There are two places/times where I allow myself to express my anger.
One is in my car at long red lights on backed up roadways or at other drivers who upset me. I tend to use colorful language and hand gestures in quite inappropriate ways, although typically in a manner where others are not able to hear or see my response.
The other is when principles are at stake. Here I try to keep my reactions more under control, since I am trying to get others to change their way of thinking or acting. Yet, my emotions can get away from me at these times, too, since the issues are important to me. While this has not caused problems with those who are close to me, the same cannot, unfortunately, be said for when I have been angry about matters of principle in some of the jobs I have held through the years.
Historically, I have avoided expressing anger in other situations (see my earlier blog post, The Other Side of Anger, April 2013). It is difficult to express anger because it allows others to see me, what is valuable to me. We become vulnerable when we express anger and other raw emotions since we are exposing those aspects of ourselves that are most personal and revealing. In putting ourselves out there, we are letting others know we need something from them. What if they do not respond? It is like putting your hand out, asking another to take hold, and not knowing if they are going to ignore or embrace us. They may be dismissive or contemptuous. They may reject us. Scary!
Feeling or being “hurt” is often a part of anger. But the tougher side of us may not want to admit to being able to be hurt. Though it may not be as descriptive, sometimes we would rather say, “this doesn’t feel good” or “I don’t like it”, rather than “it hurts”. While it can be worthwhile to differentiate between our emotions – hurt, anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, worry – at times it may be just as valuable to know that we do not feel good, or we don’t like something, and then attempt to do something about it.
In not sharing our anger and other emotions, we end up not letting others know what our needs are. So when things do not go the way we want, we end up not getting what we want (unless we act subversively) because we are not speaking up. It does not feel good, and over time, we lose interest in the person or thing that had been important to us and life gets a little smaller.
However, when we appropriately express our needs, desires and anger, we may end up getting enough of what we need to keep things interesting. This is something to pay attention to and realize as situations occur when we want something. We may not get everything we want and, often times, it is not necessary to get everything we want, but it is important to say and go for what we need.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields, including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.