Anger Is Often a Secondary Emotion

One of the most freeing things I have learned about emotions regulation is that anger is often felt as a secondary emotion.  When we feel mad about something, it’s important to look under the anger to try to pinpoint why we are angry.  Are we hurt?  Disappointed?  Confused?  Overwhelmed?  Sad?  Being taken advantage of?  Being neglected?  Being invalidated?  Anger sends us a message that something isn’t right.  Sometimes we can fix whatever it is that isn’t right, and sometimes we can’t.  But just knowing that anger itself is not always the only feeling we are feeling can help free us to separate from our emotions.  Our emotions are not us, and we are not our emotions.  We can differentiate between how we feel and how we proceed.  Between how we feel and what we do.  Between how we feel and what we say.  Between how we feel and who we are.  We do not have to be defined by what we are feeling.  Sometimes we can’t always figure out why we are angry—and at times like these, it’s okay to simply know that we are feeling anger (or whatever negative feeling we are feeling that is making us uncomfortable).  It’s enough to acknowledge the feeling.  Sometimes this is how we are able to better release it—just by knowing and accepting that it’s there.  Then we can let it go and move on to solve our problem or to continue being productive or effective or to simply be at peace (we don’t always have to be doing something—it’s important to be aware of what we are being as well).  When it comes to taking good care of children, the better we can get at understanding and dealing with what we are feeling (because it’s a universal experience to feel exasperated by a child’s childish behavior), the better we will become at helping our children understand and deal with what they are feeling.

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