How are fear and anger connected? This relationship is easily understood by way of “The Anger Iceberg” (a model developed by The Gottman Institute). Only 1/3 of an iceberg is visible above the water – a small peak that symbolizes ”anger.” The bulk of the iceberg hangs below the water – and this represents “fear.” Basically, anger is what we “see,” while fear lurks hidden beneath the surface.
When fear is triggered, the brain and body enter a “fight, flight, or freeze” state (aka survival mode). Anger represents the instinct to fight, serving as a protective factor by signifying strength and power. Imagine the tiny chihuahua who takes on the German Shepard by snarling, barking, and showing his canines. The chihuahua is trying to communicate strength and power to a perceived threat.
“The Anger Iceberg” reminds us that an angry child is a fearful child. So, next time your child (or you) is angry, try to look below the surface…what is the driving fear thought? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of rejection? Fear of looking stupid? Fear of not being loved?
Now that you know anger is driven by fear, you can respond in a supportive and solution-focused way without being pulled into an anger-fueled battle.
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