Emotions are like colors: there are just a few that give rise to the entire palette of emotion. Many people think that anger is one of these “primary emotions.”

This isn’t my experience. Anger isn’t a primary emotion for me. It never exists in isolation, in the absence of any other emotion.

Fear? Fear is primary. A bear is chasing me?

Then, I feel fear.

Anger only shows up in me when I have another emotion from which I’m looking to protect myself. And that emotion? That emotion usually is fear.

If I pay attention, when I’m angry at someone, it’s because s/he’s reminded me of a fear I have – that I’m worthless, that I’m insecure, that things I value are fragile, transient, threatened. That’s when I get angry.

What’s nice about this realization is that it’s liberating. If I’m angry at someone, it’s rarely because of what s/he did; it’s far more often because of feelings I have about myself, or the world. Not that I can necessarily change them. But at least I can look in the right place.

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