Roots of Anger: Feeling Wounded by Others

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. Abandonment.
    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.

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Dr. David R. Leaman

Dr. David R. Leaman is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He had been in private practice in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania 1981-2013. Dr. Leaman is a frequent lecturer and professional trainer, nationally and internationally. He conducts workshops and seminars on a variety of mental health issues.

Book CoverDr. Leaman is the author of numerous professional articles as well as two books -- Making Decisions: A Guide For Couples; and MY CHILD IS ANGRY...AND SO AM I: Guiding Youth in Expressing Anger Constructively.

Using humor and cogent illustrations, Dr. Leaman presents vital principles for experiencing an emotionally healthy life.  Whether listening to Dr. Leaman as an event speaker, or attending one of his in-depth training seminars, you will enjoy learning about yourself in a gentle way and developing valuable insights for life.

Dr. Leaman and his wife, Joyce, are a dynamic counseling duo. They have been creating and leading family seminars and marriage enrichment weekends for over 35 years. Visit Dr. Leaman's website for more information.