Anger: The emotion defender

In previous post I called anger a secondary emotion. Today I am going to go a bit further and call anger the, “emotion defender”.  What I am suggesting is that when anger arises it is in fact present in the defense of some other set of emotions. Therefore I contend that when anger arises it is present because the individual is unable or unwilling to express some set of primary emotions. Anger then is that emotion that is much easier to express and is a temporary defense until the individual learns the skill to express the real emotions that are being defended by anger.

When one ignores or is ignorant of their own emotions and the needs they represent anger is that emotion that seeks to make a last effort to protect the self from further erosion of its beliefs and values. Anger is a secondary emotion that is always preceded by some set of primary emotions.   Our primary emotions give us signals regarding who we feel. For example if we value a hard day’s work and others at work appear to be less that productive the presence of what appears to be non-productive coworkers may evoke an emotional response. The individual who sees his nonproductive coworkers may over a long period of time feel taken advantage of, ignored, slighted and over time if that individual does not find a way to deal with those emotions they may respond in anger towards their coworkers. While the response is inappropriate the person’s angry response is a way to defend the values that they hold dear. In that sense anger is the defender of the other emotions-a primal response that can take over if the individual does not attend to the needs that initially caused the primary emotions to arise.

In the same way that each country has a diplomatic wing that favors talking thought a situation and a military wing that will fight its way to a solution. Consider that your primary emotions represent your diplomacy and anger represents your military. I content that it is more efficient to respond to the primary emotions by finding diplomatic solutions to our problems. Overuse of anger to defend other emotions will have damaging effects to the self and other. Ultimately the best approach will be to be in tuned with your primary emotions and appropriately met the needs associated with these emotions.

A good way to build an emotional vocabulary is to consider anger management classes that included emotional competence.

Carlos Todd, PhD


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