By Lindsay Dodgson
In psychology, anger is a secondary emotion. This means there is typically always another emotion underneath it, such as sadness or feeling hurt.
Often, anger is so all encompassing that it’s hard to decipher what it’s being fuelled by. According to Avrum Weiss in a blog post for Psychology Today, anger is “the only emotion that is socially acceptable for men,” so it may be the one they tend to be most comfortable expressing.
While women are more likely to direct their anger inwards and search for a way to blame themselves, men are more likely to lash out, Weiss said, because it helps them feel more in control of their own emotions, as well as potentially controlling the people around them too.
“Both men and women have been poorly served by the gender socialization they have received,” said psychologist Sandra Thomas in a post for the American Psychological Association. “Men have been encouraged to be more overt with their anger. If [boys] have a conflict on the playground, they act it out with their fists. Girls have been encouraged to keep their anger down.”
Often, men are pushing down other feelings underneath the rage, and according to Weiss, it’s usually fear.
For instance, if a man is angry about their partner texting her friends late at night, this may be covering up the fear that she doesn’t enjoy his company as much as theirs. Fury over their partner coming home late from work may be caused by jealousy and the fear the partner is more successful.
“Once you begin to recognize some of the deeper fears underlying your anger, you might consider the truly intimate act of talking with your wife/partner about some of your fears,” Weiss said. “This act of loving vulnerability may be very frightening to consider, but the rewards often far outweigh the risks.”
According to Healthy Psych, if you feel angry, you should pause and check in with yourself to see if you can feel anything else driving it. When an emotion like sadness or fear shifts to anger, it usually happens pretty quickly and you may not have registered it at all.
“Feeling anger may be an ingrained habit for you, which means that it can take more time to identify the deeper thoughts and feelings that lie underneath,” the post says. “By working with the fear, sadness, or both, you will develop more skillful ways of relating to your anger.”
For instance, you may find you can deal with some unresolved grief, or you start relating to your partner better than you did before.
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