Anger is a natural emotion that comes up in response to believing that you’ve been treated unfairly or sometimes that comes up to mask fear or hurt. However, anger itself tends to be viewed with fear and we are often taught not to express anger or how to do it appropriately. Because of this, when we feel anger, many times we push it down or explain it away. When we repress, or don’t express our feelings, eventually they can eat away at us.
EFFECTS OF REPRESSED ANGER
When we repress our anger, it can cause us to feel depression, to overeat, to react to small things with intense anger, or to feel anxiety. Repressed anger can also lead to fatigue, pain, digestive issues, or difficulty sleeping. While it might feel scary to truly feel our anger, the consequences of continuing to push it down can be detrimental to our lives. So how can we express our anger in a healthy way?
WORKING THROUGH REPRESSED ANGER
When you have a chance to be alone, start to really feel the emotions in your body. Do you feel a tightness in your chest or throat? Do you feel it in your gut? Once you start to feel the anger in your body, you can name it or you can say the person’s name who you are feeling anger toward, even swearing while you talk about them.
Once you’ve tapped into your anger, let it out. Scream. Scream into a pillow or alone in your car if you need to quiet the sounds. You can scream about the person you are angry at and say all of the things you wish you could say to their face. Screaming allows us to use our voice about the event that caused the pain and anger.
In order to help continue to move the anger through your system, punch a pillow, use a pillow to hit the bed, hit the bed with a tennis racket, or any number of ways to get it out of your body safely. This will help continue your release of anger.
At the end of the release of anger, when you feel ready to be calmer, lie down and allow yourself to feel what is underneath the anger. Anger is generally a secondary emotion that comes into play when the fear, hurt, grief, or sadness feels too much and we want to cover it up. Feel whatever comes up, and when you’re ready and you feel you’ve expressed enough anger and other emotion to move past the event, allow yourself to forgive the other person involved.
Forgiveness allows you to move on from the situation without it having a hold on your life anymore. You may also feel the need to forgive yourself, for either your part in the situation or for holding onto this event for so long. Allow the forgiveness to be a marking point in your life of forward movement, when you are ready to live life on your terms and not on the terms of old emotion holding you back.
Remember, if this work feels overwhelming to you or need support moving through this, seek the guidance of a licensed mental health professional.
Julie Lublin, MA , LPC, is a therapist at Marsh Psychology Group. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org