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The Connection Between Anger and Fear

An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.

Anger is not a pretty thing, it's black as a night when no robins sing. It robs one of sleep and happiness, it leaves in its wake only deeds that oppress. Anger is hurt that sinks down deep; a wound left open, talk that is cheap. It makes one suffer and sink so low that he feels he really has no where to go.*

Fear gets in the way of our emotional health.

Fear gets in the way of our emotional health.

We all get angry. Whether at the driver who cut us off in the parking lot or the appliance that just doesn't work. Anger is the way we express ourselves when things aren't working like we think they should.

Anger leads to resolve. We make decisions that we have been putting off. We become motivated to make changes in our circumstances. We learn what isn't working and how we can change it for the better. Anger is the energy of change.

Anger becomes destructive when its underlying cause is fear. Fear leads to apprehension. We hold back rather than making decisions that move us forward. We make assumptions, adopt exaggerations, and blame others for what is happening.

These distortions in our thought processes end up fueling our anger with bitterness and hatred. We lash out at others, inflicting pain, meting out punishment, and seeking revenge. Our anger becomes a destructive force that damages the delicate balance in our relationships. The diagram below shows how this works:

When our thoughts are distorted, we tend to have more issues with negative emotions.

When our thoughts are distorted, we tend to have more issues with negative emotions.

Anger is love turned inside out, it's selfish and greedy, and throws around clout. It has no mercy and claims no prize, but rather gives away bugs and flies. Anger is time that was never spent, food not prepared, letters not sent. It's fool's gold discovered after it is too late, the collector waiting at the garden gate.

What fear does to us

Fear holds us back. When something happens that we don't like, we start to question our own abilities, our feelings of worth, and what others think about us. We put up a wall around ourselves to keep from getting hurt.

In the process of trying to protect ourselves, we also shut others out. They don't know what is happening, they just know that they cannot get in to help. They may misinterpret our actions as pride, disinterest, lack of caring, or even a desire to end our relationship.

When we start making assumptions about what other people are doing, feeling, and thinking, our anger is kindled. We think that they don't like us, think ill of us, or just plain don't care. In reality, they simply cannot penetrate our wall of fear.

Once we adopt these assumptions as truth and act upon them, anger becomes full blown. Rage sets in. We lash out at others and push them even further away. We blame them for our unhappiness and lack of success, and think they are trying to punish or reject us.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

— Proverbs 15:1

Anger is an alarm that didn't ring, a book that is late one forgot to bring. Anger is a ball that always goes flat, a car that won't start, a worn out mat, a broken bike that was not repaired after the friend left with whom it was shared. Anger is dreams that are unfulfilled, no money to pay the overdue bill.

Fear turns anger into rage

Fear feeds our anger with distorted thought patterns to the point that it becomes rage. Rage is anger that has festered to the point that we lash out at others, no matter who they are and what they have done. We become blinded to their good points and see only the negative.

Rage is the stuff of which terrorism and abuse are made. It is anger run amok. Like a heard of elephants that plows through the jungle downing trees and smashing villages, rage pushes us forward without consideration of what damage is done and where we end up.

When the rage finally plays itself out, the perpetrator often turns on him or herself, causing even more damage. Lives are lost and people devastated by the carnage left behind. Those who continue to live after an episode of rage may find themselves repentant, doing almost anything to repair the damage.

Unfortunately, abuse is cyclical. Rage comes back when fear feeds anger once again. Apprehension turns into assumption and is quickly followed by fault-finding, criticism, and exaggeration. Before we know it, we are once again in the throes of another attack of rage and the cycle goes around again.

The cycle can be interrupted by recognizing the red flags

In order to break the cycle of fear and anger, it is necessary to identify the distorted thought patterns that are feeding it. The table below compares the thought process in the distorted reasoning cycle to those in the realistic reasoning cycle and helps us to see the difference:

Distorted Reasoning Realistic Reasoning

Directive: Do it!

Directive: Do it!

Fear: What if I do it wrong?

Assessment: I don't know how.

Apprehension: I don't want to do it.

Question: What do I need to learn?

Assumption: If I do it wrong, you won't like me.

Practice: Let's see how this works.

Anger: All right, I will do it!

Evaluate: Am I doing it right?

Aggression: It's your fault, you made me do it!

Success: I did it!

Notice that the directive in both instances is the same: Do it!

The following red flags help us to recognize and refute the distortions:

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  1. "What If?" - In the second step the distortion comes with the question "What if I do it wrong?" "What if" questions lead to apprehension. Once we recognize our fear, we can ask ourselves "Why am I afraid?" We might answer "Because I don't know how to do it." Once we make that assessment and admit that we need more information, we are able to stop the distorted cycle.
  2. Assumptions - If we allow apprehension to set in, we automatically begin to make assumptions. We think that we know what will happen in the future. If we find ourselves thinking that we "know" what will happen or that we "know" what someone else is thinking or feeling, we are on dangerous ground. We are basing our actions on something that may not be correct. If we continue, anger is automatic.
  3. Blame - We find fault with the other person, blaming them for what happened rather than recognizing that we allowed ourselves to think that we knew what they were thinking, feeling, or going to do. In order to stop blame, we take responsibility for our own actions. We ask ourselves "What can I do differently?" rather than saying, "He (or she) should have done this (or that) differently."
When our thoughts are realistic, we are able to work through our problems without the complication of negative emotions.

When our thoughts are realistic, we are able to work through our problems without the complication of negative emotions.

Anger breeds hate, a despicable thing, it steals the voice from the one who would sing. It brings in dark clouds that hide the sun, words that sting in a game of fun. It kills all it meets in its winding path, ugliness becomes its aftermath. Anger and hate make great nations fall and destroy homes, whether big or small.

Breaking the cycle

Adopting realistic thinking patterns allows us to break the downward spiral of fear and anger. We are able to see the situation for what it is, analyze what we need to do, and make decisions that enable effective problem solving.

At first, the process will be tedious and difficult. It is necessary to write down what is happening and the thoughts that come into our minds. Writing our thoughts enables us to examine them outside of ourselves. Once we see them in black and white, we are more likely to recognize the distortions and how they affect us.

Another great tool is support networking. Talking to others about what we are thinking and feeling also helps us to refute the distorted thinking patterns we tend to adopt. When we rely solely on our own thoughts, we often default to being self-critical and adopt self-defeating behaviors.

Talking with others gets our ideas out into the open where we can see them more clearly. Hearing how others would handle the situation gives us ideas that we had not previously considered. The time we take to check in with someone outside of our own circumstance is well spent.

To make decisions while infuriated is as unwise and foolish as it is for a captain to put out to sea in a raging storm. Only injury and wreckage result from wrathful moments.

— ElRay L. Christiansen

Anger is often the result of pride, a little weakness most try to hide. It tends to spill out with foaming froth, not a nutritious bubbling broth, but the drunken madness of saving face rather than kneeling for saving grace. The Balm of Gilead only comes after the Bitter Cup drinking is done.

Turning fear into faith diffuses anger

Turning our fear into faith diffuses the distorted thinking patterns that fuel our anger. In order to turn fear into faith, belief is required. There are basically two types of belief that have a dramatic affect on our emotional health:

  1. Belief in God - belief in a power beyond this world enables us to see ourselves as something more than mere animals on a decaying planet. When we believe that God created heaven and earth, and that we are his children, our view of life is elevated.
  2. Belief in ourselves - seeing ourselves as children of God gives us a reason to believe that we are worthwhile people and that there is a purpose for everything that happens in our lives.

In the distorted reasoning cycle, the question "What if I do it wrong?" has the assumption behind it that perhaps "I am not good enough" to do it. "I don't know enough," "I don't have enough talent," or even "I can't." All of these are lack of belief in one's own ability. Exerting faith in this instance leads us to ask the question, "Do I know how to do it?"

We can have only one of two responses in this case: 1) "I know how" or 2) "I don't know how." If we don't know how, we can always learn. The affirmation "I am able" says to us that we have the ability to learn, and are willing to do so. If we know how and are just choosing not to, we are being stubborn and uncooperative, and that can easily lead to other's anger toward us!

Exerting faith when we feel fear allows us to move forward.

Exerting faith when we feel fear allows us to move forward.

Once fear becomes faith, we can stop anger with gratitude

In The Emotional Survival Handbook, we are taught that gratitude is the antidote for anger. This is true only when one has the faith to find something to be grateful for. Gratitude will stop anger in its tracks when we realize that our feelings of being put out by the other person are less important than the relationship that brings us together.

When my fourth daughter was a teen, she had a difficult time keeping her curfew. One night, it was especially late, and I had waited up to let her know that I was not happy with her choices. At the time, we did not have cell phones, and I had no way of getting in touch with her. I paced the floor angrily, breathing out all sorts of punishments I could inflict when she walked through the door.

As the hours passed, I began to wonder if something terrible had happened to her. By the time she came home, I ran to her, threw my arms around her and said, "You are alive!" I had imagined the worst. In turning to God and praying for her safety, I had changed my fear to faith. My anger dissipated as my heart filled with gratitude for her safe return. As we sat down and talked about what had just transpired, we could both see that much of my anger was based on my fear for her safety.

We both learned from the experience that communication was vitally important in our relationship. We determined that if she was going to be late, for whatever reason, she would get to a telephone and call. That way, I would not worry about her. Our relationship deepened, and by the time she was ready to leave home, we had a close bond that carried us through many a difficult circumstance.

When we let our fears get acquainted with our faith, the connection between fear and anger is severed and we are able to stop our anger by finding reasons to be grateful.

*The poem "Anger" was written by Denise W. Anderson.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Denise W Anderson


Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 05, 2015:

That is the key, Dr. Pran. As we make God an integral part of our lives, we are able to recognize fear and anger for what they are, and keep them from overtaking us. I appreciate your insight.

Dr Pran Rangan from Kanpur (UP), India on September 04, 2015:

A beautifully written hub connecting fear and anger. These two destructive emotions are not present in our true nature, which is inherently full of love and compassion. Gradually, on our journey of life, our true nature gets subdued by the dark forces of fear and anger. But if one has surrendered oneself to God, these dark forces will fail to rule our life.

Thanks for sharing.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on September 02, 2015:

That is an interesting observation, Dora. I know of people who have those issues as well. That is one of the reasons I write about anger. It has been a part of my life for a long time, and I tend to gravitate to people who have those issues, thinking that somehow I can be a positive influence on them! As a result, I end up having to turn to God myself to alleviate my fear and keep from becoming angry as well! I appreciate your comments!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 01, 2015:

"Anger is often the result of pride, a little weakness most try to hide." This reminds me of a boss I once was had who was continually angry; he had difficulty communicating and fussing was the only way he knew to establish control. You offered a practical solution. Communicating with God strengthens our faith and trust and removes our fears; hence no need for negative expressions of anger.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 28, 2015:

The cycles that I created come from my own experiences with anger and fear. When I realized what was happening, I thought perhaps others might benefit from the information. You are fortunate that your faith in God keeps you strong and that you are able to recognize and deal with your emotions before they lead to anger. My distorted thought patters get in the way of my faith, and I have to consciously work through them, then reconnect my faith to help me move on. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 28, 2015:

Thanks, Blossom. I appreciate your kindness. Anger is a difficult nemesis to defeat. It tends to rear its ugly head every time we make a transition that involves other people, especially when fear accompanies it.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 28, 2015:

Excellent hub to explain the connection between anger and fear and you dealt with these complex emotions beautifully. Your 'distorted reasoning cycle' and 'realistic reasoning cycle' is very effectively explained.

I don't get angry and that may be because I have faith in God and I draw my strength from this.

Thanks for sharing another wonderful hub!

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on August 28, 2015:

Anger can be so all-consuming and destructive, too. Thank you for an interesting and informative hub. God bless you.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 26, 2015:

Thanks for acknowledging the source of my inspiration, Linda. Everything I do and say is because of my love for and belief in our Almighty Creator. During my mental health crisis, I lost touch with Him. Healing came when I learned that he loves me more than I can imagine, and that I didn't need to keep beating myself up over my own faults and failings. You are right that anger can spoil our lives. It nearly did mine!

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 26, 2015:

When we are young, our energy seems endless, Eric. Both anger and fear use up a lot of time, thought, and energy. It is amazing what happens when we learn this simple principle! Our lives are filled with much more meaning and purpose. Thanks for your comments.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 26, 2015:

Thanks, Readmikenow. I have seen it as well. It is a tragedy that some lives are wasted as a result. The stories of anger's victims are endless. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

Denise W Anderson (author) from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 26, 2015:

You have been able to establish and maintain your emotional health, Billy, and it is evident in the way you are able to help others with theirs. I appreciate your example and your comments.

Linda Todd from Charleston on August 26, 2015:

Denise, this is wonderful and so full of truth. You have put a lot of work and thought into this, and I know where your inspiration came from. He will guide and lead in all things if we allow it. Anger can spoil our life and cause only friction and unhappiness.

Thank you for writing.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 25, 2015:

A very powerful article. Nowadays I just can't help but question where the heck I used to get all that energy to be angry. Fear is an amazing motivator. Thank you for a most enjoyable and educational read.

Readmikenow on August 25, 2015:

This provides a lot of good information. I've seen people consumed with anger and have it take over their lives. They justify their bad behavior because of it. I enjoyed reading this.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 25, 2015:

I rarely get truly angry. I can get aggravated from time to time, but that's just the grumpy old man surfacing, and I shove him back where he belongs fairly quickly.

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