“Anger is a powerful protective shield. It feels better to be angry than sad or hurt. Anger gives you energy, but just below the surface, fear, embarrassment, and pain often lurk.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin

Why is that? Because anger isn’t vulnerable and sad or hurt is. When you tell people your angry, they react. You have a right to be angry. Something has offended me and, dammit, you better get to fixing that right now!

But tell someone you feel hurt by their words or actions? Or, worse, tell someone you feel sad about something that has happened? Imagine that reaction.

“Sticks and stones…don’t be so sensitive!”
“Into every life, some rain must fall…it’ll pass.”

When I tell someone that I’m sad or hurt, I’m opening myself up to criticism. It’s me with the problem, not you. I am the one feeling. And usually, all I want is a little compassion, a pat on the back, a hug, or a shared look of love and support while I work through it. What I usually get is condemnation for … for what? Allowing myself to be vulnerable? For asking for support instead of toughening up?

You know what pulling myself up alone leads to? Resentment and then anger. I can get righteous attention for my anger. People jump up and listen when I start shouting, in person or online. And I’ve created a habit of projecting anger at the first sign of any feeling. All it’s done is helped me build bigger and bigger walls between the people around me.

What do I do these days when I feel that anger rise up in my chest? I have a few tactics lately. One is to write it down before I speak it and sit with it until the next day. I ask myself, “What is this anger in reaction to?” Sometimes I can see the hurt or fear just beneath and tease it out of hiding. I’ve even had the chance to express that fear instead of reacting in anger.

And guess what? Most of my fears are unfounded. And most of my sadness is just a mood that passes. All I really needed was to express my actual feeling around people that know me best. I’ve learned to ask for what I need, not wait for someone to guess…and then get angry about their lack of mindreading abilities.