a girl peeking behind a leaf

Written by Minah Yoo, Certified Canadian Counselor

Have you ever felt unsure about the way you felt? Do you ever doubt that your anger is legitimate? Sadness, fear, and anger are three negative emotions that are shared by everyone universally, and they are intertwined.

People feel angry in different contexts in varying degrees. Some of the triggers for anger include facing injustice or inequality, and not getting what you want or need. Other times, anger can be an expression of other emotions. When this happens, anger becomes a secondary emotion that covers the primary emotion such as sadness and fear. For example, you may get angry at your loved one for lying to you. Instead of telling the loved one how hurtful it was, you may express anger by either yelling or keeping silent.

Why do people do this? Expressing sadness or fear in front of others can be uncomfortable because it feels vulnerable and weak. Instead of acknowledging and accepting the primary emotion (anger), it is often unconsciously repressed and denied. This makes it difficult for others and even yourself to recognize the underlying emotions. What would this do to people then? It often creates habitual anger, misunderstandings in relationships, and inner conflicts. To prevent these, you will want to accurately identify your emotions and express them in healthy ways. The next time you feel angry, simply start by asking yourself why you feel angry, and whether there are any underlying emotions. Also, try to accept your emotions without judgments by using mindfulness meditation or positive reminders such as “it’s okay to feel _________________ (emotion)”.

Understanding primary and secondary emotions may not fully resolve anger issues. However, it will lead you to learn more about yourself and have improved emotional regulation, which in turn can contribute to your inner peace.