Anger and Hurt
Anger can be both a primary and secondary emotion. It can be your initial response to a trigger, but it can also occur as a result of another emotion. Why does this matter? It’s a fair question. The truth of the matter is that you may end up using some similar skills in both cases: deep breathing, challenging your thoughts, and being assertive, but it may lead to you using a few different skills, as well as what is communicated is different.
Anger as a primary emotion relates to thoughts of demandingness and thinking that you are justified in your response. There are no underlying emotions behind the anger. If someone cuts you off on the road you believe that they shouldn't have done it and they should use their blinker. There was likely no underlying emotion such as sadness or hurt. In most cases, many people may not even experience fear, or if they do it may have been present after the fact. Surely using deep breathing or challenging your thoughts would be helpful here.
Anger as a secondary emotion is the product of another emotion, and often comes after feeling hurt. If our partner starts insulting us we may respond with anger and yell and curse at them. This anger stems from us feeling hurt. Their insults led to us feeling badly about ourselves and so we lash out to protect ourselves. We want the berating and the pain to stop so we yell and curse. As I discussed in another post, anger can be a protective emotion and lead to us defending ourselves; however, there may be a more effective way to handle the situation. By recognizing and then communicating the underlying pain, it may lead to a more fruitful conversation. An example of this is “When you insult me I feel hurt and offended. I would appreciate it if you would talk to me with respect.” This has a very different tone than yelling, cursing, and focusing on your anger. Also, talking about how you feel hurt is disarming, whereas yelling, cursing, and anger often leads to the other person standing their ground more.
Changing this behavior and recognizing how you are hurt can take a lot of practice; it is not easy. However, the more you do it, the better you will be at it. If you are not initially able to notice this in the moment then reflect on the anger episode after the fact. You may not be able to reflect on it for an hour initially, but if you progressively cut it down, even by 5 or 10 minutes, you will eventually be able to recognize your anger (and potentially hurt) in the moment and communicate it more effectively. If you find this to be repeatedly challenging and you’re not making the progress you would like, then I would encourage you to reach out to a professional.