Is fear the cause of anger?

What do outbursts of anger have to do with fear?

Suddenly someone throws the plates, slams the doors or screams loudly - when a person is furious, nobody can appease him so quickly. He is “blind with anger”, as the saying goes. The outbursts of anger can unsettle or even frighten friends, family and partners. But what do outbursts of anger have to do with fear? And how can we better deal with our own anger and the anger of our fellow human beings?

Confusing anger with fear

Anger and fear are two sides of the same coin. Both are basic emotions that have a purpose. Both emotions, fear as well as anger, can accumulate and thus create emotional tension. While tension and energy often break out with anger, fear prevents the tension from being discharged externally.

At least that's the familiar view of fear. We feel a sense of tightness when we are afraid, we tremble and we can no longer think clearly.

But fear can also discharge impulsively. As a result, many people quickly mistake the fear that is discharged for being very angry. In contrast to an outburst of anger, an outburst of fear is loud. Fear is the loudest feeling ever, and much more noisy than anger. People who scream are often afraid - of rejection, loss of face, or fear of talking about the fear.

Fear should be loud? Yes, just imagine how loud people can scream while riding a roller coaster. Have you ever heard a roller coaster visitor yell, "Now I'm angry that I'm up here!" Exactly, it is the fear that makes us so loud during the adrenaline rush during the roller coaster ride, and not the anger. Very many people confuse the expression of fear with anger. Sometimes the two emotions mix into an aggression cocktail; here different needs come together, which are fed by anger and fear. I'll go into that in a moment.

What is fear useful for?

Fear is one of our basic feelings and above all it serves as protection. When we are afraid, we often feel small and we want to hide when we can.

If we cannot run away, fear can also trigger an action that motivates us to attack.

Fear means tightness, from which we usually escape with flight or attack. We are not always aware of the goals and intentions of fear. We just observe the action, such as wanting to withdraw and lock ourselves up.

Anyone who does not understand their own fear perceives it as a kind of attack or threatening - and is helplessly exposed to it. But healthy fear has a reason, because it protects us, for example, when we walk across a street and unconsciously look around for the passing cars. Yes, that too is a form of healthy fear that most of us don't even notice.

Fear is an energy that directs the focus to a source of danger and thus moves us to take action. The goal is: security. So we are motivated with fear to protect ourselves and our species. In return, we avoid dangers or situations that we classify as possible danger.

But if the avoidance behavior of possible dangers, no matter how irrational, becomes greater, greater fears or anxiety disorders can develop, which can escalate to a panic attack. Suddenly, those affected experience crowds, heights or situations that have not previously triggered any fear as extremely threatening. It is therefore important to face fear in a healthy manner step by step and to learn how to deal with fear. This can prevent fear from being suppressed and emerging elsewhere.

However, anxiety attacks can also arise from suffocated anger. Anyone who has learned that anger does more harm than good may be afraid of anger, even though this also has its purpose.

What's behind the anger?

When we feel the proverbial anger in our stomach, there is usually a reason for that too. Many people fear outbursts of anger because they have found that angry people are blind when they are in a rage.

They become self-righteous and no longer have a feeling for those around them. But this is precisely where the point of anger lies, because it always contains a need of its own that has been hurt or not adequately met. Those affected can use this “self-righteous” gaze, so to speak, as an inside look in order to track down their own desires.

It is also important to first separate feeling and action. The feeling of anger is healthy. The act that comes out of anger can be very hurtful. We can express our great anger by letting the plates fly or berating other people. As a rule, those around us will perceive this as hurtful and rejecting.

We can also express anger healthily by addressing our needs. To do this, instead of hurting others, we have to show ourselves to be vulnerable to a certain extent in order to talk about our own needs - this reduces the hurtful side of the anger and we remain in healthy exchange with our fellow human beings. It is a revelation in one's own desires, hopes and also fear. In this way, the other person can understand and accept us and our needs, because the anger of another person is much more difficult to accept than his or her need.

The fear of revealing one's own need to other people is what Friedemann Schulz von Thun describes in his book “Talking to one another: 1” fear of revelation. Anger can contain precisely that fear of being open and honest and of revealing oneself. Anger hides this fear as well as our needs. Sometimes it seems easier to us to quietly assume that the other person must know how we are, instead of expressing what we need.

I described this myth of the “crystal ball technique” in more detail in the article “Myth of love - 5 mistakes you should avoid in love”.

Anger can be suppressed fear

Fear can be an expression of suppressed anger, or rather, suppressed needs. Conversely, anger can also be suppressed fear. This energy of anger and fear releases aggression, which is supposed to protect us and enforce our own needs. But the aggression prevents us from dealing with ourselves. The "enemy" is our counterpart, who ought to know ... yes, what actually? What does our counterpart need to know?

How should another person know what we need ourselves? It is a rather childlike belief that comes from a time when our parents or caregivers read every wish from our eyes. Growing up and being an adult also includes clearly expressing what is missing. Some people squirm at the thought of expressing their own wishes. Ultimately, this revealing of feelings carries the risk that a wish could be rejected. As we already know: Fear is a feeling that is meant to avert danger, for example the fear of being rejected or of feeling helpless.

In fear we often feel helpless, small and powerless and we don't seem to have any influence on what is happening. In anger, on the other hand, we often feel strong and think that we can influence our surroundings.

Outbursts of anger can intimidate other people

It can be very impressive how the other person recoils when someone is angry and irascible. The angry one seems to have control over how an argument goes. Unfortunately, it is only afterwards that he or she notices how much he or she has unsettled and intimidated other people.

Outbursts of anger can be very hurtful and ruin things in person, sometimes so bad that the break cannot be repaired. The unrestrained anger allows a feeling of strength and influence to arise in the short term, but it prevents relationships of any kind. Because a relationship, whether friendly or partner-like, is primarily characterized by an exchange of different perspectives and feelings.

What to do with anger and fear

We can express what is happening within us at any time. Both as an angry person and as the one who experiences the anger. What do you mean with that?

As an angry one It is important to understand how valuable we are to the people we may hurt with our anger. In addition, we have to learn to overcome the fear of actually revealing ourselves and develop the confidence that we are not rejected for our sensitive sides, but rather appreciated. Expressing your own desires and needs can be a real asset to any type of relationship.

Also the non-angry one can do something. Because he can mirror to the angry one how he feels about the anger of the other. Not in the sense of “You are to blame”, but with empathetic words such as “You are important to me, I want to understand…” Here, too, it is about showing yourself openly and honestly.

Fear and anger are sensible emotions that should help us have a good life - they shouldn't destroy relationships. All of this is sometimes easier said than done. Therefore, if the anger and fear persist, it makes sense to seek professional support.

The first step is the willingness to face life and the world as it is. The next step is the willingness to take responsibility for one's own feelings and the resulting actions - an example here would be the contrast between raging or rather talking about one's own anger. Ultimately, you need a willingness to accept yourself and love yourself for who you are. And sometimes - many forget that - you also have to learn to forgive yourself.

Do you have any questions, would you like support and would you like to make an appointment with me? Feel free to contact me.

Sincerely, your Ulrike Fuchs
Couple counselor and alternative practitioner for psychotherapy

Make an appointment now!

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Important NOTE:
The texts on were created with care and serve informal purposes. The content is in no way intended to induce you to discontinue medical treatment, to make a self-diagnosis, to undertake a treatment yourself or to avoid a doctor's visit. On the contrary: The information given here is in no way a substitute for professional medical advice, support and treatment.

Photo: Christian Kasper photographer Munich
Corinna Luerweg Hamburg
Graphics: Ulrike Fuchs Munich

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