Anger, Anxiety, and Fear: Is There A Connection?

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On the surface, anger appears to be the opposite of fear. However, in reality, the two may be connected to one another. Consider the following scenario:

You are a beautiful, independent young woman who works at big advertising agency in New York City. One day, at work, you attend a lunch meeting. You feel that your male co-workers ignore you and subtly trivialize what you say. For some reason, on that day, you feel like you cannot get a word in. In the advertising business, much depends on cultivating the correct social connections. Thus, a failure to communicate with your co-workers over lunch doesn’t just spell social doom for you; it threatens the security of your work, itself.

While the other laugh and talk amongst themselves, you feel powerless. You are excluded, and you cannot protest your exclusion without making the situation worse, by drawing attention to it. You do not know how to turn the negative situation around. You rarely feel this powerless. Later, after lunch, you can’t concentrate on the project you’re working on. You are supposed to come up with some creative advertising copy for IBM, but you do not feel creative in the least. You feel dull, plodding, and weak. Your subtle rejection during lunch has rattled you emotionally, and you cannot concentrate on anything other than your rejection. You are angry, but you are impotent to even express your anger.

You take the subway home. As you descend underground and patiently wait for your train, you watch enviously how those same executives that you lunched with ease themselves into cabs that you cannot afford. “If only I had entertained them during lunch,” you think ruefully, “I would have been in the cab with them. If I had been able to come up with even a single witty remarkthey would have offered to take me wherever they are going now.” Your anger grows.

Finally, after an hour of stewing on the smelly, crowded train, you return to your modest apartment. Your caring husband, who works from home, is there to greet you with a big smile. Suddenly, after everything that you have gone through–not only during the lunch, but at work afterwards, and on the ride home–the smile of your beloved seems like the ultimate condescension. “I am so tired of your vapid grin,” you say, in an attempt to strike out against the world that has hurt you.

Anger, anxiety, and fear: is there a connection? Yes. To be angry is to act out of fear. To be angry is to respond unthinkingly to your underlying anxieties, instead of facing those anxieties.

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