I think I am angry, or am I? Understanding mislabeled emotions.

There are so many word to describe the emotions we feel, but often we keep ourselves in a box.  We mislabel the emotion we are feeling to what is the easiest or what appears to be most prevalent in the moment. Our brain is processing these emotions so quickly and often what is below the anger is never addressed. Am I angry? Or Not?

These are common examples of when the emotion is mislabeled as angry, but there is another more accurate feeling beneath it. 

Redirecting anger towards aggressive drivers                                                              

1. Cut off in traffic. Come into the picture with me. I am driving along, enjoying my music, taking in the great weather, when all of a sudden this guy comes out of nowhere cuts me off and then we all stop at a light. I should mention I am not driving slow, and even above the speed limit. Was it really necessary to get one car ahead of me, probably not. Did it inconvenience me at all? Not really, I am still getting to the same place, at the same time, at the same speed…. Am I actually angry, no. But I am surprised. You can see how this easily might have set someone off to “road rage”, or a story at the water cooler at the office. But let’s be real, I am NOT angry, just surprised. 

How to end gossip, without getting angry.2.Someone was talking about you, and it has been brought to your attention. Imagine this. I am sitting in my office, wrapping up for the day almost everyone has left the building and I hear my name. It alerts me to listen closer and I overhear someone talking about what I was wearing that day. Apparently they didn’t agree with the color palette I chose and said I didn’t match. Their comments were rather extensive and I was really mad at this point. Was I really angry at this point? Actually no, I thought I was but I was just hurt. I was hurt that someone who was my coworker would talk about me when I was right in the next room. After I looked at my feelings closer it was easier to let go and I didn’t feel as agitated.  Yes, the feeling of hurt was still there but when I chose to address that person I was able to speak in a calm manner and explaining I overheard the conversation and was hurt they were talking about me. They apologized and we moved on. Clearly this could have taken another direction if I remained angry and did not properly label the emotion I was feeling.

Passing time in a crowded elevator3. An elevator that stops on 5 floors with no one there waiting. Are you there with me? I am standing on the elevator in NYC, so you can imagine the building is 20+ floors. It is a crowded elevator making various stops. I am running late for my appointment, and cannot believe these people getting off on different floors. To make matters work, during my flight up to the 21st floor, we stopped at a total of 5 floors and when the door opened, no one got of and no one was waiting. In my mind, I said ” You have got to be kidding me! Now I am going to be late.. This is ridiculous”.  Well, was I actually angry? Was I misdirecting my anger to something that was uncontrollable? I cannot control how many people are on the elevator or how many stops I made. In actuality before my appointment I knew it was a busy time of day around noon, and the building had 21 floors. Probably if I left a little earlier I would not have felt so pressed for time. So was I angry? No, I was disappointed in myself for not giving myself enough time and having to rush to get to my appointment. By taking responsibility for my action, and acknowledging that I was not in fact angry, immediately cooled me off.  This could have easily also been turned into a rant or a story that lasted for days, complaining they were the reason I was late. 

Does the express lane make you angry?4. Standing on an express line but the person in front of you has 21 items rather than the 10 which is the maximum. Come with me to the supermarket. I rush in to grab a few things I need for dinner, with guests that are coming in an hour and half. I have food on the stove but need these two key ingredients. Did I mention it is a holiday weekend? Everyone under the sun is shopping with overloaded baskets of goodies for their guests. Not me, I was prepared til I realized I had NO NAPKINS or ICE… You cannot have a party with no napkins or ice. So i timed the food just right that I had 30 minutes to get to the store and back with these items. I was so happy to see the express lane was open when I arrived at the store. By the time I got to the register of course, there were 9 people ahead of me. I couldn’t believe my eyes, standing in front of me, 2 people ahead was a woman with at least 21 items (that I could see) in her basket. Yes I counted because it was clearly far over the 10 item limit. I was so angry and wanted to say something, but I stopped for a moment. Could there be a reason why she was also in a hurry? Do I know what her situation is, no. I do not know her at all in fact. As I became curious I noticed that when her time came up at the register she paid with food stamps and was short on the overage. It was a holiday, isn’t that what holidays are about is sharing and doing for others. I gave her $5.00 and told her not to worry about it, and enjoy the holiday. I was grateful to have helped her and that I was fortunate enough that I could. I was also thankful that I had the money to buy my groceries and the dinner I had waiting for my guests.  I noticed, I was not angry anymore. In all honesty if I had planned my list better I would not have been in a rush or at the supermarket at all that day. It would not be fair to take it out on her, which I am glad I recognized this before it was too late. I thought about her when I went home that evening and shared dinner with my guests. 

People who are late make me mad! 5. When someone is excessively late for an appointment. Let’s go back in time. I clearly remember a time when I cooked dinner for a few friends, as a matter of fact I was playing match maker that night. I was so excited to set up my best friend with my boyfriend’s brother. Her and I got all dulled up as us girls do, I went a little overboard and cooked a huge meal. I probably could have fed 20 rather than 4…. but everything was perfect. I timed it well, nothing burnt and it was delicious if I might say so myself. Well, one thing led to another and the guys were running late. Late is an understatement. After various calls and check in’s, it was now three hours. The food was dry, overcooked, and cold.  We already wrapped up a bottle of wine ourselves, and still no sign of them. Was I angry, of course. I worked so hard to create this nice meal and they ruined it, It was all their fault. Well after I looked at it, I was not really angry, I was hurt. I felt that I was taken for granted and my time was not respected. I also felt very bad for my friend that she came all the way there and was disappointed. I took the blame and felt it was my fault to put her in that predicament. After talking to her, she thought she was doing me a favor and was content just having a girls night and spending time with me.  I was glad that we could spent this quality time together, as in our busy lives, it is not as easy as when we were younger. Once I began to appreciate our time, I was not angry anymore. I was hurt, and there were other feelings there but it was not anger. 

The list could go on, but you get my point. We mislabel off the first instinct or feeling that comes to mind. When we take the time and become curious about our emotions, we discover what is really bothering us and we get to the heart of the problem.

For more ways to find out how to identify your emotions, and live a fuller richer life with less stress, anger or disappointment subscribe to my blog, or consider signing up for my virtual 4 week  class on the Hapacus: Journey to Happiness:

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Amanda Scocozzo, C.P.C.

(347) 913-LIFE (5433)