I saw a mother rush to her young son, who had fallen from a small tree he had climbed. She hauled him up by the arm and spanked him, all the while yelling at him. She was conveying anger, but was actually discharging the fear she had just felt when she had seen him fall. Shouting and hitting felt normal to her, and was how she responded most readily whenever she was upset. The message her child received was probably distorted and humiliating.
When I was younger I feared anger and felt safer with tears, so I wept helplessly when anyone around me was angry. But when I was angry, I drew inward and appeared depressed. I’m sure my behavior baffled people. It’s no wonder I was misunderstood – I was sending contradictory messages!
We confuse each other by substituting more comfortable emotions for real ones which are painful to feel. When confronted by someone’s emotional reaction, including your own, consider that it might be a self-protective cover-up for what is really happening inside.