Comic Shows How Anger and Sadness Are Hard to Separate

July 27th 2016

Taylor Bell

Emotions are tricky things, and you're often told not to take what you see at face value, especially when it comes to anger.

Reddit comic

The comic illustrates this well and asks why it is so easy to mistake sadness for anger. It received 5,677 up-votes on Reddit.

So why?

To understand this, you have to know fundamentally what causes sadness and anger.

Sadness occurs when you perceive a loss of something important, such as the death of a loved one, according to Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Anger occurs when you perceive that something unfair has happened to you, as when someone cuts you off on the road.

Sadness and anger are two entirely different emotions, but you can't always separate them, because they often occur together.

"The problem is, in real life, an awful lot of losses seem to be unfair, and so you get the sadness and anger together," Leary told ATTN:.

You might feel sad if you lost your job. But if you lost your job because of something unjust, such as discrimination, you might get upset as well.

Which emotion reveals itself to other people depends on your personality and what is more important to you at the time, Leary said.

Do you care more that you were wrongfully terminated? Or do you care more that you will no longer have a job? Whichever affects you more will likely reveal itself in the emotion you express to others.

"It’s always an interaction between the person’s own personality and their tendency to feel and express certain things, the interaction between their personality and the context: Who they’re talking to, who's the person, what's just happened, the nature of the offense that they're reacting to," Leary said.

It is important to note that not every sad person is angry, and not every angry person is sad. In other words, anger is not a mark of sadness all the time. These emotions can happen independently of each other, and you can even control which emotion to display in order to steer social interactions in your favor.

For example, you may feel sad and angry, but depending on which people you're around, you might choose to reveal your sadness or downplay it. It's all about what you what to convey at the moment.

Leary explained:

"Anger is a way for me to show, 'Don’t mess with me. Don’t do this to me again.' And, yes, I am feeling sad. But that’s the thing I want to convey to you at the moment. Or vice versa: I want you to help me and have empathy and see how pathetic and sad I am, so I hide my anger a little bit and really let you see the sadness."