Anger: First Repressed, First Expressed

anger“Your hair makes me angry!”

This goofy phrase is something a character says in a game I play. Yes, it’s funny, but it also summarizes how many people view anger: It comes from outside of us, eliciting an internal feeling. But it’s actually the other way around. The hair doesn’t cause anger, it creates a trigger within you, and you express it.

But why is it that we operate like this? Why is it that when we get angry, we can get really angry?

Because when we were younger, anger is one of the first things we’re taught not to repress. We were punished for tantrums. For hitting. For our frustrations as a small child. Of course I’m not saying to let a child go wild with hitting and throwing and misbehaving; it’s necessary to teach  children not to be so reactionary. But what we forget to do is teach children that it’s okay to express anger–it’s the how we do it that matters.

It’s a very base emotion, and it’s uncomfortable. But the reason it’s so uncomfortable is that most of us don’t have healthy, functional ways to express it. So we repress it. And then, when we begin working on ourselves, it’s the first thing to pop out of us because we have years and years and years of never acknowledging it or expressing it. It’s the biggest, most pressure-creating emotion in us. And when we finally open ourselves to change, it’s often the first thing to slam out of us with all the force of an explosion.

And so we’re then caught off-guard by its veracity. Or maybe we have been and that’s why someone’s now reaching for resources to create change and healthier living. Anger management classes never teach you to repress your anger. Instead, they teach you exactly what the classes are designed for: to manage it. And that means learning how to express it.

Anger is a normal emotion to have.

You are human and so you come into the world with all possible emotions preprogrammed into you. But because our parents and caregivers weren’t taught to handle/manage/express anger very well, they have no skills to pass along to us. It’s easier to stuff away than deal with it. But that’s also why we end up with attics, closets and storage units within us crammed with dysfunctionality that backs up. It’s what creates a toxic lifestyle and life. Ulcers. Illness. Insomnia. Disease. And then when our internal boiler systems can’t hold back the pressure, it comes out.

Yes, anger is scary and uncomfortable. But it’s also very healthy to have and to express. This may be a surprise. But it’s true. Interestingly, in Chinese medicine, anger is an emotion housed in the liver; one thing that can happen if we don’t learn how to express our anger in a healthy way is to self-medicate through alcohol. And alcohol abuse takes a large toll on our liver. I was told by a doctor of acupuncture, that getting angry now and then is healthy because it “moves the blood”, as he put it, and gets that which we may be repressing cleared.

So, again. It’s the expression of it that counts. It is absolutely acceptable to express your anger. But if you don’t like it when someone explodes at you and screams their anger at you in a dysfunctional way, then it’s equally uncool and rotten when you do the same thing. Do unto others, after all. Mindfulness is (as always) key. Unhealthy expression skills is partly why there’s so much anger skulking around out in the internet in the form of “trolls”. Healthy expression is what you need.

In personal/spiritual growth, when these base emotions start coming up–especially anger–many people quit. What they want is purity and joy and happiness. What they don’t understand is that without the ability to express anger, for one, it will continue to sit as a poison in them.

This makes it impossible for them to achieve those goals. Yes, the loftier feelings are neat…but with out your becoming rooted and grounded and able to express all emotions, you will topple over. It’s like having a big oak tree next to your yard without an ample root system.

In Hawaiian spirituality, there is also a chakra-like system. If you wish to continue with your training, you are required to delve into the chakras that hold the base emotions, because that’s how you become grounded (think of where you feel your anger in your body; it works like mercury in a thermometer: it starts from below and moves upward.) If you do not move into working on these lower (lower as in location of the body) power centers, you are refused further training until you do.

If you are not one apt to believe in that kind of ideology, then consider that a therapist, psychologist or life coach worth their salt will tell you the same thing. They will verbalize it differently, but they will tell you that learning how to acknowledge, accept and express your anger (no matter what it is) is a cornerstone of healing and happiness. It’s one reason forgiveness is also important.

When you learn how to embrace your anger and accept it as a part of you, a funny thing starts to happen. You stop getting angry so often. Little annoyances vanish. Pet peeves. Rage becomes a thing of the past.

Someone’s hair no longer makes you angry.

Healthy acceptance/expression of anger can also be a benefit. It can be what propels you into making a change in the world. Becoming involved in a cause that’s important (but, again, it still matters how you choose to express your anger with the wrongs you see. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth just leaves a bunch of blind, toothless–and still angry–people shuffling about.)

Interestingly, anger, if expressed (in a healthy way) can create optimism. Who knew? It can also be what promotes you to make changes in your life. So get angry. But express it well.

Questions? Comments? What are your favorite self-sabotage steps? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.



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