The Fear of Anger
Nov 01, 2016 06:39PM
● By Bill White
The fear (actually, terror) of another’s anger can be very strong in people who had childhood trauma from either witnessing anger expressed toward others we loved or from being attacked by anger ourselves. This fear is especially pronounced in family and love relationships, where we can become lax with the typical social norms of being relatively cordial.
We also have a fear of our own anger. Because we so despise anger being expressed like we received or witnessed as a child, we despise anger in ourselves and have a hard time accepting it or forgiving it. It can be healing to do some self-forgiveness processing around the times when we have been the one reacting in anger toward another, or when we have harmed others by suppressing and denying our anger (or their anger).
Because we are afraid of anger, we have intricate coping mechanisms to prevent anger and arguments. The common ones include: chronically avoiding dealing with anger and conflict; fanatically attempting to control circumstances and people so that there is no conflict and emotional upset; blaming others for causing us to feel upset; ignoring anything upsetting or potentially upsetting; ignoring or minimizing the upsets of others; and unconsciously denying being upset, when the opposite is true.
All these mechanisms actually create and sustain the very anger and arguing that we are so intent on avoiding. These are fight-or-flight responses that we are strongly pulled to employ—even when they don’t work.
The solution to all of this is to commit ourselves to learning how to navigate anger and conflict—to face it directly. There are various approaches that one can study and practice. Some processes one can learn are Marshall Rosenberg’s Compassionate Nonviolent Communication and Byron Katie’s “The Work” (TheWork.com). Because the influence of emotional trauma from childhood can have a strong influence, one would benefit from work that directly addresses childhood trauma, such as Harville Hendrix’s Imago Therapy, Margaret Paul’s Inner Bonding and Teal Swan’s The Completion Process.
This is rewarding, but sometimes hard, emotional work. Most people would benefit from occasional one-on-one assistance with a skilled professional.