Sometimes it’s clear why we feel angry, but a lot of the time, we react angrily to something and later think, “Why did I get so mad?” Maybe you feel angry all the time or feel angry for no reason. Or maybe you’re noticing an undercurrent of anger and resentment in your day-to-day life or that you seem to get mad way too easily. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: if you’re noticing that you’re feeling anger, resentment and frustration on a daily basis, there’s something you need to fix. Today I’m going to teach you the five real reasons you’re feeling angry so you can make some real changes.
First things first, anger is a healthy emotion! Anger can be motivating and a reasonable response to a threat to your physical well-being. However, anger should dissipate once the threat is gone. If you feel angry again days or years after an event, you’re feeling resentful. “Re” at the beginning of a word means “again,” so you’re literally re-sensing or re-feeling something (in this case anger).
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“Anger can be a lot like alcohol: too much of it can become addictive and ruin your life.”- Dr. Robert Enright
So again, if you feel angry, resentful or frustrated on the daily, then there’s definitely something else going on that you need to uncover! For example, if everything your mom says to you feels like an attack or if you often notice that the level of your angry response doesn’t fit the situation, it’s time to stop, take stock and figure out what’s really going on.
The Five Real Reasons You Feel Angry
1. You Feel Angry Because You’re Afraid
I’m always quoting author Celeste Ng who said, “Anger is the bodyguard of fear.” When you’re feeling anger or resentment, ask yourself these two questions:
- What else am I feeling right now? What’s below this anger?
- What am I really afraid of?
We’re afraid of all kinds of things but they generally boil down to our fear of abandonment and rejection, which are age-old hard-wired fears that we need to identify so we can stop reacting to them. We’re ultimately afraid that our partners are going to leave us and that we’ll be alone.
When you’re angry at something, you’re really saying you fear it or your reaction to it. If you hate your ex, you’re saying you fear them or your reaction to them.
2. You Feel Angry Because You Have Poor Boundaries
Poor boundaries are at the heart of just about every angry, resentful or frustrated feeling you have and there are a few ways poor boundaries show up. Maybe you’re saying “yes” to things when you really want to say “no!” Maybe you feel like you have to do things for family, friends or at work so you’re acting like a victim or allowing yourself to be treated poorly.
When you’re a people pleaser you’re left feeling mentally and physically exhausted and then resent those that are “making you feel that way.” It’s not anyone else’s job to keep your boundaries. That’s your job!
When someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, it’s up to you to make sure you follow through with an appropriate response or consequence. If you’re blaming others for making you feel a certain way, you’ve got yourself some crappy boundaries and it’s time to get clear on your standards and hold those boundaries steady.
Another way your poor boundaries are showing up is if you think that the only way others listen to you is if you lose your shit. Nope. Those are your crappy boundaries again. It’s not about them listening to you, it’s about you listening to you, holding your boundary and having a consequence for people who don’t respect it.
Yet another way these bad boundaries show up is in being a martyr in any way. You end up rationalizing: “I can’t take time off work because then I just have twice as much when I get back.” Or “Between taking care of the kids and my mom I don’t have any time for myself or self-care.” Yep… it’s this kind of stuff that feeds leads us to feel angry all the time or feel angry for no reason (it seems!).
3. You Feel Angry Due to an Underlying Mental Health Issue
Anger, frustration and overwhelm are often signs of either undiagnosed or undertreated mental health issues. Angry outbursts are one of the key signs of depression that often get missed since people think of depressed folks as being quiet and not saying anything.
If you have anxiety, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and then lash out at others. One of the symptoms of a substance abuse problem can also be lower frustration tolerance (I see this a lot with people who smoke a lot of pot) or angry outbursts.
It’s possible you’ve been diagnosed with one of these conditions but you’re not being treated effectively. This could be the wrong prescription or the wrong dose of a certain medication or that you’re not receiving the right type of counseling for your particular needs.
4. You Feel Angry Because You’re a Control Enthusiast
When you’re trying to control the world and can’t, it’s easy to get annoyed. Maybe you don’t like how your partner is parenting your kids. Maybe you see a much easier way to do things at work, but no one will listen to you. Maybe you’re asking your kid to clean up after themselves and, once again, they leave the house and there’s still a mess in their room.
I’ve been very open with my own control issue struggles and I need to tell you that you’ve got to give up trying to control the world if you want to be happy. It’s time for some loving detachment and looking at why you feel this need to control situations and others. Once again, you’ll ask yourself those questions from earlier:
- What else am I feeling right now? What’s below this anger and need to control?
- What am I really afraid of?
Learning to deal with your control issues is paramount to finding peace and emotional regulation in your life and to help you not feel angry all the time or feel angry for no reason.
5. You Feel Angry Because You’re Masking Guilt
Lastly, you might feel angry at someone but don’t feel like you have permission to feel angry, so it’s coming out as displaced anger. For example, if your partner is an alcoholic who’s trying to get sober you might find yourself getting very angry at work where you feel more permission to be upset.
Or maybe you were raised by a single mom who worked three jobs but was never there. Intellectually you understand that she was amazing and worked hard to keep you fed and safe, but the kid in you feels abandoned and angry because she wasn’t around when you needed her. You feel guilty or even ashamed that you feel that way so, once again, that anger comes out somewhere else where you feel more permission to be angry. Or maybe you’re angry and resentful with your own kids when they look for more and more of your time.
“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone; it’s you who gets burned.” – The Buddha
Learning why you feel angry and what it’s truly covering up is the first step in moving forward to a healthier emotional life. But there’s other work to do. Next week, we’re going to be talking with Dr. Robert Enright about his incredible work with forgiveness. Since the first step in forgiving anyone is recognizing that you’re angry, you’re off to a great start. Join me next week with the man Time magazine called, “The Forgiveness Trailblazer” and learn this next step in moving on from your anger and resentment and stop feeling angry all the time or angry for no reason.