Let’s talk about anger.
There is a lot of unhelpful pop psychology about anger: anger is a "secondary" emotion; anger is just a way to avoid vulnerability; anger is unhealthy. I'm going to explore the underlying problems with this treatment of anger through the lens of that first "truth." Or more specifically, why I find calling anger a “secondary emotion” often unhelpful and even destructive.
Let’s establish some background. People often say “anger is a secondary emotion” based on the idea that anger is responding to (or covering up) a primary emotion. Usually people will say the anger is covering up fear or sadness. Counselors will try to guide people to look past anger to what’s “really going on.”
This framework is usually well intentioned. Sometimes cultural norms support expressing anger but not other emotions. The “secondary emotion” concept often wants to allow people to acknowledge and address other negative emotions, especially those that are less culturally acceptable.
The problem? It's inaccurate and muddles how we perceive and deal with anger. So let's dig in.