Within the base of a volcano, lava swirls, sometimes bubbling and popping, but generally remaining at the same level.
This swirling lava is used to represent some of our underlying emotions such as shame, fear, pain, hopelessness, helplessness, abandonment, despair, confusion and loneliness.
Sometimes things happen triggering the underlying emotions. When triggered, the pressure from the pain, fear and shame rise quickly and we blow our top in an attempt to protect ourselves from the intensity of the pain and fear.
We may finally reach that point where we say, “this is awful, and I am sick and tired of it, and it needs to stop!” and then our anger comes out to protect us and give us energy to propel us forward.
When this happens, our lava – or anger, bursts out and can burn us and burn everyone around us; it can look like yelling, screaming, hitting, jabbing, criticizing and fault finding, blaming, irritation, and passive aggression.
The Lava doesn’t pick and choose who it burns, it can burn your husband, children, family and friends.
This burning lava doesn’t always explode into the sky and land on anyone around you, instead it may quietly trickle and burble down the side of the volcano.
While not explosive, it still burns and hurts the ones we love as it trickles down the side, still indicating, “I need to protect myself”. This may be expressed through passive aggression, isolation, ignoring and stonewalling.
It is important to understand that anger is a valid secondary emotion, it is protective in purpose. Not only does it protect it also gives a burst of energy to propel you forward in decision making. Pain, fear and shame are main emotions at the base of our anger with many other underlying emotions.
We will always experience emotions, and as we do so, it is important to learn to process and express them while maintaining our integrity and dignity. When we let our lava fly all over those around us, these are reactive behaviors that are typically not within our dignity or integrity system. We walk away feeling bad, regretful, and guilty for the things we’ve said and done because they are hurtful and ultimately outside of our value system of who we truly are.
Because reactive behaviors are not what we would typically speak or ways we would act, we can feel even worse after the energy from the anger has dissipated. The goal is not to feel worse but to feel forward movement and healing.
The anger volcano not only hurts others, but more importantly, it hurts you.
If we can identify the triggering emotions at our base, beginning with what is scaring me, what is hurting me and/or what is shaming me, we can honor and process through these emotions so that the lava (anger and protective or reactive behaviors) don’t “volcano” all over those around us. If we can identify, “I feel like yelling and screaming…,” or “I am so angry I want to…,” etc., these red flags can help us recognize that we need to figure out what is going on underneath.
As we identify (name) and honor these emotions, allowing ourselves to acknowledge, examine, feel, and experience them, then less lava (anger) will spew out to explode and burn those around us, including ourselves and we can feel less pressure and more control over our emotions
Written by Jennifer Johnson, CMHC, CSAT. Jennifer does individual therapy for women suffering from betrayal trauma. To schedule an appointment with Jennifer, please call 855-229-2336.