Let’s talk a bit about anger and the primary and secondary emotions that are a part of our human makeup.
Emotions are a lot like colors. Just as we have primary and secondary colors we also have primary and secondary emotions or feelings.
The primary emotions are anger, love, fear, sadness, and joy. I bet some of you are surprised at this short list. Anger and fear are the workhorses of the family of feelings. These two are so over worked from being sent out repeatedly to do the work of the other feelings.
The secondary emotions are listed below in a simple chart.
The Primary Emotion of Fear Has the Following Secondary Emotions:
When looked at in this manner you can see just how many other emotions are available for you use.
One of the reasons anger and fear are used so much is because they are sentinel emotions. They are big and they are strong.
Anger is undeniably an emotion that will get ones attention. It can land you in anger management courses, domestic violence awareness courses, in front of a judge for disorderly conduct charges, and when mixed with drugs and alcohol the entire picture becomes sadly much more complex. Anger is simply an emotion. It is overused because it is big. It is like pulling out the big guns first or using your ace in a hole before you need it.<
There are many situations that call for big anger to be sent out first to get the job done. If you are being attacked by home invaders, if you are about to be assaulted or raped, if someone is threatening to abduct or harm your child, if someone shot you, or if you are placed in danger at the hands of another person or even a life event or situation.
We also know about the anger that comes from situations that feel unfair, such as being fired from a job or denied a promotion.
It is wise to not pull out the big guns first. You can still have anger and send it out to do its job in a mild or moderate manner.
I remember reading some writing of Mahatma Gandhi. He said he was one of the angriest people he knew. I thought, How could this gentle, peace loving man, harbor any anger whatsoever? He went on to explain that his anger motivated his peace. His actions were chosen to be peaceful expressions of his anger at poverty, injustice, and human rights violations.
Fear is often the flip side of anger. I like to think of it as a quarter, with heads and tails. If heads is anger, tails is fear. If heads is fear, the tail is anger. They flip a lot.
With clients I often explain that the fear is anger being trapped inside with no way out. Anger is fear trapped inside not knowing how to be safely expressed.
This is a small amount of delving into the big world of anger and fear. Remember the example of the quarter the next time you are angry. Remember the quarter the next time you feel fear. This isn’t true 100% of the time, but it is often the case.
And, take a look at all the other emotions that are available for your use and for your communications with self and others.
Take care and Enjoy.
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 23 Feb 2012