Hidden under Anger

I got into an argument with my wife yesterday. It was a small, ordinary argument: she wanted to put an exercise machine in a room where I didn’t want it. Our voices became raised as we made our cases: “You always …” and “Why can’t you ever…” etc. Our words were angry, but not especially heated, and the argument did not last very long. Many married couples have this sort of fight from time to time.

When it was over, unresolved, and after I stomped off, I began to feel the emotion under the emotion. Sure, I was angry, but somewhere lurking below the hot anger was a feeling of sadness. Once in touch with the sadness, I realized why I had gotten upset. The real reason I didn’t want her to put the thing in that room was because it would make the room look uglier. I’m an arts guy. I care deeply about visual aesthetics. An ugly thing, functional though it may be, in an otherwise harmonious room is jarring to me. I’m neither right nor wrong about this issue, and I don’t claim any moral high ground. It’s simply how I see things.

The image of this room in our house with a new, awkward-looking exercise machine saddened me before I had a chance to recognize what was happening. We got into an argument and didn’t even know why. That’s what happens with anger: the perception of loss of something valued caused by another person. And loss is something we experience as sadness, even on a scale as small as this example.

It took only a couple of minutes to realize the truth. I went back to Anne and told her the real reason why I didn’t want the device in that room. She understood and agreed to put it in the basement.

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One Comment

  1. David Narlee
    Posted December 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Well said. When I have an angry response to a person I typically find that there was a feeling under the feeling. Anger is such an “easy” response for males. Too easy. David

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