression leads to negative thoughts and may affect your cognition. This could then leave you with a negative outlook on life, which can make you feel sad, angry, and hopeless, among other strong emotions, further worsening your mental health.
How To Overcome Anger: A Quick But Comprehensive Guide
Anger is not always bad. It’s an important motivator that can help us make significant changes for the good. But anger is often unjustified and uncontrollable.
In such cases, there are some helpful steps you can take to de-escalate this negative feeling and prevent unwanted consequences.
• Indulge in physical exercise. Something as simple as going on a walk could work wonders to reduce stress, which might improve frustration tolerance.
• Take the time to check in with yourself and process your thoughts. Find out what made you angry and find possible solutions to manage your emotions better.
• Practice mindfulness, breathing techniques, and meditation. They’ll root you to the present and help you take note of your emotions, which could make you dispassionate concerning anger.
• Practice emotional regulation. It will help you diffuse negative emotions by giving you more control over your feelings and how you respond.
You could also practice self-care to take care of your mind, body, and soul. Take a long bath, turn to hobbies, eat a balanced diet, watch your favorite movie, try yoga, get enough sleep, hydrate yourself, and learn to say no — there are many steps you can address the negative energy in your life and move past it.
Know When To Seek Help
If you have trouble controlling or managing anger, it’s best to seek professional help before it leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms that can be destructive to your health and relationships.
A mental health professional can suggest various therapies to help you find the underlying source of your anger. They will also help you learn ways to manage outbursts while enabling you to acknowledge your other primary emotions so you can start making progress toward overall mental and emotional well-being.