As a woman, you place a high degree of importance on your relationships. If there are unresolved relationships in your life, they are a source of pain. Whether the pain is the acute sting of a recent relationship separation or the dull ache of an old wound, pain over time causes irritation, inflammation, and anger. Only through a process of personal closure to unresolved relationships can the wound heal and the pain be placed in perspective.
It seems appropriate that so much anger should originate and propagate within the confines of the family. Family is the most intimate of relationships, and anger is an intimate expression. Your pattern of anger is like an emotional fingerprint. It is unique to you. While there are cultural sources of communal frustrations, what has the power to make you really mad is deeply personal. It reveals who you are as a person; it showcases your sore spots and exposes your wounds. What makes you angry tells a great deal about who you are — not just who you are on the outside, but who you are on the inside. Anger exposes your personal story.
When you are angry, you reveal your feelings. You show the other person what causes you to be angry. When you give another person this knowledge, you give the other person power. Some of you do not want anyone to have this kind of power over you, so you hide your anger away where it cannot be seen. Hiding the anger conceals the sources of your pain. Hiding the anger helps you feel safe.
Some of you do not want anyone to have this kind of power over you, so you conceal the real source of your pain through diversionary anger. Anger itself becomes a diversion, covering up the pain and insecurity of guilt, shame, and fear. When anger is displayed scattershot, it is difficult to follow the spread pattern back to the source. It has all the visceral satisfaction of anger unleashed while maintaining the secrecy of the source. Diversionary anger is a way of hiding in plain sight.
It is not unlike the military concept of countermeasures. When a missile or torpedo is heading toward a target, the target becomes vulnerable. In order to divert and confuse the incoming threat, countermeasures, also called chaff, are deployed. The missile or the torpedo becomes confused as to the real target and is thrown off, where it explodes harmlessly (at least ideally) away from the real target. If people get too close to the pain that lies at the core of your anger, you may feel vulnerable and release the chaff of diversionary anger to avoid exposing the truth.
Tomorrow: Connie’s story.
SOURCE: Chapter 7: “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” in Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Your Anger by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.