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"Take the power of change into your own hands, and be the

difference you want to see in your life today." (M. Dezelic)



© 2014, By Marie Dezelic

Dr. Marie Dezelic

Anger--A Multidimensional Construct: Addressing Anger through the 'Responsibility-Empowering Actions' Method

M. Dezelic, PhD © 2014



Anger is the external expression of the internal feelings, the primary emotions of Fear, Frustration and Hurt that we have a hard time getting in touch with. 


Anger is a secondary emotion, essentially providing an external “cover-up” for the primary emotions of (1) Fear, (2) Frustration, and/or (3) Hurt.  The primary emotions, one of or all three, happen within ourselves (intrapsychically) in relation to a person or situation, or even ourselves.  However, we usually cannot stay with these difficult emotions within us for very long, as they cause suffering and we want to move away from pain; so we quickly, almost simultaneously, flip them into anger and send it outward (projection) onto a target.  This allows us to then create distance (avoidance) of our own inner feelings by being angry at the person or situation, and allows us to create a boundary that we did not have the ‘courage’ to do without the anger.  Anger gives us the boost to do this boundary-making, in some ways making us feel stronger or more empowered; we can ‘blame’ (victim stance) the actions on the anger rather than take ‘responsibility’ (personal choice) for the actions we took.  Likewise, Anger and the behaviors associated with it get reinforced when the boundary-making works.  So we make assumptions that we must get angry to create the boundary or get a need met.  Getting in touch with the feelings of fear, frustration, and/or hurt make us feel more vulnerable without a protection.  However, when we start to get in touch with our internal feelings on a regular basis, we begin to ‘discover’ (become existentially aware) ourselves on a deeper, more intimate level, and can therefore, connect with others on a deeper, more intimate level.  Vulnerability allows for a more authentic and genuine connection.


Addressing Anger through the

‘Responsibility-Empowering Actions’ Method:

  •  Self-Reflection

  •  Discovery

  •  Care-Frontation

  •  Handle Impasses


A.) Self-Reflection:

If we pause for a moment when we feel extremely angry at a person/situation, we can begin the process of self-reflection, and ask ourselves these questions:

  • What am I ‘fearful’ of?

  • What am I ‘frustrated’ about?

  • Why am I feeling ‘Hurt’? 

Sometimes writing this out, and spending a little time with each of these questions will give the opportunity for deeper belief systems (core beliefs and values) that are being challenged by the current interaction to appear, rather than only superficial, quick answers (surface thoughts).


B.) Discovery:

Next, we can try to discover these areas within us, with further exploration (existential analysis).  Often times, we will see that the root of the feeling stems back into our childhood days (stuck in the unconscious level) where some need did not get met by caregivers or peers.  Even if this is not the case, and it is about a need not being met by a partner, family member, co-worker, or friend in the present circumstance, the same path for change (positive growth opportunities) can be taken.  Begin to examine:

  • When did I first feel these feelings?

  • What were the surrounding circumstances?

  • What were my immediate reactions?

  • What belief systems or core values did it trigger?

  • What assumption did I make about the present circumstance and the person?


C. Care-Frontation:

Finally, healthy actions can begin to take place when we are willing to make choices for ourselves (responsibility), rather than being controlled by our emotions (victim stance and/or unaware).  We can take steps of ‘care-fronting’ to confront the person/situation (from a place of understanding and not aggression).  This allows us to: take more responsibility in our actions and our needs, create healthy boundaries for ourselves, and be ‘responsive’ (conscious and aware) rather than ‘reactive’ (emotionally hijacked).  Speaking from ‘I’ language maintains a sense of responsibility to oneself.  Likewise, we should not make assumptions that we understand what the person meant by his/her actions.  Often, we are completely mistaken on our assumptions, as they are understood through our own lenses and meaning constructions we have developed throughout our lifetime.  Take time to ask questions regarding one’s meaning and motivation without making assumptions and without blaming.  We can ask ourselves:

  • What is my motive in this? 

  • Am I correcting him/her for his/her benefit or mine? 

  • Am I trying to control the person or will there be a positive gain to our relationship and interaction?


D. Handle Impasses:

Handling impasses with people we care about, and want to stay in contact and relationship with, is important.  When a subject matter is fueled by a lot of emotion for each person, where each one feels that they are not being heard by the other, there is an ‘existential block’ (two different ‘meanings’ that are equally powerful for each person).  Opening up to dealing with an existential block means being vulnerable and sharing our personal experience, and what meanings (significance) we derived in that experience or set of experiences.  This allows for the possibility of compromise between the two people, as often neither one wants to budge from a feeling of safety (perceived safety) to an unknown and uncomfortable territory where ‘fear,’ ‘frustration’ and/or ‘hurt’ might get triggered.  The more we practice authentic disclosure without blaming, the more possibilities we have at developing an authentic and caring relationship.  Explore:

  • What is my ‘meaning’ (significance) to the other’s actions/this situation?

  • What is the other person’s ‘meaning’ (significance) to my actions/this situation?

  • How are we possibly looking at this from different perspectives?

  • What ways can we each compromise, where I can maintain my own boundaries, yet also create safety for the other?


Even if we choose to remove ourselves from the person/situation (disconnect), going through the process of the ‘Responsibility-Empowering Actions’ Method helps us to become more in touch with ourselves (self-discovery), and better able and equipped to handle future, similar situations, which will likely appear.



These Handouts are meant for Mind-Body-Spirit (bio-psycho-social-spiritual) awareness and self-help empowerment.  ENJOY!



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