Friday, May 9, 2008

Under Anger

Sometimes anger is truly anger. However, anger is often a mask for another feeling. In a conflict, it is important to recognize what the true feeling(s) really is.

Why, you may ask, is anger a cover-up for something else? Well, the current consensus is usually because of social acceptability. Anger is often a more acceptable emotion than other feelings.

But wait, Josh! Yesterday, you said anger is not an acceptable emotion in society. Okay, you're right. It's both acceptable and not acceptable. Don't you love social norms, culture, and emotions? So here's my best explanation. Anger is often not acceptable, particularly in Christian circles because it is seen as aggressive (which is viewed as a negative), immature, and out-of-control. Additionally, being angry means we are not in touch with God's peace. On the other hand, particularly for American men, feelings like sadness, fear, shame, etc. are viewed as signs of weakness. How many men (or women) want to appear weak? Anger is not viewed as weak, but rather strong. Therefore, if we feel sad, scared, or shameful, we may become angry in order to express an emotion that is more socially acceptable, or at least so that we will become more accepted.

This creates a major problem, though. If we believe we are angry and express anger, other will react to the anger, and all solutions to the situation will focus on the anger. However, if anger is not really the problem, then these solutions will be fruitless. We may, in fact, need to grieve or cry or be affirmed. Anger does not usually elicit responses or even thoughts to these experiences.

If you are experiencing anger, take a moment and try to see if you're feeling something else. Was I hurt recently? Am I scared? Perhaps not. You may be legitimately (and validly) angry. But if there's something more, try to figure out what it is. It may help conflict.

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