Anger: Emotion or Behaviour

I’ve recently helped a few people understand anger within the context of diminishing specific emotions and managing their behaviour. One person confesses to an outburst of rage that leaves them feeling shocked, humiliated and confused. Another person confesses to constant anxiety and frustration culminating in anger. Inevitably stress exacerbates the potential for anger in both persons.

As a therapist, how do I we forward? An ongoing debate, in the classic “chicken and egg” mode, is anger behaviour or emotion? The debate seems to insist on separating the two. Some therapists insist anger is only behaviour, others assert anger is emotion.

I feel anger without emotion is acting but the behaviour can seem convincing. I’m certain emotions precede gestures, even by a split second. I’m also certain angry feelings can lead to angry behaviour but also accumulated stress, anxiety, humiliation, guilt, dread even terror can result in brief and sustained angry behaviour. Emotions or behaviour? It’s usually both.