Anger Can Be a Learned Behavior

As we’re talking about how anger can be used to mask fear this month, we wanted to tell you about Jack and how he learned to face the fears behind his anger.

Jack had always been quick to anger but in his mid-30s it began to become a real problem. Work pressure was causing a lot of stress and Jack found himself constantly angry. Unfortunately, he took it out on his family by causing fights, never having anything positive to contribute, and constantly yelling. When his wife threatened to leave, taking his two young children, Jack sought treatment for his anger issues. After beginning treatment with a therapist and subscribing to a self-help course, over the course of several months Jack was able to learn that his anger stemmed from his fears of not being able to provide for his family, his fears of not being good enough to keep them safe and happy, and his fears of losing control. These fears and his anger he could directly attribute to his father.

Jack’s father, Charlie, then in his 70s, had always been known as a hard worker, but also a tough, no-nonsense kind of man. Charlie’s anger was legendary and had caused a lot of hard feelings as his children grew up—he was very strict and always had to be right. Now that they were older, Jack and his sisters often reminisced about their father’s anger issues because they knew above everything that their father loved them deeply. Charlie had mellowed in his older years, but could still be set off by the smallest infraction. He even had trouble showing any kind of affection to his kids and loved ones.

After working through his issues, Jack began to see how much he was like his father. It scared him to think that he was turning into his father—not the part where he worked hard to provide for his family, but the part where he alienated his family because he couldn’t admit to his fears. Jack, by acknowledging that his anger was really a reaction to his fears, he was able to face those fears head-on and learn to control his temper, taking steps towards more fulfilling life and a much better relationship with his wife and children.