Masks of Anger: The Fears That Your Anger May Be Hiding

Anger is perhaps the one human emotion that we cannot wrap our minds around completely. Since anger is an emotion that is vital to survival, you would think that we would have learned how to express it constructively by now. But, we still treat it like a foreign military invasion and an irregularity of behavior that has no place in our daily lives.

But, anger does have a place in our lives and in our coping repertoire. Even if you try, you can’t deny or suppress this powerful emotion for long, as it is wired into you as a response to threat. And, anger is unbiased. It favors no person, culture, race, education or social status. Because anger is an emotion that is necessary to your protection and safety and affirmation of identity. Anger is here to stay, as long as we have a reason to defend ourselves.

But, indeed, some people feel a greater pressure to defend themselves than others, because they are so emotionally invested in a belief or way of being. Take for example, the Illinois lawmaker’s recent anger outburst. “Screaming, swearing, throwing papers on the floor, and asking Democrat lawmakers to set his people (Republican) free, a red-faced Illinois Rep. Mike Bost “lambasted” the state’s powerful House speaker for messing around with the state’s pension plan.” (Huffington Post: Mike Bost Meltdown).  If any of you saw this rant, I’d say that lambasted doesn’t quite sum up Bost’s emotional unhinging. It was more like he popped a cork, blew out a few veins, and temporarily went berserk. No matter how justified one’s anger is—in the end, anger hurts the body, mind, and public image of the initiator more than it does the receiver.

Thus, you have to learn how to express anger constructively. But, first, you have to know what your anger is really all about, what it may be hiding. Your anger may mask fears and vulnerabilities that are hitching a ride on events slightly related, if at all to the ax of anger that you really wish to grind. Take for example, Sharon, a 29-year old sales representative. Like many people, she carried her personal issues to work each day as faithfully as she did her cell phone. Sharon believed her parents admired, loved, and valued her younger sibling more than her. She let this issue hitch a ride on every stressful event that took place at work. Everyone was treating her unfairly and with disrespect, according to her. Even when things had nothing to do with Sharon, she was apt to feel slighted and angry about it.  This took a toll on her work team and her public image. She became known as fragile and easily angered, and as you can guess, she was passed up time and again for promotions.

Thus, if you really want to manage your anger, you have to know what it may be hiding, so you keep it from getting expressed at the wrong place and time. This is what my post is about today.

What Is Anger All About?

There is a strong relationship between anger and fear. Anger is the fight part of the age-old fight-or-flight response to threat. Most animals respond to threat by either fighting or fleeing. But, we don’t always have the option to fight what threatens us. Instead, we have anger. Words are the civilized way that we get to fight threat. And, some words, as you know, are meant to sting as deeply as a stab wound. Anger is one of the ways that we help our body to prepare for potential danger. Anger stimulates adrenaline to rouse the brain and body to fight or flee a threatening situation. Of course, in more primitive days, the things that angered us centered solely on threats to our survival (a basic need for food, shelter, water, or land). Today, we are civilized; we’ve formed identities of preferences and values of living that make us complex and psychologically defensive. Assaults to your principles, beliefs, and needs and wishes are the basis for your anger, now. And, you will protect your identity as strongly as if you were defending your right to food, shelter, water or land.

Oh, we human beings do weave a tangled web, because of our defensive nature. We learn to conceal our fears from others and to protect ourselves from feeling weak, ashamed, and embarrassed. We are so good at this that sometimes, we even deceive ourselves as to what is provoking us.

Thus, what we say is the reason for our anger may not actually be true.  In some ways, cave men had it easier. They knew what they were fighting over. But, you may not know why a coworker, lover, family member or friend is angry with you~ or you with them. Because:

“Behavior in the human being is sometimes a defense, a way of concealing motivations and thoughts, as language can be a way of hiding your thoughts and preventing communication.” ~ Abraham Maslow quotes (American Philosopher and Psychologists, 1908-1970).

Hence, you can attribute your anger to something outside of you, rather than to your fears and vulnerabilities. Then, your denial, justification, or lie becomes a mask for what is really bothering you. But, there are still signs in the behavior that say: there’s something else going on here. Perhaps, the intensity of the anger doesn’t justify the situation? Or, for example, you may confront the angry person, as to the reason(s) for his anger, but you won’t get a straight answer, even if you do get an apology. You may think he is being difficult. But, really, he’s protecting himself from the shame and embarrassment of being exposed, as if you are a thief trying to rob him of his last dollar.

Protecting one’s Achilles’ heel is a life-and-death matter to the angered person. Seasoned therapists understand well what fear means to their patients. They never take their patients’ defenses away and expose their fears prematurely, without first giving them adequate experience of feeling vulnerable in front of them. If therapists do not do this well, they better be ready to get some pretty hefty anger directed their ways.

Six Fears or Vulnerabilities That Anger Can Mask

Know the truth, and it will set you free. This is certainly true of anger. Know the fears that your anger may be defending against, so that you can learn to get ahead of it. Let’s start now.

Mask One: Anger can be a mask to cover up hurt. To some people, it’s less threatening to show anger than to show that they are hurt. Hurt means they are weak, ineffective, and out of control. This can be hard on intimate relating, because hurt always turns into an angry argument. Feeling ignored, devalued, underestimated, and unlovable are core hurts that stem from our childhood, but can reappear in the relationships that we have today. When our self-esteem is endangered through criticism or rejection, it revives self-doubts. If you see yourself here, you have to work on loving yourself more, so that people and situations do not rock how you feel about yourself. If you feel deficient in some way, you may unconsciously look for situations to express this deficiency as anger toward others, that ends up hurting you and loved ones.

Mask Two: Anger can be a mask to self-soothe inner tension. Some people get angry to relieve themselves of inner tension. These persons’ nervous systems make them especially sensitive to threat, real or imagined, so that they live with a high level of inner discomfort. For them, anger is a psychological salve, especially if they are prone to violence. The excitatory nerve chemical, norepinephrine, gets secreted during the arousal of the anger, which acts as an analgesic for inner tension. That’s why the release of anger can make us feel better, at least temporarily. Internal anger and upset activates the release of norepinephrine that simultaneously numbs physical discomfort. This mask of anger is very harmful to relationships, but nonetheless crucial in enabling many vulnerable people to emotionally survive in them. Hopefully, this is only until they learn better coping mechanisms or get medically treated for this problem.

Mask Three: Anger can be a mask for fears of emotional intimacy. Strangely enough, anger is the safest way for some people to attach to others, especially with regard romantic involvement. People who have difficulty asserting and negotiating their wants and needs often feel unsafe relating to their romantic partners. They are particularly vulnerable to using anger as their main expression of relating. Truly, it’s fascinating to observe couples who primarily relate to each other through anger. In therapy, just when the arguing stops and communication begins, one or both partners move toward anger, once again. It’s all that they know. No one has ever taught them how to express anger constructively, or even more importantly, how to express more intimate, loving feelings. Getting angry is a way they know that they are attached. When I address what their anger is really all about and ask them to express their emotions with “I need and want…”, they feel silly. They verbalize, perhaps for the first time, how uncomfortable intimate dialogue makes them. Intimate relating makes them feel especially vulnerable to  relationships in which they feel easily controlled by others, and having to negotiate needs and wants with their lover makes them feel weak and vulnerable.

Mask Four: Anger can be a smokescreen for self-consciousness. I recall a time when my eldest sister was reading to a group of children that included my brother, at the local library. She began by asking the children their names. When she asked my 6-year old brother what his name was, he became so self-conscious that he jumped up and started hitting her.  Her question surprised him and made him feel self-conscious.  Some people never learn how to deal with their self-conscious feelings without feeling angry. Do you know people who always get irritated in a work meeting or to have to ask confrontational questions? Some of them may actually be combative or oppositional characters. But, some are really just more self-conscious.

Mask Five: Anger can be a mask for self-empowerment, for people who are unassertive. If you find yourself here, you need to learn how to express your needs comfortably and assertively, so they do not explode in an untimely and unhealthy way.

Mask Six: Anger can also be a mask for sadness and grief. Did you ever disclose something painful to a parent, and have him or her yell rather than empathize with you? Hopefully, you realized over time that it was his or her way of dealing with sadness and grief. Anger helps them to feel they can go to battle for you and help you to do battle for yourself, if need be. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that all you really needed was a kind word and a hug.

The more comfortable you get with your fears, the less apt you will be to express them through anger. Many people respond to fear with anger, because human beings don’t like being exposed or open to being harmed and shamed. You’ll have healthier more satisfying relationships, if you start working on these fears today.

There’s nothing more I enjoy than helping you to understand your inner workings and to help you to live the best life possible. If you like my post today, please let me know, by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows. I welcome your comments and thoughts. Warm regards to you, Deborah.

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46 Responses to “Masks of Anger: The Fears That Your Anger May Be Hiding”

  1. avatar Jody Patchman says:

    This was so interesting! I have trouble with blowing up at my mother and then I am so sorry. She is always giving advise to her friends and yet she has a terrible track record herself. I know I should mind my own business but it just eats at me that she is such a smart-ass. She was a terrible mother who paid little attention to her kids and is now living with me. She has little education and gave us no encouragement to succeed, yet she advises women who have degrees and have raised children who are successful in this world and far better off than any of us will ever be. She is just arrogant to me and she pushed humility on me while I was growing up. It makes my teeth hurt!!! Sometimes I just lose it in the most ridiculous ways! I know I am hiding something, but I don’t know what. Which mask am I wearing? What should I do to get beyond this terrible anger I have towards the mother that I otherwise adore? I need to be over this seething anger for her sake AND mine. Love you, Jody

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Jody, I’m so glad the article spoke to you. Although I know the topic is a challenge for you and many people. Jody, I think your anger is a mask for hurt. If you didn’t love her, your problem would be easily solved; you wouldn’t care. But, it’s your ambivalence toward her that makes your “teeth hurt” as you say well. You most likely have voiced some of the things that you say here to her. But, you don’t get relief, because you express your hurt at moments when you feel very angry. This makes makes you feel badly about yourself and takes a toll on you and I’m sure on her, as well. There are a couple of things I’d recommend to you.

      If you haven’t already, you need to voice your hurt toward her at a time when you are not riled up. Feeling vulnerable in front of your mom, crying and letting her know what you missed and needed from her that is not said during a heated argument will make you feel uncomfortable, as it does for most of us. You see this conversation is intimate, rather than angry, and about your deep hurt rather than her unforgivable flaws. If this is too hard to do, write her a letter. Letters prevent both parties from turning a well-intended conversation into a shouting match. You also get to say what you want, without your mom interrupting you. Of course, in describing your pain and hurt, you will most likely use examples of what she did to hurt you. But, when it’s approached through your hurt, your words are more apt to reach her. There’s nothing wrong with saying you are also angry, as long as you keep focused on “I was hurt when you did…, I was in pain, I needed you, rather than “You are this or that”. Saying it this way also gives you an experience in which you can feel good about yourself. Of course, we hate hurting our parents, no matter what they did to us, especially if they are elderly now.

      Okay, the next recommendation is the most challenging for any of us Jody, but very healing for you and your mother, if you can do it. You may even cringe when you read the words that I’m about to say. Jody, on some level, your mom knows her flaw and deficits as a mother, even if she’s denying what she did to you and your siblings. Her attempt to be helpful to her friends is an attempt to see herself as a better caretaker to people than she was able to be you. It’s a way to bolster her self-esteem. Even if she did not walk her own talk, so to speak, as a mother to you, she’s trying to exercise the caring, supportive part of her that she would not or could not do was when she was raising you. Of course, it’s hard to step back and to see that perhaps her current helping behavior is motivated by something other than trying to look good in front of other people. But, nonetheless, this is what you have to do, to get over the pain from the past. You have to try to see your mother as a woman doing the best she can, even though it wasn’t very good. If you evaluate her actions today out of your childhood hurt, of course, your interpretations of her will not be good. There’s a wisdom that I like much; most problems are changed by changing ourselves. And, of course, this is why you ask me this question today. I admire your desire to get beyond your hurt and pain, so you and your mother can start to have a less stressful, more loving relationship. In this, you are not denying your hurt and pain, you are rather making a decision to stay present. Jody, when all is said and done, as you know, all we really have is the moment. She can’t give you back the past, no matter how angry you get at her.

      I’d have a talk with her or write her a letter first describing my hurt in the past. Then, I’d work on myself to stop describing all of her current actions through the eyes of a hurt child. Much love to you Jody. What you are trying to accomplish here is one of the hardest things any of us can do. Deborah.

  2. avatar Deana says:

    Thanks. Great article. It’s an important reminder to think about why others react with anger sometimes. Even if this understanding does not justify their behavior, if it stirs just a little compassion in the person on the receiving end of the tirade, then it might help to prevent a full-scale blow up. I’ll try and keep all this in mind!

  3. avatar Anwer Arain says:

    Dear Doctor Khoshaba,
    When you sincerely and honestly advise your loved ones the ethics and manners and they knowingly ignore them. When your children are very conscious about their rights and expect every facility from you,(take for granted every facility) but do not share the due responsibility they owe to their elders; adopt the policy of avoidance and drift their due responsibilities then if elders comment nothing and instead of grumbling keep quite I think this is the right option instead of creating fuss.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Anwer, thank you for stopping by. First, you have a problem that is quite common today, unfortunately. Many people feel entitled to everything and committed to very little. This is a sad situation. And, you are right, is a problem of responsibility, ethics, and commitment to people other than oneself. I have a couple thoughts with regard to your question. No matter who your loved ones are, children, spouse, siblings, you can relieve yourself by not giving as much of yourself. Anwer, many people, sadly, do not respond to our words, but they do respond to actions. There may be things you can do to protect yourself from feeling used or worn down by them. I do not know the details of your life, so I can’t say what you should do, but I am sure you can find some things to hold back, so you don’t get hurt.

      Also, I understand, you can complain directly to them, and if they do nothing, your complaining only hurts you. But, keeping quiet is also very bad for you physically and mentally. Yes, you are right, making a fuss all the time, with out resolution is not good. But, saying what you want is not the same as making a fuss. Perhaps, voicing your upset feels to you like you are making a fuss, instead of standing up for what you believe. Know the difference, so that you can say what you mean and want. Then, if your loved ones do not show they care to respond to your needs and wishes, you can take action. Again, find ways to not give as much of yourself, so you don’t feel taken advantage of.

      Anwer, I’m glad you read this article. Mask of hurt may be something that is happening for you. Also, if you say what upsets you, you are less apt to be overly angry over time. Expressing your needs and wishes is not the same as inappropriate anger. Don’t let upset and anger eat away at you. It may be good for them, but not for you. I just posted a photo on my Facebook page for Psychology in Everyday Life that says–what may be good for them, may not be good for you. Remember this and take this wisdom to heart.

      Thank you again for writing me and do not hesitate to write me again. Warmly, Deborah.

  4. avatar milli says:

    i have a question regarding myself i get angry when i expect alot from just a single person i dont know whether it means i like him or not but still i get angry when he dont talk to me but is talking to everyother person around except me..can you help please??

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Milli, I’m happy to respond to your question. If this person is someone whom you have romantic interest, then I would say you are hurt or feeling rejected if he doesn’t talk with you. You feel anger, but it is most likely because you are feeling hurt.

      I like what you say about expecting a lot from a single person. You’re right; expectations can make us hurt is they are not met, which can make us angry. You need to check to see how reasonable your expectations are. If they are unreasonable, then, you will want to work on them, so that you don’t set yourself up for feeling hurt.

      Milli thank you so much for sharing with me. You asked a very good question. Warmly Deborah.

  5. avatar Amina says:

    This is so interesting. Now I can understand y people treat me with anger, y I get anger with others with whom I really don’t want. I’ll definitely try to find the masks of my anger n then I’ll control it. Thanks for sharing it.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Amina, good to say hello to you today. thank you for your comment. I’m so glad that this article helped you to understand anger better. This pleases me very much. The more you know about yourself and what motivates other people, the more you can control your response (as you say well, here). Be well Amina. Warmly Deborah.

  6. avatar sana says:

    v nice article…….but how can wecope with these circumstances????? anger make feel like am in hell…….

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Sana. Understanding is the first step in coping with an anger problem. If you have a tendency to react quickly to stress, rejection and hurt with anger, then you want to specify the themes of the communications and situations that tend to make you angry. The more you understand what drives your anger, the more able you will be to think through what you are expecting from the situation that makes you angry and then change it. Also, Sana, you want to see if you have a high level of body tension that may lead to quick, angry reactions. Often people who have anger problems have a lot of body tension (high body arousal). The more relaxed the body is the more calm the mind and better able you will be to control your actions. I hope this helps for now. Warmly Deborah.

  7. avatar bille says:

    hi.
    i have a completely different question.. i m afraid of a girl but infact she is afraid of me.. i look for her every where but i can not go in front of her. how i know she is afraid of me, my friend is one of her friends …….
    i have never been afraid of anything …. nothing… not a single person.. i have like .. many ….

    i just want to know… what is that feeling…..
    plz help me

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Bille, it sounds like you like her a lot Bille. Perhaps, you are more shy because you like her so much. This is what it sounds like to me. That you don’t fear her as much as you have anxiety because you like her so much. This is understandable Bille. Many, many people act the same way when they have romantic interest in a person. Warm regards to you, Deborah.

  8. avatar Allex says:

    Dear Dr Khoshaba
    I have always battled with controlling my temper but with new stresses in life new anger has entered. For the past days I have been waking up angry, my dreams id remember but they were nothing that would usually make me angry. I am currently transefering colleges that has been stressing me. But since reading your article i realise I am in fear, but what do I do with waking up with the anger. My dad suffers depression but that the only form of disorder in our family.. Please help?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Allex, thank you for taking the time to comment today. Many people have a hard time with expressing anger and controlling it. But, you are right to try to understand it and learn how to deal with your anger. Allex, the stress of transferring schools can make you angry. Stress arouses the excitatory nervous system which releases chemicals that can make us angry. I don’t know how you handle stress in general, but you may be a person who is reactive to stress and releases it through anger. Think about if this is relevant to you. Also, you are right to think about depression here too. Depression is often a mask for anger, as you know. Allex, it’s good that you have the awareness that fear may be driving your anger. Know that in time, your fear of the school change will lower as soon as you get used to the new situation. You may want to talk to a school counselor about the anxiety and fear you have over the change. They are very skilled in helping you think through the stressful change and coping until you establish yourself at your new school I wish you the very best dear. Warmly Deborah.

  9. avatar Madaline says:

    Deborah
    Thanks for explaining that depression is a mask for anger! Can you expand on this a little more for me.
    Thanks
    Madaline

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Madaline, you are welcome. What I mean by a mask is that our anger often hides feelings of our hurt and feeling of threat. Many of us don’t like admitting when someone has hurt us or threatens us. It’s easier for us to say, we are angry than to say “You hurt me.” This is why we use anger to mask deeper feelings of hurt and vulnerability. I hope this helps. Warmly Deborah.

  10. avatar Fatima says:

    Dear Deborah, I am writing to you after a very long time. I hope you are doing good. :)This article of yours is pretty interesting. You have shared very practical information here as you always do. During my internship period at a psychiatric hospital, learning about these masks have been very helpful in managing clients and building rapport with them. 🙂 But there are few things that I want to know more.
    1. What do people with narcissistic personality disorder have anger outbursts?
    2. What can be the possible coping ways to manage emotions for people who are emotionally unstable on 16 pf?

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Fatima, I am very well. Thank you for asking. I hope you are very well. I am sure that you have encountered many types of anger masks in your work setting.

      First, you are spot on in question 1– Narcissistic people get very angry when they feel other people do not value them as highly as they value themselves or they feel disrespected in some way. But, important here is that they have a very fragile self-esteem, although they like to appear like they don’t care. They are easily offended and this is why narcissistic people get angry quite easily.
      2. Okay, I think you are speaking about Raymond Cattell’s personality assessment test called the 16 PF (16 personality factors that evaluate one’s personality style and defensive patterns, coping mechanisms, and self control amongst other things). You ask an excellent question but it also has many answers. We have to first know why there is emotional instability. As you know by your work, this may be due to some mood disorder, like Bipolar 1 or 2 disorders, which makes one vulnerable to swings of mood and self-control. And, it can be due to some immaturity of coping mechanisms unrelated to biology. We can learn how to stabilize our moods by knowing what emotional stability means in thought, feeling and behavior.

      People who are emotionally stable are able to evaluate their feelings against reason and to consider the meaning of their responses without acting their emotions out negatively and impulsively. So, to help someone to stabilize emotions we have to help them to apply reason and thought to their feelings. It’s good to examine what they feel and what it means to them. But, also very important to emotional stability is a calm body and mind. People who are emotionally unstable — meaning they respond quickly to changes going on inside and outside of them, are often tense or not relaxed enough. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises, exercise like yoga and running help to lower body arousal and allow one to think through what is happening to them rather than just react impulsively to everything.

      I hope this helps for now Fatima. Good to say hello and thank you always for tuning in here. Warmly Deborah.

  11. avatar Amber Harvey says:

    I’m a school counsellor and found your information a helpful reminder about why we humans act angry when we’re basically afraid.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Amber and thank you for your service and dedication to helping people. Best to you. Hope to see you here again soon. Warmly Deborah.

  12. avatar Lvp says:

    Hi Dr. Deborah Khoshaba,

    This article has really spoken to me. I have always had a short temper around my close family. When I was really young my Mum and my Dad broke up. My Dad was very childish through the whole thing and would often leave and not come back for two weeks. I now realise that he was the bad one in the relationship and that my mother made the right decision by leaving him. When this was happening I took my anger out on my mum though. Mum in my eyes was the boss so I thought that it was her fault and her decision. I am still angry at my dad but have never taken it out on him, but instead take my anger out on my mum about my Dad :/? Have tried to fix it but to no avail.

  13. avatar Trinn says:

    I know this article was written awhile ago but I was hoping that you would respond. How do you work out which mask you are operating from? I feel like I’ve got them all at some stage. I know that I over react and feel hurt at sometimes the smallest provocation, not even ones personally directed at me, but at other times can withstand and ignore blatant abuse from others. I feel like I contradict myself and am confused. I’d like to work out what it is so I can work on not feeling so hurt and reactive.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Trinn, you make a good point. Sometimes, many of the masks operate in us. We are apt to respond with anger (hurt beneath) the more a person or situation is important to us in some way. I think it is a sure thing to know that hurt underlies most of our anger. It’s so hard, as I say in the post, to say we are hurt; much easier to respond with anger. Hurt makes us feel so vulnerable, needy and none of us like to appear this way. But it really is a sign of emotional health and strength to be able to know we are hurt and to be able to say it. Many people mistake that saying they are hurt is a sign of weakness. This is very wrong.

      As I review the masks–the hurt, self-consciousness, and self-assertiveness come to mind here. I say these without really knowing you, because they generally apply to most of us who get angry in situations that challenge us emotionally in some way. Trinn, the next time you feel irritated and over reactive–I want you to reflect exactly upon the situation. You most likely have to do this afterward at first.

      *Ask yourself, what about the communication or interaction irritated me?
      *Next, ask yourself, did I feel challenged somehow, insecure, did I feel exposed emotionally somehow, or did I feel hurt? You will find most likely that several of these apply.
      *Then, I want you to ask yourself, did this situation that provoked me resemble something from my past? Am I overly sensitive about this particular issue?

      Remember, anger has its rightful place in our lives as long as we express it healthily. It is really over-reactions and hypersensitivity that we are questioning here. When we over-react, we are over-personalizing the communication or happening. It means we are not able to hear or experience something without taking it as an insult or wound to us. You might want to take a look at two posts I’ve written on mindfulness and self talk. You’ll find information in them that will help you to better understand why you are personalizing/dramatizing communications and ways to stop doing this. Thank you for your sincere efforts to learn and grow. It’s wonderful Trinn. Warm regards, Deborah.
      ***here are the posts I mentioned:
      Self-Talk: What You Say To Yourself Matters

      and
      Become Mindful, Take Charge of Your Life

  14. avatar ted says:

    Deborah,

    Thank you for this article as has given me a little better perspective on fear and anger. I am a recovering addict with 18 months clean with 2 young children. Going through a divorce and custody battle. I struggle with allowing my children to see their mother more, out of fear. After reading this article i realized my fears are more about who I was, and where I feel I should be today. Im hoping the 12 step process I have embarked on 18 months will give me some relief.

    Ted

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Ted, you are very welcome. Congratulations, Ted. It’s wonderful for you and your children that you have 18 months clean. I”m so pleased for you. And to do it under such stress says a lot about your courage, strength and character. I’m glad the article gave you insight into some of your fears. Self knowledge is power as you know. I have treated people through the years who were in the 12 step process and let me say that I could not have helped them without the support of a 12 step program. So, you are doing everything right Ted. Just keep one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Take good care. Warm regards Deborah.

  15. avatar Janet Lane says:

    Hi Deborah

    I have read your article with interest as I have suffered the effects of anger most of my life. It is only recently having done research on the internet that I realised that my childhood was blighted by narcissistic parenting (mother) and that I have been reliving the same scenario in my adult relationships.

    I suffer from OCD and found it very interesting that perfectionism stems from fear. This makes a lot of sense to me as I was shouted at constantly as a child. I have recently learned how to soothe the anger inside me by acknowledging where the anger comes from and allowing myself permission to do the things I was never validated to achieve as a child.

    I have developed several facets during my journey and the most recent of these is a logically/emotionally aware facet which understands what my emotions require but deal with difficult situations and people with empathy and understanding. However, at the same time I have realised that it is also important to be logical and firm and not a pushover as this just increases the anger.

    I am about to embark on writing a book about my experiences as after I had therapy I found no assistance or information from people who had been through a similar experience. It will cover the many facets that we all have and how they see the world as well as the hidden conflicts that we experience in our daily lives.

    Thank you for the useful help and guidance which you offer.

    Best wishes

    Janet
    Isle of Man

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Janet, your soul searching has given you much insight into yourself and the issues of anger. Yes, what you say here is right. Narcissistic parenting can leave children very angry. They are denied their right to express their own thoughts and feelings and are controlled through perfectionism. I’m sure because you understand the source of your anger so much better, you are now able to control it and replace with understanding and empathy instead. I’m looking forward to reading your book on the topic, Janet. Thank you for taking time to comment today. Warm regards Deborah.

  16. avatar Dolores says:

    I’ve a different take on why your then 6-year-old brother slugged your sister when she asked his name: Maybe, in his own mind, he thought his sister FORGOT who he was or was PRETENDING to not know him. This could especially be true if they had a close, positive relationship.

    Few things in this world feel worse than being intentionally disappeared, especially when the shunned doesn’t know why.

    I speak from experience: 2 years ago I was mistakenly accused of a sex crime. I’d never been accused of a crime in my 50 years of life before then. The case was eventually closed as unfounded. No charges were filed. But the investigation itself ruined my reputation, robbed me of nearly all my friends, & got me fired, unjustly, because police kept questioning more people when they didn’t get the answers they wanted or that they thought were the truth.

    When I found out about the investigation, 2 months after it had started, & eventually read the police report, I was ANGRY with not just police but with friends and acquaintances. It became clear why people hadn’t returned calls, responded to emails, etc.: They’d intentionally DISAPPEARED me! Even after the case was closed, things never returned to normal. Only 1 friend stuck with me: She was the lone 1 whom police hadn’t questioned. It was a small, isolated city & I couldn’t get another living wage job, so we put the house on the market & moved out of state. House still hasn’t sold.

    It is PAINFUL to be forgotten & disappeared. I think that’s why your brother hit her. I sure would have liked to slap some of those “friends” who shunned me & didn’t even tell me or bother to ask for my side of the story.

  17. avatar gabby says:

    I get mad at random moments I think I know what im masking is sadness but the after I tell myself that I get mad the I feel hurt and mad again I school everyone but 2 people don’t talk because they are afaid I will “go off” and hurt or kill them and that gets me mad. I also get mad at anything and everything somebody says hi I “light” they hug me I “light ect. what do I do

  18. I don’t know what I was more impressed by: your post or the amazing dialogue that followed it. Your readers responded were very candid, and your responses were empathetic and compassionate. I’ve been thinking about anger and fear for a few days and decided to research the subject. Your post was the first and only one I read. You covered the subject in a way that made it possible to identify which of those masks I’m wearing. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is; now, I know. Thank you so much!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Bobbi, thank you – I agree the dialogue and disclosing from people is amazing. I continue to learn so much from everyones experience on the topics I write about. I wish you well in your research on anger and fears. Thank you again Bobbi, hope to see you here again soon. Warm regards Deborah.

  19. avatar A.Avery says:

    My wife gets hugely angry at any given moment , with no regards too anyone – her outburst of anger has no boundaries… how can I get her too realize her actions are taking its toll on our marriage ..

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello A.: Outbursts of destructive anger that “has no boundaries” is very damaging to relationships. It’s damaging to the spouse, the relationship and to the children.

      I don’t know what you have tried already. Of course, the first thing you must do is to say clearly how you feel about her anger. If you think this will bring out an outburst, I’d suggest couple’s counseling to have the conversation. This way a skilled counselor can help to guide the conversation so that it is constructive. Also, if you think she might be receptive, you might guide her to some articles/readings where she can look into the effects of anger on families.

      Some people who have anger outbursts do not appreciate how they affect others, because outside of the explosions they are loving, responsible family members. Their defend against this awareness by ideas like; “But, I’m not always like that.” Or, “They should know I love them, no matter what I do or say when I’m angry; I don’t really mean those it.” They need to know, their actions and words are not easily forgotten and how the outbursts rock everyone at their core.

      A. there’s a wonderful book that is a classic in the field. It’s called the Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner: Here’s the link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dance-Anger-Changing-Patterns-Relationships-ebook/dp/B00F2I2H56/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465923023&sr=1-1&keywords=dance+of+anger+by+harriet+lerner

      You might suggest she get the book or get it for her. Again, if you think this will incite her anger, then I’d suggest again going to a couple counselor who will help to guide the conversation in a healthy way. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards, Deborah
      I think the best thing to do is go to a couple counselor to address this issue. They can be very helpful. I wish you and your mate well. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards, Deborah.

  20. avatar George says:

    Hi, glad to meet you, i run my own flooring company and i get very angry if the least thing goes wrong, like if a customer is unhappy with the way a carpet is fitted etc, it makes me angry that it is not done perfect, any unhappy customer i just hit the roof.
    Also i always feel inferior to everyone, as if everyone is better than me and i always try to be so nice but deep down i want to attack them to show them that im superior to them,

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello George, happy to meet you too 🙂 George are you a perfectionist? Now, I know that we have a responsibility to deliver excellent work but still if you are a perfectionist, this adds to your stress when things don’t go as you wished for. This in combination with a sensitive, or excitable nervous system can give rise to immediate anger. You give me good information about yourself, to help me understand the anger issue. Yes, I’m not surprised that you feel inferior – most likely stemming from your childhood. Insecurity often underlies people who have perfectionist issues.

      This being said, you can work on the issues you describe here. George, I have a couple articles I’d like you to read. An article called What you say to yourself matters – helps to explain the relationship between the thoughts about us that run through our mind (like everyone is better than you)that actually fuels emotional responses. Here’s a link to the article:

      And, finally, an article called Conquer Anger Through Self Awareness.

      You can definitely make this problem better George. Practice the ideas talked about in the articles I post here.

      Warm regards to you George and thank you again for taking the time to comment today.

  21. avatar B.W says:

    thanks for posting this! love it!

    i am 16, my mom is a housewife, and she usually stays at home. when she stays at home for a long time without going anywhere, she would be very sensitive. she would always nags or mocks about all the little things, especially during her PMS period, and it’s worse when i’m on holiday (at home) because my sis and i are around her all day, and everything we do, she would hate it. it’s like she never gets satisfied until someone finally get angry too and fight with her (i wonder it’s because she would finally feels better when she let her anger blow up?)

    my sister has a problem with her anger as well, and when my mom mocks her, my sister(17) gets mad and she always turn violence (knife {she tried to stabbed my mom}, jumping from second floor in my house, dropped out of school, throwing mugs and plates, choke my housemaids and grandparents, etc). i was so scared because my sister is strong, and now everytime my mom started to talk or just tell her to do something, i would be scared, so i told my mother, if she wants my sister to do something (ex: don’t play gadget too much) just tell me so i will tell my sis to stop (without telling her that my mom is the one who ask her to stop playing gadget (she hates mom))
    as time pass by, i got really tired about ‘my task’, i felt that i have become my sister slave, plus i got pressured a lot, sometimes my mother would threat me like :
    1. tell your sister to stop playing gadget and go to bed, or I will break the gadget. do you want me to fight with her again?’
    (my mom once break her laptop to pieces, and she got really mad, we need 3 men to hold her down until she calmed down)
    2. go to bed right now. remember how i and your sister fight? do you want it to happen again?

    i’m personally the type of person who doesn’t want to obey any threats, but i should anyway, because i don’t want anymore trouble at home. so i got really pressured, and i have so much anger and frustation inside because of that (i always feel the anger on my chest, but i couldn’t express it anyway)

    at the same time, i feel so unfair. when i tell my sister to stop playing gadget and go to bed, i will pretend to sleep so that my sister would stop faster, and during that time, because i do nothing, i sometimes think about the past (my sister and my mother fights) which always bother me a lot and get me really stressed out. it’s like, it’s so unfair, I am never the trouble maker, and I (along with my dad) have always been the victim when they fight. i think about how easy life is for my mom and my sis, for not worrying about these things, and that they could express her anger whenever they want to.

    because of those things, i used to feel so alone and think how everyone else is so lucky to have a harmonious family and a much better life than me. I used to listen to sad music and cry every night. but now, i have already told 2 people about my problems and i don’t feel so alone anymore, and rather than sad, i’m holding so much anger inside me. now i easily get so angry about little things.

    and recently, there was a time when my mom is supposed to be on her PMS, but she went to a party with her best friends, and she got really happy, kind, and so lovable for two weeks straight.

    what i want to ask is :
    1. I have so much anger inside me, and i could feel it on my chest. what should i do? i’m afraid anger would control me, and i don’t want to be a bad person.
    2. what do you think about my mom? is her anger normal for her age? does she have an anger management issue or something? and what about my sister? she shows no remorse of what she’s done to us (well probably that’s because of her beliefs about fate)
    3. when people get angry, i always feel their anger and i started to get angry too, and if people around me are happy, sometimes i would feel happy, sometimes i would feel tired from their energy and happiness, but sometimes it’s not really affecting me. why is that? how could i change that? i don’t want to feel people’s anger or feelings, it’s making me feel the same. (especially my mom, since she feels angry all the time, i feel angry all the time too)
    4. when my sister is not at home or sleeping, i would got really happy and i feel safe. why i don’t feel happy when she is around? does that means that i don’t love her and as long as there is peace, i don’t care about her? am i super selfish? what should i do about this?

    please help me dr. deborah 🙂 I really need your explanations about my questions.

    ps. sorry if it’s too long and the explanations sucks. sorry about my grammar mistakes too, my english is not good.

    • avatar B.W says:

      oh about my mom, when i tell her ‘you’re wrong, dont mock her’ she would always says ‘you blamed me? she was the one who started it blah blah blah’
      i mean that’s not the point, i was trying to tell her that she was wrong, im not blaming her,
      I have always tried to explain it to her but she doesn’t seem to understand me.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Good Morning Bianca 🙂 Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’m so glad this article spoke to you. That’s why I began this blog, to support people on their journey to a freer, happier life through understandings.

      Your English is excellent Bianca. I understand you very well. First, I understand your hurt and anger. You have been put in a position that a young adult should never be put in. To be asked to act as your sister’s parent is simple UNFAIR.

      You are right to be concerned about the anger in your mom, and especially in your sister. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Although I cannot diagnose people I have never met; I can give you some good ideas of what may be happening in your home and hopefully something you can do to take care of yourself in this situation and be safe.

      Let me answer your questions directly here:

      1. I have so much anger inside me, and i could feel it on my chest. what should i do? i’m afraid anger would control me, and i don’t want to be a bad person.
      To understand your anger is the first way of controlling it and finding healthy ways to release it. This is the problem your mom and sister have: they don’t understand the feelings driving their anger, so they can’t express it in healthier ways. I think this is especially true of your mother. Hurt is often a mask for anger. I see why this article spoke to you. You are hurt. Every person would feel the same way in this situation. I see that you already have begun the process of searching out understanding and trying to help yourself. Bravo, Bianca. This is what your mother and sister should be doing. If you haven’t so far, I have another article on anger management called: Conquer Your Anger.

      The best thing I can do here to help you (because I’m not treating you) is to recommend some positive ways to manage your anger. Your anger is telling you – this situation feels impossible to me. You feel stuck. I’d like you to begin searching out deep breathing exercises to bring your body and mind release and back to being centered. There’s one I always recommend to people that I use also to get more centered, to relax, and to reduce any anxious upset thoughts I may be having.

      I’m putting the link to a YouTube video that teaches an ancient breathing technique called Alternate Nostril Breathing. Here’s the link to it. How to Balance Yourself through Alternate Nostril Breathing.

      Anger, as you know, disrupts our body and mental calm. When we feel anger, the calm, smooth rhythm of our breathing gets disrupted that over excites our body and mind and increases our upset, angry feelings. By focusing on returning our breathing to a smooth and calm rhythm, we at the same time lower the arousal in our body and mind that is worsening our upset. The aim is to balance breathing through the nostrils. I use this myself Bianca to promote sleep when my mind is very active. It really works. You have to do it for at least ten to 15 minutes.

      2. what do you think about my mom? is her anger normal for her age? does she have an anger management issue or something? and what about my sister? she shows no remorse of what she’s done to us (well probably that’s because of her beliefs about fate).
      It sounds like your mom doesn’t know what lies beneath her frustrations and feelings. She acts out these unexpressed emotions through anger. This isn’t good for her health or for her children’s well being and happiness. Is it normal? I think that it’s more unhealthy – an unhealthy way of expressing her tension, frustrations, and upset/anxiety. She would get so much better if she just admitted to herself the feelings underlying her anger instead of taking it out on her children. I wish for you and her that she gets some help for this. Bianca, chronic irritability and anger can point to depression. At the least, it says that your mom is very physically and mentally tense.

      3. when people get angry, i always feel their anger and i started to get angry too, and if people around me are happy, sometimes i would feel happy, sometimes i would feel tired from their energy and happiness, but sometimes it’s not really affecting me. why is that? how could i change that? i don’t want to feel people’s anger or feelings, it’s making me feel the same. (especially my mom, since she feels angry all the time, i feel angry all the time too).

      I can tell you are a sensitive person. This isn’t a bad thing because you can have empathy for what others are feelings. The negative side of beings emotionally sensitive (being able to tune into other people’s feelings) it’s a burden to our body and mind. I think the first thing you can do when you feel another’s upset/anger/tension is to say to yourself: “This is not me.” “I can be calm and happy even though my mom, sister or anyone else is mad or upset”. You see the first thing we must do is to create a boundary that says “I am me.” “I am not this person.” You repeat this to yourself whenever you can. You’ll see, eventually, you begin to own the statement “I am me, not them.”

      4. when my sister is not at home or sleeping, i would got really happy and i feel safe. why i don’t feel happy when she is around? does that means that i don’t love her and as long as there is peace, i don’t care about her? am i super selfish? what should i do about this? You don’t feel happy when she’s around because she causes a lot of tension at home and may I say is scary because she will go to the length of pulling a knife out when she’s angry. Also, when she isn’t home – mom can’t tell you to tell your sister this or that. It is really emotionally unfair for your mother to tell you things like she will break the gadget and then she and your sister will really fight. Don’t be manipulated by these kinds of statements. You may want to calmly explain to your mom that: “You don’t want to act for her.” “It’s not fair to put YOU in between her and your sister.”

      I don’t know your culture and if your mother can except you saying no to her requests about your sister. I’ll let you be the judge of this and what is best for you to do Bianca.

      Let me recommend something for you before I end today. If you are in school, you may want to talk to a counselor or someone whom you trust to share your feelings about this situation. You take good care Bianca. I’m wishing for you positive resolution. Also, please know that in time, family conflicts often resolve themselves.

      Warm regards, Deborah.

  22. avatar ojam says:

    Hi, DR. Deborah, thank you for this article. This article has made things a little easier for me. My problem is that when I get angry, I can go into a psychotic rage. Unfortunately, I only get this angry with my sister (she is 3yrs older than me). She is a narcissist, so I don’t expect any sympathy from her. What i don’t understand is the cause behind it. I’ve tried to understand the reason behind it, but I seem to have hit a wall. For the record, she is the only one that makes me go into a rage, no one else. Also, I can’t avoid her because she lives in the same house.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] a part-time caregiver to her mother who lives with her.  Jody’s situation is poignant (Masks of Anger, Comment by Jody. P). Jody […]

  2. […] 2.  Your instincts about your husband being deeply sad are probably correct.  Underneath great anger is usually sadness. Masks of Anger: The Fears That Your Anger May Be Hiding […]


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