Sometimes I get angry at the oddest things. If my wife points out a legitimate criticism (You left the freezer open all night… You forgot to pay this bill… The lawn’s looking kinda ragged…), I feel angry. A couple months ago when I used an online pricing service to book a weekend get-away and upon arrival discovered they probably gave us the worst available room, I felt angry when my wife expressed disappointment, even though I agreed with her completely. Sometimes my anger hardly makes sense, but I feel it anyway.
In situations like these, I’ve learned that my anger is really an indication of something deeper going on. When I’m criticized (or something I am responsible for is criticized), I feel shamed. Somebody is pointing out an inadequacy in me and instead of being honest about the embarrassement or disappointment, I get angry. Being honest about the deeper feelings requires vulnerability, but being angry keeps me “in control.”
It’s that way with nearly every expression of anger; another feeling, more significant, is below it. If you want to use anger in a healthy way, let it be a signal that something more important is going on. Try to identify the deeper feeling and have conversations about that rather than just letting anger take its course.
Think of it this way: anger is like a fishing bobber, jerking on the surface of the water, agitated by a fish underneath. So when anger comes, let it be the bobber telling you you’ve got a FISH on the hook. Find out what kind of FISH is there. It will likely be one of these:
- F Fear: feeling afraid, threatened, insecure
- I Inhibition: feeling frustrated because something or someone is blocking you from a goal, keeping you from getting what you want
- S Shame: feeling guilty, embarrassed
- H Hurt: feeling physical or emotional pain
Next time your bobber starts bouncing, go for the FISH.