Anger is one of the most common complaints that clients bring up during sessions. It can be challenging to identify what is causing the anger in the first place. You may have seen the anger iceberg diagram before. This picture highlights the anger you see on the surface results from feelings underneath.
The challenge is sometimes identifying what emotions lie below the surface.
Often these emotions are negative and uncomfortable. Other times the feelings are more easily ignored or even actively suppressed. Think of this pattern of suppression, like playing a game of emotional Whack-a-mole, except there are no prizes for winning in this game. It’s a pattern that makes it more challenging to identify and process.
This pattern can be tricky to identify because sometimes, when we are upset, the feelings eventually dwindle. It is probably the case that your initial reaction to those feelings has calmed down rather than merely just going away.
Take a moment to think about times when you were angry. Was your anger ever an overreaction or more intense than the situation called for? Did you react in a way that you later regret, break something, or cause damage to a relationship? If the answer is yes, then you might have ignored or shoved down feelings of sadness, hurt, or rejection.
When these emotions get compounded over time, it makes it challenging to become aware of what is causing anger.
Usually, those hidden emotions pop up at the worst times, causing more confusion and stress. It is also likely to impact what you value most, whether those are broken items or broken relationships.
Becoming aware of these emotions is the first step in resolving them. If you identify what is causing the anger, then it becomes easier to manage it. If you are tired of playing emotional whack-a-mole, it might be scary to confront these feelings alone. Finding a trained therapist that can help you navigate these hidden feelings safely could be the first step in changing this destructive pattern.
Written by: Dustin Ellis