When you are really angry you may feel your heart race, your hands or teeth may clench, or your voice tone may come out louder than normal. Anger is an instant reaction; your brain sends a signal to your fight/flight receptors that something isn't right and prepares to fight. Anger is often a visible emotion, but typically there are many layers of other emotions underneath the surface.
Comparing anger to an iceberg is a great analogy. Picture a large ice mound that looks like it's floating on top of the water, but underneath the surface of the water there is a massive mountain of ice. What you see above the surface can be misleading because there is so much more of the iceberg that is hidden from view.
Think of your anger as the part of the iceberg that is visible. Below the surface there are emotions you can't see unless you take the time to investigate. Those emotions might include jealousy, loneliness, exhaustion, shame, or heartbreak. Realizing that there are other emotions connected to your anger will help you to better understand your feelings and actions.
The next time something or someone annoys you or makes you angry, do an emotion check. What emotion(s) is your anger reacting to? What are the layers of emotion under your anger? Try to examine the emotions that you're having, both on the surface and underneath. Doing this helps you understand that there is typically more going on behind that initial burst of anger you feel.
When you see the Anger Iceberg ahead, take the following precautions so it doesn't "sink your ship:"
- Start with Managing Your Anger so you can focus on the emotions underneath the surface.
- Identify the feelings you have on the surface and those that might be lurking beneath the surface.
- Try our Iceberg worksheet.
- Reflect, do some journaling. The more you explore your feelings, the more you will be able to see a solution. Try to answer these questions:
- On a scale of 1-10 – How angry am I?
- Why is this situation making me so angry?
- What layers of emotion is my anger trying to cover up? (Hint: the more intense your anger is, the more emotions it's likely covering up.)
- Are other situations leading to a buildup of anger?
- Talk to a trusted friend or adult. Sometimes when things are intense it helps just to vent your thoughts and feelings to a third party.
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