The Fear Underneath – Learning About Anger

Jul 29th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships, Spiritual Growth
I am often asked to post new “Tools” to deal with anger. I recently read “Life Lessons” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler and found a powerful lesson:

Untreated fear turns into anger. When we’re not in touch with our fears – or when we don’t even know we’re afraid – that fear grows into anger. If we don’t deal with the anger, it will turn into rage:

Andrew was supposed to meet his girlfriend, Melanie, at a coffeehouse. There are several of the coffeehouses spread throughout the city, and each went to a different one. Andrew waited for Melanie for thirty or forty minutes, left a message on her answering machine, and went back to his apartment. “I figured that there must have been some sort of mix-up, so we’d try again,” he explained. “That was not Melanie’s impression. She was very angry with me. She was implying that I deliberately left her there, that I disappointed her, that I couldn’t be trusted. I pointed out that we both just assumed it was a different coffeehouse.”

What for Andrew was a simple mix-up was for Melanie a horrible letdown suggesting he was unreliable and would disappoint her again. She brought more anger to the situation than it deserved, anger that was left over from an old hurt. Out of touch with the fear under her anger, Melanie made Andrew the villian. Unfortunately, she only took the first step – she got mad.

We’re all very good at this step: “I’m angry because you weren’t there,” “I’m angry because you were late,” “I’m angry because you didn’t do a good job,” “I’m angry because of what you said.”

We need to learn how to take the second step, looking into ourselves to explore the fear underneath. Here are some clues to what may really be going on:

The anger: I’m angry because you weren’t there.

The fear underneath: When you’re not there, I fear you’re abandoning me.

The anger: I’m angry because you’re late.

The fear underneath: I’m not as important to you as your work.

The anger: I’m angry because you didn’t do a good job.

The fear underneath: I’m afraid we’ll make less money and not be able to pay our bills.

The anger: I’m angry because of what you said.

The fear underneath: I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore.

“Life Lessons” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, pps 150-152

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