Assessing Anger: What Does Anger Mean?
Assessing anger is a mini blog series examining the meaning of anger, how to manage anger and how it can play out in relationships.
Part 1: The Meaning of Anger
Productive disagreements are good for all relationships, but if you struggle to get a point across, often feel defensive and angry, or cannot communicate well, it may mean that:
- You and your partner have not learned how to de-escalate fights
- There are unacknowledged power differences in the relationship
- There is an old hurt that hasn’t healed well
- You (or your partner) have a basic misconception about how to motivate each other to change
- The anger comes from another source and is a projection onto the partner
Constant anger does not necessarily mean that you are with the wrong person. It may mean that you have not yet figured out the meaning of the anger, whether it’s your own or your partner’s.
Also, anger is always a stand-in emotion. That means it makes us feel less vulnerable than the true, softer emotions underneath. If you have never expressed or inquired about those more tender feelings, such as sadness, fear or insecurity (to name a few), then you are not sharing the true meaning of the anger with one another.
You cannot expect to be angry all the time and have a good relationship simultaneously. It’s vital that you discover the meaning of the anger in order to solve the core issues and move forward.
Feeling Versus Expression
It is also important to differentiate between feeling angry and expressing the anger in an appropriate way, at the appropriate time, and with the appropriate words. Not every relationship can be improved, but when motivated, couples can learn to de-escalate fights, give structure to their discussions rather than spinning out into chaos and stop a negative cycle. Many couples who cannot seem to de-escalate anger on their own utilize the services of a couples counselor. Sometimes couples wait too long to get the help they need to resolve the issues that make them angry at each other. By the time they do seek help, there has been too much damage.
It is possible to have a successful relationship without resulting to anger, violence, bullying or manipulation, but many of us make up our responses as we go along and we’re not always graceful about it.
If you are in a relationship today, chances are that you are wrestling with these questions:
- How do you influence another person without resorting to bullying or verbal violence?
- How do you make decisions jointly when each partner wants something completely different?
- What does compromise mean and how does it work?
- Is equality possible in all areas of the life of a couple?
It Takes Three to Tango
It is possible to acknowledge that between two partners, there is a third entity: the relationship. What is good for the relationship sometimes differs from what an individual perceives as being good for them.
When partners take the time to figure out answers to these and related questions, many relationships do succeed, even after periods of difficulty. So, think about the meaning of your anger. Perhaps you’ll figure out constructive ways to deal with it and other emotions.
Stay tuned or sign up for our newsletter to learn more on this topic. In the meantime, you can also read this post about what question to ask yourself if you struggle with anger.