Anger And Vulnerability
Especially for males in our society the expression of anger often acts as a mask for the threatening sense of vulnerability underneath. This is classic reaction formation, which is the tendency of a repressed wish or feeling to be expressed at a conscious level in a contrasting form.
Anger acts as a sort of default emotion for a lot of people precisely because when they’re burning hot they don’t feel vulnerable at all, they feel like righteous conquerers ready to take on the world, ready to right various wrongs, ready to stand up for themselves, ready to decimate whatever or whoever stands in their way. And through the expression of anger they often achieve another vitally felt need of throwing the intimates in their lives off the scent, of keeping these people at arm’s length so that they’re not allowed to dig into whatever the real problem is, the problem that’s cueing off those unwanted feelings of vulnerability.
Of course sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes anger is just anger, it isn’t covering for anything else but is the authentic response to an unjust situation. However, the fact that so many males spend so much time in the state of anger, the fact that they aren’t really able to name many other ways that they feel throughout the day, should be our first clue that, for a lot of people, anger is the emotion that feels safest not the emotion that best fits the situation. Anger takes over the emotional apparatus to such an extent that there isn’t much room left for consciously experiencing much else.
We can gain a lot of empathy and compassion for people who feel and express anger all the time where before we just felt put off, frustrated, and hurt when we realize that underneath it all they’re not strong, confident, mean, or aggressive but rather hurt, sensitive people who had it drilled into them until it stuck that it’s not okay to be vulnerable, not okay to be soft, not okay to expose a gentle side, not okay to feel sad, not okay to act defeated, not okay to seem weak, not okay to ask for help.
People who feel and express anger all the time can gain a lot of compassion for themselves, and become determined to change things, when they realize that a defense mechanism taken to protect them from harm is causing them and the people they care most about in this world undue harm, is keeping them from contact with the authentic emotional experience, and keeping them from getting the help and support they desperately want and need deep down.