He was very intelligent but miserably poor. Since he was a merit holder he got admitted into an elite and prestigious engineering college in a city. He came from a far flung village and had only two sets of clothes to wear-two shirts and two pyjamas. He did not own a well tailored trouser. He knew he was going to be ragged and teased and bullied like hell for his poverty and rustic behaviour and mannerisms. But he did not care. He developed a fierce exterior and decided he would bark off people. He was a keen student and his future lay in hard work and higher studies. So he was determined to make his career and would not care for people and their views. That became the hallmark of his personality- his aggressive stance with people who ridiculed or bullied him. Aggression became his chief tool in handling his hurt and humiliation, he knew no other way. Those who loved and respected him knew him as a kind and warm person who was ready to help and understand while the others feared and hated him.
A young girl in final year college showed an amazing sense of awareness and analysis of her trait of anger and aggressiveness. She came for help in tackling her anger which was becoming an emotional and social burden for her to handle as her reputation was at stake she said. But she described her journey eloquently and how she developed this emotion as her primary one. In her words ‘I developed anger as a shield against my insecurity. Both my parents were working and after school I had to stay in someone’s house for many hours till I was picked up by parents. I was quite fearful being in that house even though they were caring and hence never comfortable or at ease. I developed a tough exterior -by showing anger so that they left me alone. Anger made me feel protected and safe within myself. It gave me power over myself. But now it has become a bane. This habit has become too deep and I unnecessarily behave in an aggressive manner with all my peers. I need to change it soon.’ Never have I heard such a beautiful tracing of the origins of anger in a simple way! If only all people showed such insight into their minds and moods, self handling would be a lovely journey.
Another young girl developed an angry posture in social situations after she experienced sexual abuse multiple times. This happened once at her home with a visiting relative, it happened in a running train, a bus and on the road while she was walking and talking on her phone. After the initial shock and horror she learnt aggressive expressions and used them effectively. Converting her pain and shame into a protective form of anger improved her confidence but that was not her true nature she said. She hated men after her bad experiences and gave angry responses with all men. Make a difference between a defensive reaction and a conscious protective reaction. A defensive response needs awareness of the causes and a correction in behaviour.
Most parents might remember shouting and having fights with their teenagers for coming home late and teenagers shouting back in retaliation. What lies behind their minds are fears and anxieties for the safety of their children primarily, but what comes across is disapproval and control in an angry manner. It would be simpler if a parent just said ‘thank God you are back, I was worried sick’. The message the teen gets is ‘my mother was not worried but angry and for what I don’t know!’. ‘I had informed her that it would be late’. Anger is also used for blocking off communication and intimacy. Again if there is a fear or anxiety about communicating something or about getting intimate, people can get into fights to avoid each other totally. Among marriages, you will realise most arguments begin after dark, before going to sleep, so that they can turn their backs at each other and find peace!
Anger is known to be a secondary emotion and not a primary one. Anger comes as a defensive response to another initial emotion that goes unnoticed in most cases and gets converted instead into anger. For example, if a person is afraid, nervous, hurt, humiliated, frustrated, disappointed and so on, these emotions can get converted into anger and get expressed as anger. All negative emotions are part of our survival kit given by God and help us defend and protect ourselves. But tracing the origin of the emotion is very important for self awareness and self improvement. It is important to identify the underlying emotions which are buried under the anger response and in tackling them thoughtfully. There is a tremendous release in gaining insight into deeper layers of thought and emotions that actually hamper our future development.
Anger is a destructive emotion that destroys the person as also relationships and matured functioning. Continued anger harms the body as well as the mind. It obstructs in the development of better responses to difficult situations. Healthier and effective functioning requires effective methods and positive coping skills. If things can be handled in a positive manner without anger then we should explore those alternative methods. Instead of shielding ourselves with anger, we could become stronger by exposing ourselves to our vulnerabilities and our fragile humanness.