Anger is a natural human emotion that all of us experience at some point in our lives. It can be triggered by a variety of situations, such as feeling threatened or frustrated, experiencing disappointment or betrayal, or perceiving an injustice or unfairness. While anger in itself is not necessarily difficult to identify, it is often accompanied by other underlying feelings that can be hard to acknowledge and process. A deeper understanding of these underlying feelings can help us better manage our anger and lead to healthier relationships and communication.
The Iceberg Method is a popular metaphor used in therapy to help people understand the way anger is often manifested. The metaphor compares an iceberg to our emotions, where the tip of the iceberg represents our visible anger, and the larger part of the iceberg under the sea represents the underlying emotions. This metaphor is useful because anger is often the result of underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, insecurity, or frustration. We often react with anger because we feel hurt, unvalued, or rejected. When someone says or does something that hurts us, we may feel angry and react impulsively, without even recognizing the underlying emotional trigger.
One common underlying feeling of anger is fear. When we feel threatened or vulnerable, our natural response may be to become angry as a means of self-protection. For example, a person who has a fear of abandonment may become angry when their partner suggests spending time apart, as their anger is a way of avoiding the vulnerability and pain of feeling rejected. Similarly, a person who has experienced trauma may become angry as a way of numbing their fear and appearing strong and resilient.
Another underlying feeling of anger is hurt or pain. It is often easier to express anger than to show vulnerability or admit to feeling hurt or sad. Therefore, it is common for individuals to express anger when they are really feeling something else. For instance, when someone feels betrayed by a loved one, they may get angry as a way of showing that their trust has been violated. However, underneath that anger, there is a deeper sense of hurt and disappointment. It can be challenging to sit with those difficult emotions, causing us to lash out in anger instead.
Guilt, embarrassment, or shame are other underlying feelings that can contribute to anger. When we feel guilty or ashamed of our own actions or behavior, we may become angry as a way of deflecting responsibility or avoiding accountability. This can lead to a cycle of blame and defensiveness, which can damage relationships and prevent personal growth and change.
Using the Iceberg Method, we can explore many different underlying emotions that cause our anger. We can ask ourselves questions such as “Why am I feeling like this?” or “What is making me angry?” Digging deeper into our emotions can help to identify the source of our anger, which is often related to our deeper fears, insecurities, and past experiences. In addition, sometimes our anger can be based on misunderstandings or personal biases. It is important to take a step back and evaluate whether your anger is justified or if you are simply reacting based on assumptions. Anger can also be a learning experience. Take the time to reflect on the situation and consider if there is anything you can learn from it that could help you in the future.
While anger can be a challenging emotion to deal with, it is possible to overcome it. The Iceberg Method helps us to understand that managing our anger requires more than just controlling our impulses. We need to be mindful of our emotions, explore the deeper emotions hidden beneath the surface, and learn to respond to situations in a more constructive way. For many people, exploring the feelings associated with anger in a safe environment, such as in therapy with a trusted professional, is highly beneficial. Not only can therapy help you identify the root causes of your anger, but it can also teach you techniques to manage and regulate your emotions. A therapist provides a safe space for you to express your feelings without fear of judgment or consequences, which can in turn lead to increased self-awareness and personal growth. Anger should never be something to be ashamed of – we all deal with difficult emotions from time to time. With time and practice, we can learn to let go of anger and focus on the positive, healthier aspects of our lives.
Written by Lauren Presutti