Traits of a Secure Connector 10 – Anger & Vulnerability

Trait:  “I know how to use my anger to identify more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger and communicate the more vulnerable feelings.” 

But first, a question from last weeks blog:  “My parents were not critical or angry, but a neighborhood girl with whom I played as a child was bossy, controlling and reactive… her way or the highway.  Could this explain my adult fearfulness and pleaser tendencies?  Absolutely!  Traumatizing imprints upon the brain at an early age from any source can produce a fear based response mechanism that can last for a life time until we mindfully choose to change it as an adult.

As we continue our study of the secure connector, this week’s trait is a critical component of healthy secure adult relationships. For the person who has tendencies toward “fight” (vs. flight or freeze), the anger response is fast and automatic.   Actually, it is an emotional auto default that is uncontrollable.  And as such, without any control, ends up being destructive to the very relationships they crave.

In order to become mindfully aware and start the journey of self control, the angry person (Vacillators and Controllers) must learn to go to a place they’ve never gone before.  That is to the vulnerable emotions that precede the anger.   For most angry people who instantaneously “see red” they are totally unaware that other emotions lay underneath the anger.  For some, this is a terrifying thought to consider because anger is such a good defensive tool that keeps everyone at bay.  Additionally, when anger is employed as a relational management tool, the angry person always stays in the “up” position which makes them feel empowered and strong.

But underneath the angry vibrato, when you slow every thing down (such as what happens in a therapy office), the emotions that trigger the anger are usually fear, hurt and shame. But when anger rages forth within a nanosecond, the angry person is unaware of the vulnerable feelings underneath.  Thus, the real emotions are not retrievable for self observation, processing in a healthy manner as well as disclosure to others.

As a result of hard work and practice, the secure person has learned to slow down the anger response, search within and be able to name the emotions of fear, anxiety, panic, shame, embarrassment and hurt and bring them into constructive dialogue with themselves, God and others.  Here are some constructive steps to take next time you feel anger well up from within:

  1. Don’t take any outward action toward others.
  2. Get out the Soul Word list (How We Love page 291) and write down the vulnerable feelings that are making you so angry.
  3. Bring the list of vulnerable feelings to the Lord in prayer and tell Him how you feel.
  4. Stop and ask yourself how many years you have been feeling these feelings that cause such deep pain in your soul.  Odds are, they are old and familiar and can be traced to childhood experiences of neglect, ridicule or abandonment.
  5. Bring the vulnerable list to the one who hurt you and share with them why their actions or words were so hurtful as well as the history of that emotion.   Set a boundary and ask them to honor and respect this place of pain from your past.

By disciplining yourself and mindfully choosing to repeat these simple but difficult steps over and over, you will begin a healing journey within and well on your way to becoming a secure connector in your primary relationships and creating an earned security with those whom you love.

Thanks for listening,

Milan