Recognizing & Managing Anger

3. Acknowledge Situational Roots

Situational sources of anger can be rooted in any facet of your life. You may generally be a happy person who doesn’t have a short fuse, but change the situation around you and you may quickly become angry. As you assess the situation, evaluate your anger.

Determine where it may have originated, and be sure to:

  • Search for sources of embarrassment
  • Discover roots of shame or guilt
  • Note if you feel punished or victimized
  • Inventory separation, loss, and death

Search for sources of embarrassment

Different people experience embarrassment for different reasons. While some folks can easily laugh with others when a mistake is made, some people experience shame when others laugh at them—and that can often spur feelings of anger and resentment. If you are easily embarrassed you may have experienced much embarrassment in the past, and this may have caused you to be vulnerable to anger.

It is instinctive to protect yourself. In the world of emotions anger is the emotion to fill the gap and create some distance from your discomfort. An embarrassing experience can heighten the feelings of shame and guilt. These are unpleasant feelings, leaving you feeling small and vulnerable. Next, let’s take a closer look at embarrassment.

Discover roots of shame or guilt

The feelings of shame and guilt are often masked by anger. No one likes to experience shame, so anger becomes a handy replacement. Shame is the belief there is something wrong with you. It is important to recognize shame and address it immediately since it can easily turn to anger.

Guilt is the belief that you have done something wrong, though it may or may not true. For example, having a critical or demanding parent can leave old messages of not being worthy, of having continually done “something wrong.” As you got older, you learned to challenge and overcome these messages. The problem is that you are never totally free of these “old tapes.” In times of vulnerability these old guilt wounds may be opened, and it becomes easy to express this pain with anger.

Refer to the Childhood Anger Inventory Tool to assess if shame and guilt or other factors were part of your childhood anger.

Childhood Anger Inventory

  1. How was anger expressed in the home?
  2. Who was “permitted” to express anger?
  3. What was the meaning of anger when it was displayed in your home?
  4. Who were the “angry” people around you during your childhood?
  5. Review your overall experiences with anger as a child and adult.

Note if You Feel Punished or Victimized

“Why is everybody always picking on me?” Does this sound familiar? You put yourself in a position of powerlessness when you see yourself as a victim. Feeling like a victim can happen to anyone. Depending on your past experiences, this can be a very easy position for you to fall into when you get behind in tasks, or if your unsatisfactory performance is pointed out.

If you are feeling punished or victimized, anger is sure to arise. Stand back and look at your situation from another perspective; reframe your assessment of the situation. Try looking at the present events from a different point of view, and look at other possible explanations for the day’s events that take the focus away from you. This change of perspective will usually diminish your anger.

Inventory Separation, Loss, and Death

Loss of a loved one, a job, or even an opportunity can place you in a position where anger plays a role, and it also moves you into the grieving process. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described the grieving process in five phases: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. If you get stuck in the Anger phase it is hard to move on to Acceptance. Moving through these phases is a natural process and everyone moves through at his or her own pace. Trusting the process is important.

Kubler-Ross also said people experienced the same process with lesser losses than death. She called this the “little death.” When you recognize the anger phase in your own process, talk with someone—it is the most helpful thing you can do.