In therapy the other day, my therapist said that anger is a secondary emotion, and she urged me to figure out what primary emotion was behind anger for me. This has really stumped me. Most of the time, I think I feel hurt or taken advantage of when I’m feeling angry. Sometimes it’s when I feel like my husband doesn’t appreciate what I do with our house and our family; sometimes it’s when I feel that students take advantage of my goodwill and willingness to help. I often feel angry when people are late or when I’m put in a situation I shouldn’t be in–overworked because others have slacked, or doing things that “aren’t my job” because I’m used to overachieving.

I still can’t quite identify what the primary emotion would be in some of these situations. The two things I can easily feel on a daily basis are shades/levels of love/gratitude and anger/frustration. I notice many times in a day when I feel overwhelmingly grateful that I get to teach, that my family is so healthy and happy, that we have so very much. But, I also notice twinges of anger and frustration nearly every day, also. Little traffic incidents, late students, people who refuse to answer emails or take responsibilities that I end up taking on.

I looked this up online, and the interviewed doctor suggested that primary emotions are our initial reactions to events, and secondary emotions are the reactions we have to those reactions. I don’t quite understand this whole thing, and it seems like different psychologists label emotions differently. Some consider anger a primary emotion, and some consider it secondary. I understand how anxiety can be a secondary response to something, but I don’t know that anger is always secondary for me. I need to suss this out a bit–perhaps these things are all saddening to me? Maybe I’m disgusted by lateness and that causes anger? Lots of questions, few answers. Day 24.

Published by Quitter

I’m a college professor, wife, and mother of 2 small kids. I’m on a recovery journey 20 years in the making.

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