Did you know that anger is often a mask for fear?
Most people don’t realize that anger is a secondary emotion. According to experts, typically, one of the primary emotions, like fear or sadness, can be found underneath the anger. Fear includes things like anxiety and worry, and sadness comes from the experience of loss, disappointment or discouragement.
Feeling fear and sadness is quite uncomfortable, making us feel vulnerable and out of control. It's no wonder that we want to avoid these feelings.
One way people do this is by subconsciously shifting into anger mode. In contrast to fear and sadness, anger can provide a surge of energy and make you feel more in charge, rather than feeling vulnerable or helpless. Essentially, anger can be a means of creating a sense of control and power in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.
When I was going through my cancer journey, I wondered why I felt such strong surges of anger. In speaking to my doctor, I learned that I was masking my fear with anger because I had lost control over many parts of my life. Cancer destroyed my sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and as a way to "fight back", I engaged with anger.
Not such a wise decision.
I needed to address the root of my fear and heal my fear first and then my anger would subside. Anger often destroys healing, so it was important for me to resolve it.
Here are three tips to identify and release fear:
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a technique that involves focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting your thoughts and emotions without judgment. When you feel afraid, take a few deep breaths and try to focus on the present moment. You can also try mindfulness meditation, where you sit quietly and focus on your breath, body sensations, or a calming phrase. Mindfulness can help you calm your mind and reduce anxiety.
- Positive Self-Talk: Fear often comes with negative self-talk, where you may tell yourself that you're not good enough, or that something bad will happen. To ease fear, try practicing positive self-talk instead. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones, such as "I can handle this" or "I've overcome challenges before, and I can do it again." Positive self-talk can help you build confidence and feel more in control.
- Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a technique used by therapists to help people overcome their fears. It involves gradually exposing yourself to the thing you're afraid of in a safe and controlled environment. For example, if you're afraid of public speaking, you may start by practicing in front of a small group of friends, and gradually work your way up to speaking in front of larger audiences. Exposure therapy can help you build confidence and overcome your fears over time.