Apr 112015 2 Responses

What Anger Often Reveals

Anger is often a tell. It’s an outward expression of an inward tension. The inner conflict may be well-hidden even to the person experiencing the tension. Yet the anger reveals something is wrong.

A football coach with an infamous temper. Beyond just the normal driven coach, the stories of his temper become legendary. Finally an affair is revealed.

A good employee who is well-loved by everyone suddenly explodes over something so minor it shocks everyone. Eventually a hidden addiction is exposed.

A professional golfer with an amazing ability to control every aspect of his life except for an inability to control his tongue after a bad shot. Suddenly the double-life he is living is announced in salacious headlines.

In each situation, highly competent people mastered multiple areas of life, but they were unable to control their anger. Why? (See: Show Me How to Treat You)

Anger is often a justified emotion. On many occasions I will tell my six-year-old, “I understand that you are upset. You should be. We simply need to talk about the best way to express your anger.” When a friend steals his cookie or pushes him on the playground or says hurtful things, it is natural to feel anger. It happens on schoolyard playgrounds and in office complexes, homes, and other areas of human existence. Anger is part of life.

Yet when anger is present in circumstances that should just cause a light frustration or not any emotion at all, the anger is a symptom of a deeper problem.

It often is a sign of tension within a person. (See: I’m Tired of Being Nice)

When the person I am perceived to be (or who I think I should be) is at dramatic odds with who I actually am (the person few others actually see), tension is created.

Anger is often like an earthquake. Two plates are pressing against each other and the friction which builds eventually is released in a violent shift. When the plate of perception presses against the plate of reality, something will eventually give. Often the result is a flash of anger.

No one is completely the person they are perceived to be. For better or worse, people write a story about us that is rarely fully accurate. However, when the two plates are moving in completely opposite directions, anger reveals the hidden tension.

  • The pastor perceived as holy while he’s having an affair
  • The rich business owner who is drowning in debt
  • The well-to-do housewife whose life is falling apart

The tension created by perception and reality often expresses itself with bursts of anger. When someone continually expresses anger in situations where anger is not the proper response, it is evidence there is an internal tension within the person.

We cannot automatically assume the tension is immorality. Grief would be a common cause of displaced anger. A person who has lost a loved one, experienced an illness, or is going through a major life transition could be experiencing grief which can express itself in anger. (See: What the Smartest People Rarely Know)

We should not use this knowledge to judge others. Seeing an outburst of anger should not cause us to think, “I wonder if they are having an affair” or “I’ll bet they are stealing from their company.”

Instead, knowing the common cause of anger, we should experience more empathy, compassion, and understanding.

We should know that anger expressed toward us is rarely actually about us.

As leaders, we should pay close attention to expressions of anger by our employees. It could reveal that we have placed too much expectation upon them, or put them in a position where they can’t use their strengths, or that private issues are taking place in their lives where they need personal help.

As parents, outbursts of anger from our children could reveal problems that we are not aware of. These outbursts could cause us to pay more attention to their friends, environments, or other signs we might overlook.

As friends, seeing our friend or loved one suddenly begin to express anger in unusual circumstances might cause us to ask the personal questions of the person which no one else could ask.

Sometimes anger is justified. When it is expressed, we understand and even applaud its expression.

At other times, anger is a warning sign. It’s the only external expression of an internal conflict. If we allow the anger to call our attention to the real issue, it can be a true gift. If we ignore the anger and allow the tension to continue, the consequences will become much more severe than a simple outburst.

 

2 Responses to What Anger Often Reveals
  1. […] Some are angry drunks. Our intoxication with ourselves causes us to believe no one else can do anyth... kevinathompson.com/the-only-enemy-of-marriage
  2. […] It’s true with or without kids, but the seriousness is amplified with children. We cannot put ... kevinathompson.com/you-wont-talk-to-me-that-way

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