Anger and Stress Follow From Deeper Emotions

Anger is everywhere in the air these days: In homes and in the streets, in the media, and coming out of the mouths of politicians. People are angry at undocumented immigrants, at the police, at Republicans, at Democrats, at politicians, at women, at men, bosses, spouses, children, parents. The list goes on. Just about anyone can be a target of anger. It is relatively easy to create anger in people; it can be stoked by some for their own benefit, and against the interests of those whose anger is stoked. It could be argued that this kind of anger hurts individuals, families and friends, workplaces and the larger community of the country.

Rage feeds on itself

There’s something about feeding anger that feels good. It makes us feel more powerful for the moment. But many times anger and stress go together. Anger and stress are related in that, when anger is stoked, it raises blood pressure and amps up the nervous system without simultaneously creating a way to release the pressure. Anger and stress continue to build, which is detrimental to our physical and emotional health.

Anger and stress are not the source

Although anger sometimes is an original emotion, it is often a reaction to other, underlying emotions that are more uncomfortable, for example, fear, hurt, or helplessness. Recognizing and resolving these underlying emotions can lead to calming the nervous system and lowering stress, while staying with the “reaction emotion” of anger only keeps us stressed and harms us.


The culture of the United States has long valued independence above all. The cost to this value is that, as a culture, we don’t have a feeling of safety. The safety nets in place are, to a great extent, insufficient and they are constantly being threatened by various factions in the government. This creates a generalized feeling of fear and insecurity, because people often have fear and anxiety about how they will survive if something bad happens in their lives, such as being laid off from a job, suffering a health crisis, divorce, or natural catastrophe. It often seems that media outlets know that they can increase viewership and advertising income by stoking people’s fear and suggesting that rage is a solution. The same goes for certain politicians, who believe, possibly rightly, that they will obtain more votes stoking fear and calling for anger. What really happens, though, is that people lose their ability to think rationally about what is truly in their best interest.


Hurt is a very difficult emotion to endure and stay present with. When we’re hurt, we feel threatened. In a way, when we’re hurt, we can feel as if we’re going to die. We want to get away from the feeling as quickly as possible. One way to ricochet away from hurt is to react with rage at anything that happens to be around us in the moment. Again, this helps us to feel more powerful in the moment, but it is not a solution because it stresses our bodies and nervous systems and doesn’t help us find a way to heal and resolve the hurt.


When people are afraid of being hurt or when they are in a situation where nothing they try seems to create a change in a situation that they feel better about, they feel a sense of helplessness. When you’ve tried various attempts at a solution to a problem, and you’re still stuck with the situation, you begin to feel hopelessness and helplessness. Again, hopelessness and helplessness are very difficult emotions to stay with, and we often react with anger, striking out at whatever happens to be there in the moment. As with fear and hurt, exploring what we’re feeling hopelessness and helplessness about, admitting the feeling of helplessness and finding a way to look at the situation in a different way is often what helps. Reacting with anger merely tends to keep the scary feelings around longer.

Source by Zoe Zimmermann

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