headshot of Catie Rhodes

Roots of Anger

Howdy folks. Today’s post is sort of an “I think” topic. I’m going to tell y’all what I’ve learned about anger over the course of my life.

headshot of Catie RhodesDisclaimer

I’m not a therapist or a psychologist. Hell, I’ve never even been to one. I learned this stuff through reading and thinking and living life. What I say here is not intended as medical advice…or anything close. If you need a mental health professional, go see one!

(Note from Kass Lamb, mp’s resident psychologist: Ditto what Catie says about seeking professional help if you struggle with anger issues. But I gotta tell you, she is spot on with this post; sometimes the school of hard knocks is better than any graduate school program!)

The Roots of Anger

In my experience, most anger is rooted in fear or hurt. I know that sounds simplistic, but fear and hurt are both broad terms.

Fear can be related to:

  • fear of rejection
  • fear of humiliation
  • loss of income
  • loss of possessions
  • fear of loneliness
  • fear of losing control (of others, of self, of events)
  • relationships (loss of OR committing to)
  • a million other things

Hurt can be related to:

  • social isolation
  • abuse
  • powerlessness
  • victimization
  • rejection
  • loss of loved ones
  • feeling ostracized over personal appearance or some other difference
  • a million other things

Much fear and hurt can be traced back to baggage. I use the term baggage to refer to previous hurts and wrongs. Most of us lug this crap around like that heavy old Sampsonite luggage.

I’ve found, if I analyze carefully, I can find the root of my anger…and it’s usually fear or hurt.

How I Use This Information

The information here is stuff I use both in my real life and in my writing.

In my real life:

Analyzing the roots of my anger and figuring out why I feel the way I do gives me a chance to calm down and think things through before I lash out. And, believe me, my lash-outs are nothing anybody wants to see. I’m downright nasty.

Learning to analyze my anger has given me a great deal of peace. I can untangle the way I feel and understand what, if anything, I can do to feel better.

Sometimes, the answer is nothing more–or less–than removing myself from a situation or person. Other times, it’s a matter of attempting to change the way I allow myself to feel about something.

Responsibility for my Feelings

Notice I said “allow myself to feel.” One of the biggest and best life lessons I’ve learned is that I am responsible for how I feel. Even if somebody else did me wrong, I am still responsible for my feelings (and what I do about them).

Here’s why: my anger, my outrage, and my angst have more power to make me miserable than anybody else. They have more power to get me into trouble than anybody else.

But That’s Not Fair!

Nope. It ain’t. But life is not fair. Trust me on this. Often, it sucks.

Some of the suckage is stuff I can control. But the large majority of it is stuff I cannot control, no matter how I wiggle and dance. No matter how pissed off I get.

Sometimes–no, oftentimes–I have to say “just forget it” and walk away. That never, ever means I let people run over me. But I’m training myself to know which battles are winnable and which ones are not.

I suspect we each come to a point where we analyze our lives the same way as the narrator of this song:

It’s good to know how we got to where we ended up and why. And to know how we want to handle the next onslaught of crap.

In my writing…

I use what I’ve talked about here to analyze what my characters are about, especially the things that piss them off. I ask myself “Where is the root of this anger?”

Doing this helps me:

  • write deeper characterizations
  • develop fatal flaws
  • figure out upcoming plot points
  • put my characters in greater peril
  • make my characters hurt worse emotionally

Now it’s your turn. How do you handle anger? OR What’s one of the greatest life lessons you’ve learned?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

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  • Reply
    Kirsten Weiss
    February 18, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I love the way your heroine struggles with anger in your Peri Jean Mace series! It’s so real! (And I also love that her character is developing to deal with it better).

    • Reply
      Catie Rhodes
      February 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks, Kirsten! I’m glad you like Peri so well.

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    February 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I think your insight is right on the money, Catie – and I like the way your characters deal with it, too! It’s a great way to bring the reader closer.

    Fab post!

  • Reply
    August McLaughlin
    February 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Intriguing stuff, Catie! I’m fascinated by anger, partly because it took me so long to come close to really feeling it. I really like the acronym HALT (and use it a lot with nutrition clients): Hungry Angry Lonely Tired. Apparently signals for all four can get crossed. Looking inward is so key — for great writing and great life, IMO. 🙂

    • Reply
      Catie Rhodes
      February 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Anger is my go-to emotion, August. Through my travels and trials, I came upon the notion that maybe I’d be happier if I was mad less. So I started learning about the roots of my anger. This is what I’ve come up with so far. Glad you liked the article.

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    February 18, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    August, your experience is very common. A lot of people in our society, especially women, don’t know how to access their anger, at least not until they are furious. Glad you’re in touch with it better now.

    I’ve had a similar struggle with my temper, Catie. But yes indeed, one is happier if one isn’t mad all the time. Saw a meme on FB today that said, “No one can drive you crazy unless you give them your keys” with a pic of car keys. Too true!!

  • Reply
    Karen McFarland
    February 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Ha, ha, ha Catie, I’m Irish. So anger and having a temper is not unknown to me. Now that I’m older, I don’t fly off the handle like I did when I was younger. I kinda figured that whole scene out and it wasn’t healthy. I’d rather be happy than suffer in anger. But you brought out some great information to use for our characters. Nice post! Thanks! 🙂

    • Reply
      Catie Rhodes
      February 21, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Glad you enjoyed the information, Karen. I agree with you on the age thing. As I get older, I’d harder to work up the energy to get extremely angry. 😉

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