‘I’m not an angry person! Honestly, I don’t think I ever remember myself getting angry’. What the woman actually meant was that she doesn’t shout at her family members, she has never hit anyone in her entire life and perhaps she has never noticed to clench her fists or frown the forehead. In fact, she might be the very silent ‘non-conflictual’ person. However, one might wonder, why people around her getting irritated, frustrated and clench those fists. The answer might be, that the woman and many similar-alike in fact experience anger, however, display it in various other ways. Let’s look what are the possible passive or hidden anger exposures, that we might be quite unaware of.
‘Bang!’ the door slams forcefully. “And who left those damn slippers on my way?’ – knocks them heavily. Children shrink to their smallest possible versions; a partner buries his/her head between the shoulders. ‘Daddy – or mommy – has got home tonight on the wrong foot’. Unfortunately, the real party, that deserves these angry outbursts resides elsewhere, perhaps has been left in the office, unapproached and may be even unaware of the turmoil and the fury. Venting the rage at the boss may prove to be not a safe strategy. The person has instead of pointing at the right target, chose the most vulnerable ones. Hence, it has been channelled onto the door, the slippers, possibly the cats, dogs, children or anyone who is weaker, and can absorb the emotion without a threatening come-back. The victims are left in wonder – have they done anything wrong to upset the soul?
Punishing with silence
‘She’d rather shouted, cried or else, but the ice-cold silence drives me crazy’, - you can hear an odd person saying. Some people stay in silence for hours and even days, fuming. They may even physically withdraw, leave the room or lock themselves in, building between them and others the hard-to-axe-through wall. The other party may be left in wonder and confusion, feeling guilty and emotionally paralysed.
‘You will upset your mommy if you are not eating your porridge’, - at times we don’t even notice when we start a guilt-rousing manoeuvring in order to gain some personal profit. Sometimes even at first sight a delicate reasonable criticism or even hidden blackmailing is in fact an exposure of hidden anger and reproach.
‘The phone is ringing. I’m looking at it with no intention to answer it. Let they know they have upset me’. The thought process may remind the old good sandbox, and the children playing in it. ‘That’s my territory, don’t cross it, go away, I don’t love you anymore’ – a child might warn his counterpart. And even if we are adults, we still may refuse to cooperate simply because we want to express our point, our force, our antagonism and ire in this not very efficient way. ‘I’ll make a teacup for myself, but not for you’ – one may think to oneself with clenched teeth. At times, repetitively being late could also be a sign of a hidden anger, a silent vengeance.
Failure to keep an agreement
‘With no success, I keep on asking my partner/children/colleagues to …. (put any sentences of those instead of dots)
· to close the front doors properly
· to put the cap back on the toothpaste
· to hang the towels on the radiator properly, so they could dry
· write the report on time
· tidy up the room to an agreed degree
Even if it may seem that agreement has been made to fix the situation, the person continuously fails to learn and breaks the rules. Because deep down there is a sense of hidden enmity and exasperation.
Granting no support or attention for a person’s achievements, exhibiting publicly his/her mistakes with no opportunity to discuss the possibilities of improvement, offering no affirmations and simply playing down person’s capabilities, typically means the hidden antipathy and resentment, which are ranging intensities of the same feeling of anger.
We may come across a person who seem to endlessly unable to organise themselves, in a continuous flux of making errors without properly learning from them. People around seem to avoid them as otherwise it will mean to spend an enormous amount of time and vigour to support with little or no progress. At times, the helpless ones may even hide behind ailments and complaints, sucking in a vast amount of unacknowledged sympathy. And wrath against others or oneself stands tall behind.
The dark side of some kindness
We may think that a gift may mean a gift, a thoughtful and kind act. However, sometimes receiving hundreds of flowers from unwelcomed follower, a presented book that was clearly intended to be read by the one presenting it, an extravagant endowment, that would never be able to be reciprocated, may actually mean the willingness to demonstrate power, and more deeply – the bitterness and hostility.
Sarcasm and gossip
“No way you will be able to convince me that sarcasm and jokes are the passive anger’ one guy refused to believe it, himself adoring a sharp sense of humour. Yes, the clever comments, stripping down another person from his protective shelter and exposing their weaknesses, in fact is a way - may not so obvious, but hardly deniable – to express one’s anger. A person may have less courage to approach someone or a group with an open and honest conversation, so the quite ingenious jests feel like the only way to vent the resentment or irritation. In fact, the political satire is a cry for more truth, when the honest conversation may seem unproductive or proves to be a hardly possible way of fixing the circumstances.
Disrupting the plans
Team project was nearly complete, the only contribution was needed to successfully and timely submit. The responsible person had unapologetically delayed to send in his final remarks, and the suspension became tricky. The project had to be submitted late, causing a lot of frustration and annoyance. Knowing, that one’s impact will ruin the other person’s or group’s progress or pleasure, means that a lot of grudge and venom is involved.
‘Such a stupid idea would never cross my mind’ one person told me upon embarking on my round-the-world journey. ‘Using the red and green textiles in one suit? That’s odd! Not a very haute-couture’. Those, who make others feel inferior, undermining their tastes, choices, values, intelligence and behaviours’ often hold the hidden anger towards a different human being.
Lack of reward
‘I don’t think I’ve ever have received an honest praise from my manager’; ‘my wife rarely acknowledges my contribution, I feel I never succeed to satisfy her needs’ you may hear quite often. The hidden jealousy and deep anger prevent the people from being able to recognise other achievements and comfortably acknowledging them. Some may think that by appraising others they may spoil them, reduce their motivation, lessen their own authority. However, by acknowledging, that such non-rewarding behaviour most likely mean their own unrecognized deep anger against self or others may only harbour their own or others progress.
So, what to do?
You have spotted your own or other person’s hidden aggressive behaviour with various anger flavours. Two strategies may prove to be effective.
By acknowledging any of the tastes and flavours of the anger can actually be a first and sometimes the single way of reducing the intensity of the feeling and being able to choose the behaviour that is more helpful to oneself or the others. If we are not able to admit and accept, that we indeed can experience anger and its spin-offs, we unlikely be able to change anything.
· Assertive communication
Open, factual, non-blaming communication most likely will be able to help to reduce the intensity of the hidden anger and lead into more helpful behaviours and solutions. The effective (yet quite artificial to start with) formula could be:
I (noticed/observed) or I feel… (anxious, disappointed, etc.)
That…(situation, facts) e.g. we haven’t been able to improve the situation etc.
What I would like to is… (workable solution).
However, we have to approach the situation from ‘I’m OK – you are OK’ stance, which would help to establish the respect, that is a very helpful value to hold onto in any conversations.
Adapted from the Mind’s short course ‘Managing Strong Emotion’.