What makes a person angry? Why do we get angry over the smallest things and blow up out of proportion with what is happening? Why do we get angry at the people we love and care about? Anger can appear to be irrational but if you learn to look below the surface you will find the real causes of anger. When you find the real causes you can successfully overcome your anger.
Hidden Causes of Anger on a Family Vacation
Jack is upper middle class, educated, and came from a good home. He loves and respects his wife Emily and adores his kids. There’s no apparent reason for Jack to have angry outbursts but he does.
Jack was driving his wife and two kids to the beach town for a planned family vacation. Then in an effort to tidy up the car his wife Emily grabbed some trash from the center console to put in a bag. Before he could realize why, Jack snapped at her with anger in his voice, “Just leave that alone.” There was such venom in his voice that Emily pulled away and sat quietly in her seat not moving. The boys in the back seat went silent as well.
Jack was surprised at his own outburst and proceeded to judge himself for acting irrationally. From the self judgment he felt small, stupid, and guilty. This is not how a well educated, successful, family man is supposed to behave. Wanting the whole incident, and how he felt about it, to just go away, he attempted to ignore it. In trying to bury it he didn’t apologize to Emily. The inner judge in his mind remembered though, and kept judging himself for his uncontrolled anger.
This wasn’t the first time that Jack got angry like this. This is just part of a pattern. Jack has snapped at his wife with anger for years often without even a preceding thought as to why. It happens so fast that there is nothing preceding his emotional reaction to tell him why he was angry. It’s confused him why this happens because he really loves and appreciates her.
Without knowing the cause of his anger Jack had no idea how to change it. Mostly he has tried to push it aside. That has worked for a while but somewhere down the road another outburst would happen. His failure at controlling his anger has been cause for feeling like a failure. That all changed as Jack developed self awareness.
Awareness allows you to see what causes Anger
Jack took some time to practice some exercises and develop awareness about his anger. He found some interesting things that he hadn’t seen before. He found the cause of his anger.
First of all Jack loves his wife and has a tremendous amount of respect for her. He is amazed at how efficient she is. She takes care of the house, home schooling the kids, meals, and keeps everything so neat and clean. Oddly enough these elements are part of the interpretations and beliefs in his mind that trigger anger.
There is an inner judge in Jack’s mind that compares him to Emily. According to the inner judge Jack makes more messes than he cleans up, isn’t organized, and not nearly as patient and attentive to their children. When Jack’s inner judge makes those comparisons Jack ends up feeling unworthy, and “not good enough.” Jack’s inner judge makes those comparisons and self judgments all the time. Those feelings of unworthiness are painful wounds that fester in Jacks’ emotional mind. As much as he attempts to push them away their pressure and energy build over time under the surface.
A natural reaction to pain or being hurt is anger. It’s part of the instinctive animal nature of any being. When we perceive a danger of being hurt, the fight mechanism of anger helps to ensure our protection. The misleading element is when our mind perceives the cause incorrectly.
In Jack’s perception he feels hurt when he is around his wife. When she is busy taking care of the household and keeping things neat and clean is when Jack most often makes comparisons in his mind. That’s when he feels the emotional pain. The assumption in Jack’s belief system has associated pain being caused by Emily. He is not aware that the real cause of his emotional pain is from self judgment based on his comparisons to Emily. It is Jack’s belief in his self image as a failure when compared to her that is hurting him self emotionally.
Jacks’ belief system has associated feeling hurt with the trigger of his wife Emily. For protection Jack’s mind pushes Emily away with anger in order to stop his pain. It was obvious to Jack that Emily wasn’t the cause of his anger, and that was very confusing until he became aware of these other layers.
However a person’s belief system doesn’t necessarily operate on rationality. It operates based on beliefs and assumptions. We often aren’t aware of how our beliefs operate and how they create our emotions so they may seem hidden. These beliefs aren’t really hidden. It’s just that we haven’t gone looking at them before. Too often we accept our first thoughts about things or the surface level assumption without reflecting deeper.
For Jack it was the unconscious comparisons and self judgments driven by these hidden beliefs that caused his angry outbursts. Not being able to see these beliefs had nothing to do with being stupid. Jack is plenty intelligent and has advanced degrees to back it up. The causes of anger are often difficult to see only because we haven’t developed our awareness of what to look for or how the belief system in the mind operates.
Jack didn’t know that self judgments were part of what was creating his emotional pain. He also didn’t know how he was using his beliefs about his wife as a basis for comparison for those self judgments. He wasn’t aware that emotional pain can be a cause of anger. He also wasn’t’ ware how emotions can build up over time until our efforts to keep them repressed slip and produce an outburst over the smallest triggering event.
Jack wasn’t aware of what was making him angry all those years because he didn’t have awareness of what was going on in his belief system in his mind. He wasn’t aware of how several different beliefs and thoughts combined together to produce the emotion of anger.
Changing the Causes of Anger
The appearance of things was that his wife was somehow triggering her anger. In a way she was. But she wasn’t the cause. Emily was just triggering the beliefs of self judgment that were already in place. Those beliefs and self judgments would still be there whether Emily was in the picture or not. There’s a distinct difference between triggers and causes of anger. When you don’t have awareness of the underlying beliefs you can make the mistake of focusing on the trigger and missing the cause.
It was a great relief for Jack to discover what the real cause of his anger was. Before he could only see the triggers and they didn’t make sense. They were always out of proportion with how much anger he felt. He had tried for years to just repress his emotions with will power and now he could see why that didn’t work. Over time more pressure of emotions would just build up until it eventually had to get vented.
Once Jack became aware of the self judgment and self rejection from the inner judge he directed his efforts at dissolving them. By eliminating the self judgments Jack no longer has those painful feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough. Without those painful feelings there is no anger from the fight or flight mechanism in his mind.
The result is that there’s no anger to control or manage because there is none.
Not every person creates anger in the same way. Each person has different beliefs and interpretations in their mind that produce emotions in their own individual way. However, they often have similar patterns. Only through awareness will you be able to see your own individual pattern and change them.
When you gain the awareness of how the different elements of your mind operate, and apply some effective tools and techniques for change, you can eliminate the cause of your anger and unhappiness. For exercises and practices to find the cause of your emtions and change the underlying beliefs listen to the Self Mastery Audio Sessions. The first couple are free. Or you can work with Gary personally through individual coaching sessions.