The Anger Iceberg
Updated: Jan 9
Anger is an emotion that is often projected outward. It can be seriously damaging to the relationships we have, and hurt others around us. It can hurt us too. Feeling guilt, shame or remorse at an angry outburst, for example. Experiencing other people's anger usually is an unpleasant one. It can hurt feelings, create mistrust, cause us to walk on egg shells, leave others tentative or fearful and the like.
Even so, anger is a perfectly normal emotion, which means it is not a 'wrong' one. In fact, no emotions are wrong, they are our experience. It's 'ok' to be angry, we all experience it, and for many different reasons. However, what's really important, is how we manage that anger. What do you do with yours ?
The Anger Iceberg is an idea put forward to help us understand that other feelings may be hidden beneath the surface, potentially the cause of that anger. Ice bergs can be quite big, but they are usually double the size underneath the water. Everyone sees the top, the anger that's visible, but we don't always know what lies beneath.
These hidden away feelings can vary, but some examples include pain, grief, fear, jealousy, shame and guilt. Sometimes we don't know or connect these feelings with the anger. Sometimes we only have a notion or vague idea what's going on. And sometimes we can deny them altogether. Yet these feelings might leave us also feeling particularly vulnerable and insecure.
Having the awareness to realise this, and to develop skills to manage what's going on the inside, is crucial to managing what we project outwards. Remember, it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic, which goes some way to remind us that anger can consume even the most emotionally-regulated among us. Anger has the potential to sink us all.
Clients in therapy can explore with their counsellor what lies beneath. What we might call the implicit or the unseen parts of us. It's also helpful work, to figure out what triggers our anger - when the feelings beneath the surface are ignited. What's your touch-paper? What lights your fuse? Ever considered or addressed the 'why'?
To fully uncover your ice berg makes it possible to reduce or remove any outward projection of these feelings as anger. A counsellor will help identify, and further validate, just what it is you are feeling underneath. In this way, any hold over you will start to be diffused. Better out than in, right?
We might be lonely. We might be full of regret. We could be secretly feeling very sad. It's possible we're just holding on to a lot of pain from the past that just won't leave us. Or maybe we are particularly anxious about something. Bottomline is, we can carry stuff with us, sometimes for a very long time. This can really be a real thorn in our sides, or the monkey on our back, or even something that sinks our ship altogether.