Not just anger, but also the emotions underneath it

Hеalthy Lifеstylе

Anger is a perfectly natural and acceptable emotion that arises in the presence of a loved one. Anger can be a powerful force for positive change in a relationship, but only if it is released in a way that your partner can use constructively. That is the subject of this month’s article.

January’s article was about how damaging it is in relationships when sarcasm and mean irony are used as cover for anger.

This time I write about the opposite: when otherwise healthy and natural anger erupts into tantrums, verbal attacks and loud arguments. This creates cracks in trust, safety and intimacy in relationships. Some describe it as walking on eggshells to avoid the next outburst.

The good news is that you can find a more appropriate way to set boundaries and express yourself. More on that later. But above all: look at the iceberg illustrating this column. And remember the saying “we can only see the tip of the iceberg”

Beneath anger there are always other “soft” emotions, but we don’t see them when our partner’s volcano erupts. On the contrary, the eruption puts us in a heightened state of readiness and activates one of three defence mechanisms: 1) Fight = counterattack. 2) Escape = retreat. 3) Freeze = paralysis, “going into freeze mode”. These three are the body’s fully automatic ways of dealing with a threatening situation. These three are the body’s fully automatic ways of dealing with a threatening situation.

After a storm

Once the storm is over, it is crucial that there is a good conversation between the two parties about what happened, because anger is an important signal that something is out of balance with one party – or between them.

For example, if you feel that your partner has ignored or rejected you, and you feel unappreciated, that triggers strong emotional reactions precisely because your partner is so important to you. Anger arises. And what are those words at the bottom of the iceberg? Maybe hurt, unappreciated, irritated.

So of course you can intervene and say something like

But – let’s be honest: how easy is that? In fact, there are very few Danes who can express their anger in a constructive way, in a completely natural and free way. I myself grew up in a family where anger was a forbidden emotion, so I had to work on coming to terms with my anger at Nils as an adult and not hiding it, but expressing it.

Two extremes

Both under- and over-expressed anger damages a relationship, and if you have children, unfortunately, it has a long-term effect on them: it is dangerous to grow up in an atmosphere where anger has arisen between father and mother. Familieskænderier. If the emotions behind anger are not expressed out loud, a child can easily feel guilty and insecure. In families where there are a lot of loud arguments, children become anxious and carry with them into adulthood the idea that anger is a way of dealing with conflict.

Recently, a client told me about her upbringing: whenever her mother and father reached a certain stage of escalation in the living room, she would fall to the floor with a thump from her cot to draw her parents’ attention elsewhere. As an adult, she understandably found it difficult to resolve conflicts with her partner in a healthy and fair way.

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