"Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath." ~ Eckhart Tolle
I'm going about my normal day. Doing my typical thing at work when I receive an email…THE email that is a bomb wrapped between “Hi” and “Thanks.”
In a matter of seconds, my emotions ramp up from 0 to 120. I feel my breath shorten. My ribs tighten up. My teeth clench. My lips purse. I’m angry and my eyeballs can barely focus anymore! I recognize what’s happening. I recognize it’s irrational, but it’s too late. There’s no reversing it. On an honest day, I’d admit I’m mad, angry, pissed. On other days, I might rationalize this as having an “off” day, or “typical work” or “shit happens” kind of moment.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Once in a while we get in a conversation or exchange that just gets under our skin (yes, this includes how others are driving on the road).
Sometimes we even recognize how disproportionate the emotional response is to the stimulus – other times, we are completely oblivious.
So, what is actually happening in that moment when someone rubs us the wrong way?
When we get angry, mad, annoyed pissed off, here’s what’s really happening:
Your value is being threatened
We all have core values that we hold close. These values can change over the course of our lives, but every given moment, you have a list of values you cherish and protect consciously or subconsciously.
If you don’t know what your values are, take a moment to reflect on what’s important to you. Anything you need or desire becomes your value: time, health, privacy, community, friendship, family, faith, aesthetics, connection with nature, space, respect, wealth, power, creativity, creation, fun, etc.
So, next time when someone changes the plan last minute and annoys you to no end, it might be interesting to dig deeper to see what’s truly annoying you (hint: it’s rarely the actual observable behavior). You might want to ask yourself, “which value of mine is being threatened in this moment?” For example, you might discover the act of rescheduling means a challenge to your value for time, or respect or fun. Once you recognize the value you are protecting, you will have some compassion for the way you are feeling. By identifying what’s at the core of what’s really bothering you, you will naturally be more effective at resolving the situation.
Something is triggering you
Triggers can be mysterious and elusive because they are so deeply rooted in past trauma that any whiff of the past, will signal our fight or flight response. This can create some melodrama in our lives and those around us (I call this the OMG moment when someone melts down or lashes out unexpectedly. This is what makes some reality TV so fascinating to their viewers). Often times bickering and fighting are really two people responding to triggers back and forth. Understanding our triggers can bring awareness to our feelings, thoughts and actions.
Someone has hurt your heart
That’s right, boys and girls - that’s what it comes down to when we are angry. At the root of anger is hurt. Most of us do not like to associate with being a victim, so what we do is turn that pain (passive) into anger (active). This is completely natural and can at times serve a purpose to propel us into action. However, we will never “get over it,” and the pattern will continue unless we dig deeper and follow that anger until we recognize, address and heal the hurt underneath.
Any other reasons why you get angry? Share your thoughts below.