How Fear Leads To Anger & What To Do About It
Updated December 18, 2018
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
For quite some time, many great minds have studied the links between fear and anger and the subsequent consequences. While these two emotions are greatly intertwined with one another, there are a plethora of depths and layers which must first be understood before one can unearth the relationship between fear and anger…and more importantly, know what to do about it.
Fear is defined as "an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger" while anger is described as "a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism." One of the most obvious links between these two emotions is the inherent negativity. Rarely do people experience fear or anger during pleasant or agreeable times. These adverse feelings are almost brought into being during stressful, hostile, or trying events. Moreover, people who evoke fear or anger in others are likelier to be viewed in a negative light, as opposed to a positive one.
- Exploring The Relationship Between Fear And Anger
Changing Minds explains that some of the most common themes which connect fear and anger are control, purpose, conflict, and regret. At their core, both fear and anger are rooted in feelings of control. In most cases, individuals who experience fear may feel as though they have lost control of a particular situation, circumstance, or individuals. More often than not, this loss of control can have devastating aftermath or, at the very least, create unease and uncertainty, neither of which is helpful for anyone. Inversely, anger is, in many cases, a means of regaining control. While a fearful individual may hesitate to fight back against the cause of their unease, an angry person may use their displeasure and antagonism to neutralize the source of their fear.
Next comes purpose. For better or worse, both fear and anger have unique purposes. While fear often occurs for the sake of avoiding situations which could bring about one's demise, anger often serves as the motivating force to retaliate against something or someone. Many people view fear as a manifestation of "weakness" while anger is often perceived as "strength."
Depending on the setting and circumstances, the outlooks above can be accurate, but not always. There are certain scenarios where fear is appropriate, just as there are occasions where anger (and channeling said anger for the sake of subduing a terrible threat) can determine the difference between experiencing victory and facing defeat.
Similarly to control and purpose, conflict is another underlying factor which often breeds fear, anger, or both. Conflict is especially common and can occur on various levels in different circumstances. Verbal arguments and physical confrontations are some of the most common forms of conflict. Both of these things can lead to fear and anger. Threats may be made out of anger, fear, or both. Likewise, someone who is on the receiving end of a threat may experience fear and anger. In conflict, the most frequent responses are fight, flight, or freeze.
Generally, fighting is done out of anger, whereas fighting or freezing are knee-jerk, fear-based reactions. On a basic level, it's difficult to determine whether or not fear or anger is most appropriate during the conflict. There are so many factors and variables which come into play. No two instances of conflict are exactly alike. For this reason, each is tasked with the responsibility of determining how they should react when conflict arises.
Although regret is a common link between fear and anger, this particular feeling generally occurs after the occurrence of an incident. Someone may regret lashing out at someone they cared for during an episode of anger. Conversely, another individual may regret being fearful during a certain situation; they may also wish that their behavior was more aggressive and assertive. Although regret can be quite a bitter pill to swallow, it will not change what has already happened. People should be very careful about wallowing in regret, seeing as it often does more harm than good. When regret surfaces, individuals should chalk the experience up as a lesson learned and moved forward. Dwelling on past events never does any good.
- Overcoming Fear And Anger
Fear and anger are not problematic emotions, in and of themselves. However, the manner in which some people choose to handle these emotions is what sometimes becomes problematic. Fear ultimately breeds anger out of the innate human instinct for self-defense. When someone feels threatened, they may initially fear regarding the possible validity of the issued threat and subsequent harm which could follow. However, in many scenarios, anger may follow or even override fear. Someone may go from thinking "oh my goodness, what happens now," to "how dare this person threatened me?! Don't they know who I am?"
Nine times out of ten, it's not fear or anger which leads to an individual's setback or demise, but their next steps. A fired employee may be fearful of how he's going to make his rent now that he's out of a job. This fear is relatively normal and so is the anger which will likely follow. However, if said employee decides to physically assault their boss or destroy property as a result of their anger, they will likely be faced with legal issues on top of their financial issues. Conversely, if the fired employee decides to seek work elsewhere and exit their now former place of employment, the anger will eventually subside without engendering a host of additional complications.
On some levels, fear is written into our consciousness as a means of self-preservation and avoiding danger. Some common examples of this are an aversion to playing in traffic, placing one's hand on a hot stove eye, or shoving a fork into an electrical socket. However, there are many instances, where fear works against people and prevents from taking necessary action. This is what often leads to anger which then usually engenders horrific consequences.
Thankfully, there are a variety of steps which can be taken to overcome fear. Entrepreneur advises individuals to literally "rewire" their brains by engaging in positive thinking and self-talk. Some skeptics may view this particular suggestion as new age nonsense, but it truly makes a meaningful difference. Believe it or not, the things which we commonly tell ourselves are internalized. They consequently impact our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Therefore, an individual who constantly says "I can't do this," "I'm terrible at XYZ" will eventually begin to believe these statements, regardless of how misguided they may be.
Therefore, positive affirmations should be used to "rewire" the brain and uproot all the negative seeds of doubt which have been planted. This process can be as simple as waking up in the morning and telling yourself "I am strong. I am brilliant. I am capable." In the beginning, this may feel awkward, uncomfortable, or pointless, but eventually, these thoughts will replace previously internalized and negative beliefs. Self-confidence makes all the difference in the world and is an amazing weapon to wield against fear.
Another great way of overcoming fear comes in the form of having a plan. Thinking things through, hoping for the best while preparing for the worst, and always having one's bases covered also makes a tremendous difference. In many cases, fear occurs as a result of a lack of preparation or other situations which could have been prevented. Of course, being proactive, making wise choices, and following your instincts can also come in handy in the quest to control fear or even avoid fear-inducing situations altogether.
The ability to manage and overcome anger is a feat which many people of all ages struggle with. Anger is an inherently intense emotion which engenders very strong reactions. To make matters even worse, other emotions, prior events, and many other factors can impact the degrees of anger which people experience, and even more so, how they respond to the source of their anger. While anger in and of itself is a natural, human emotion, the words or actions which follow after anger can be devastating under the right circumstances. For these reasons, the ability to overcome anger is paramount. Thankfully, Mayo Clinic has some helpful tips which virtually everyone can put to use at one point or another.
First and foremost comes thinking before you speak or act. So many people make the mistake of mouthing off during fits of rage or doing things which they will later regret. This rarely does any good. Walking away from certain situations and distancing yourself from the source of your anger are also helpful ways of overcoming anger and not engaging in conduct which will be regretted at a later date.
A Final Word
Do you feel as though fear and anger have seized control of your life? Are you constantly feeling afraid or enraged by various circumstances or people? Although fear and anger are natural emotions, experiencing them on a habitual basis can be indicative of deep-seated issues which need to be addressed.
Here at BetterHelp, we pride ourselves on providing world-class care and guidance to those who reach out to us. We recognize that life can be difficult, but nobody deserves to feel as though they are alone. Although the benefits of speaking with a counselor or therapist are well documented, the choice is ultimately yours. Just know that BetterHelp will always be an option that's one click away.
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