Understanding Anger as a Secondary Emotion
Understanding Anger as a Secondary Emotion
Anger is a secondary emotion.
This means that there is always another emotion laying just under the surface of the anger. I find that many people are surprised by this statement.
I usually like to explain this to people by reviewing primary and secondary colors since these are tangible representations. Green is a result of blue and yellow. Lime green looks different from forest green, and neither exist without the primary colors used to create them. We learn this concept at a fairly young age, usually by mixing paint colors together to create new colors. The visual representation helps us to understand the complexities behind different hues of colors we commonly see.
You may be wondering “so what does this have to do with anger?”
Anger is an emotion that results from underlying emotions.
These underlying emotions vary from person to person just as how we experience and express anger varies from person to person. Usually the emotions that turn into anger for us are emotions that we struggle most to express and cope with. To this, I often get asked: “So are you saying that anger is not real?” Absolutely not! Anger is very real. Just as real as the color green. Anger is experienced and expressed differently by different people. Some people internalize anger, others become irritable and aggressive. I believe that it is important for people to understand that anger is a secondary emotion not to invalidate ones experience with the emotion (it is a valid and very real emotion) but to help us better understand how to cope with it.
By Identifying Underlying Emotions, We Can Better Cope With The Feelings
When we understand that anger is a result of underlying, and often neglected emotions, we are better able to identify and learn to cope with those emotions.
Unveiling the underlying emotions allows us to confront these emotions rather than avoid them. Our underlying emotions are typically ones that make us feel more vulnerable (shame/disappointment/fear). When these emotions are not fully processed and expressed they morph into anger which is a more aggressive, and for many, more comfortable emotion to express. Many people learn at a young age that anger is more comfortable to express than sadness or fear. Some people may have been taught this by a family member, others may have simply observed loved ones who were uncomfortable expressing certain emotions and unknowingly adopted the behavior. Perhaps cultural norms or gender norms taught you at a young age that anger makes you appear “strong” or “emotionless”.
In reality, anger pushes people away and even leaves us alone with our underlying emotions.
Are You Struggling to Manage Your Anger?
So what do you do if you notice managing strong emotions may be an issue for you? Maybe you have noticed you are feeling angry more often and you are struggling to connect with other emotions. Gaining insight into your underlying emotions and learning healthy ways to process and cope with them. However, that is not an easy task to take on.
Seeking support from a licensed professional counselor is a great first step to learning more about how to manage your anger.
Counseling for Anger Management in Philadelphia, PA
Are you or someone you know struggling with anger right now? Does the anger feel so overwhelming that sometimes you don’t even feel like yourself? Perhaps even reading this blog post makes you feel worse. Honestly, you just aren’t sure where to start with identifying the underlying emotions. The anger feels like the only emotion sometimes.
It might be time to get professional support from a mental health therapist. To work with Ashley, one of our therapists who can help with anger management, or any of our other therapists, begin by reaching out and asking more about our counseling services. We offer a free 15 minute phone consultation.
Other Mental Health Supports at Main Line Counseling Specialists
Our goal at Main Line Counseling Specialists is to provide every member of the family with the specialized support they deserve to improve their mental health and thrive. Our team of expert mental health therapists provide collaborative services for families in our Paoli, PA counseling practice or online to anyone in Pennsylvania. In fact, it’s not unusual for different therapists in our practice to see various members of a family and collaborate.
Whether you’re looking for individual therapy, premarital counseling, couples & marriage counseling or just support during a stressful life transition, our therapists have the skills and the compassion to help. We are based out of Philadelphia (technically our counseling office is in Paoli, PA) but also able to offer online counseling services to anyone in the state of Pennsylvania.
Lastly, our Licensed Professional Counselors offer clinical supervision to new professionals motivated to grow as clinicians. We’re able to provide support to clinicians gaining experience in various specialties within mental health and pride ourselves on being very supportive of the Pennsylvania clinicians we supervise.