Beneath our overt angry expressions are deeper roots of emotional pain which feed the hostility. In the last blog, I identified four roots, including: hurt, helplessness, anxiety about losing something important, and guilt. In this blog, we will explore anger that is triggered by relational wounds.
Psychological researchers have demonstrated that emotional hurt is a primary source of angry behavior. There are many ways to feel wounded by others. Consider how you may have experienced one or more of the following situations:
- Ignored or excluded.
You may have manifested a flaw or obvious limitation and the “in group” refuses to accept you. Being different from peers can result in excruciating social pain.
- Falsely accused or negative lies about you.
You may have been the target of malicious gossip because someone is envious of you. Perhaps you have been framed or accused of wrong, but people do not believe your innocence Such painful experiences can reduce you to tears but also incites you toward revenge.
- Ridicule or putdown.
People can be cruel in seeking to get a laugh or just to make you look bad. Can you recall a time that you offered a good idea or personal opinion, and were ridiculed, feeling embarrassed or belittled?
- Broken promises and betrayal.
Have you experienced the pain of a broken heart? Someone promises confidentiality but fails to keep your secrets. A person you believe in and rely upon, betrays your trust. Perhaps the deepest relational wounds are betrayal of a committed relationship or the profound wounds of child abuse. These hurts, especially if repeated, can destroy your capacity to cope with the challenges of life.
We are built for connection and intimacy. To be abandoned with no significant other to care for us, leads to prolonged rage, which is often concealed.
When you erupt in anger, triggered by some present situation, you should look for the deeper pain. What kind of hurt did you previously sustain? The hurts may still be unresolved.
Often we expresses anger overtly but cover up the emotional pain. We might not even be aware that the present conflict or disagreement is not really the anger issue. Most of the time, the source of anger is the deeper emotional root. Instead of trying to change the other person or alter the situation, we would be wiser to pause and ask ourselves
- “What is my deeper hurt?”
- “Is my unresolved hurt firing up the adrenalin and escalating my anger?”
The Psalmists reflectively prays, “Who can discern his lapses and errors. Clear me from hidden and unconscious faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.” (Psalm 19:13-14, Amplified Bible)
May we have this same humble and introspective attitude. If we do not recognize and own the deeper hurts, we cannot effectively heal and express anger constructively.