When it comes to riding the wave of emotions, one emotion to be particularly mindful of is anger.
Anger is a unique emotion. It is a core emotion and a valid emotion. But it is unique to other emotions in that when it is present, it means that there are other emotions present, too.
If you picture an iceberg, there is the part of the iceberg above the water that you can see, but there is also a whole lot of iceberg below the water that is not visible to us. Anger is like what you see above the water. But below the anger, oftentimes initially outside our vision/consciousness, are other emotions.
Let’s look at an example from scripture.
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.Mark 3:1-6 NIV
It says in verse 5 that Jesus “looked around at them in anger, and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…” Jesus was angry, and underneath that anger was distress.
The Pharisees were missing the point. And as religious leaders, people receiving their messages were being led astray. I imagine that Jesus, with a deeper love and devotion to humanity than we can ever fathom, was grieving and experiencing despair that humans kept missing the point and kept distancing themselves from what is meant to be a beautiful, harmonious relationship with our Creator.
So why show anger instead of these other emotions?
Oftentimes, these other emotions underneath anger are challenging to sit with. I often mask my emotions in the realm of sadness with anger, because sad emotions make me feel small and weak, while anger makes me feel big and powerful. But those other emotions will not just go away if we ignore them. Instead, they tend to stick around longer if we ignore or misname them.
To help me identify what is underneath my anger, I either turn to an emotions wheel, which you can google and one will come up, or I have started to turn to Brene Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart.”
Brene Brown’s book is a culmination of the 87 emotions her research has revealed that we experience. She breaks down what each emotion means, how it presents, and has them grouped by “places we go when…” I highly recommend getting her book, or you can go to her website (https://brenebrown.com/resources/atlas-of-the-heart-list-of-emotions/) where she has a handout with the emotions listed.
The goal of naming these various aspects of our emotional experiences, especially with anger, is that when you know what you are dealing with you can be in more control over how you respond.
How you respond to anger likely looks different than how you respond to sadness. If you can identify that sadness is underneath your anger, then you can respond accordingly.
So, have you been angry lately? Take some time and explore what other emotions may be present.
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC
READ and EXPLORE more from Mark 3 in our Bible Reading Experience found here.