Have you ever met anyone who is habitually angry? Someone who is perpetually prickly? Or how about the person who remains in a constant level of reactivity? As if they were stuck in that gear? Or maybe there is a person in your life who seems to overreact to situations, and you are left scratching your head wondering what just happened.
Anger As Self Defense
When somebody you care for seems overly sensitive, consider the idea that this form of anger is a type of self defense. The defense is against shameful feelings–the sense that they are somehow flawed. This can play out by your person being deeply sensitive to criticism, even when you feel you are not being critical. That is what can feel so baffling! Examining the person’s family, and what they saw or experienced consistently growing up, is helpful. Perhaps they had parents or caregivers that were lacking or inconsistent, caught up in their own dramas. This can easily cause a child to fear abandonment, so they might use anger to push others away as adults before they are rejected.
Sadly it works, to push others away, often increasing their sense of isolation. If you want to reach through this to your loved one, it will take time and patience on your part, and a good deal of reassurance. You will need to remind yourself of how this defense mechanism was built, and how long it has been in place. Grace, compassion and understanding will aid you.
Anger As A Bad Habit
Anger can also morph into a bad habit, often as a result of ongoing stress. If you face constant pressure at work, you must learn ways to cope, stay in the moment and recognize the early signals of your approaching anger. This type of habitual irritation is often something a person is not even aware of. It can also be masquerading as their annoyance at others not performing their responsibilities so therefore the angry individual assumes the right to blame others for their own short temper. The “mask” is serving as a shield to cover either unresolved issues, or perhaps the unspoken, low level and ever-present fear of failure. That is a frequent flyer in our high pressure workplaces!
When you are the major provider in a family, have a community reputation or legacy to uphold, and you keep score primarily by financial success, you are prone to these feelings. Out-of-place anger can be a deeper signal that you are feeling this pressure and responsibility. Time to schedule a vacation. And to pay closer attention to these feelings as soon as they begin. You can channel this early warning signal, understand what is coming, and choose a different response. Choosing very small changes at first is the most beneficial. Using the breath, walking to the break room, going outside for a moment, looking at a picture of those who matter the most to you, are all small ways to react to this signal positively.
Intimacy requires safety. That means that your family, your partner, and your friends cannot function around you in a supportive manner when you are perpetually prickly. If you partner is feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around you, ask yourself why. If your co-workers are beginning to steer clear of you, or worse, they are not giving you information you need in a timely manner because they dread coming to you, use your anger as a signal to self. This is when you can look upon it as a helpful emotion that will allow you to adjust your course in a way that helps others come closer.
A helpful resource: Mindful Anger, A Pathway to Emotional Freedom, by Andrea Brandt, 2014