Anger: working with the unconscious
Anger is an emotional response related to one's physiological interpretation of being wrong, offended or ignored. It is an indicator of one’s boundaries being violated. One of the responses is to react by retaliating. It can also be a blocked energy. By learning to understand your own anger you can find the source, or the initial wound, and can work to free the feeling.
When you are free from anger, you no longer carry the pain and can start reacting to situations appropriately. The aim is to feel comfortable in your own skin. After all, no-one chooses a seat on a bus or train next to someone who is displaying anger.
Anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression because the energy is internalised. Leaking anger is known as passive-aggressive behaviour when the feelings are unprocessed. The feelings need to be expressed in a healthy way as otherwise, anger impairs one's ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over one’s behaviour.
An angry person may lose their objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others and or to themselves. We see this every day with road rage or other everyday events.
A traumatised person can feel very shaken up or frightened after displaying anger. Some people do not realise that they are angry as they are not conscious of their own feelings. They may have been angry from an early age.
When anger is used unconsciously as a defence tool you end up pushing people away. However, this outdated reaction and behaviour can isolate you and stops you from forming healthy relationships.
When a child is threatened and can’t cope, the defence cistern puts the memory into amnesia, so the child is no longer traumatised and continues to function in a normal manner. However, the problems occur when the emotional subconscious memory of the violation is trigged as a feeling. This makes us forget the incident but the feeling cannot be put into amnesia and stays in the subconscious.
Often it indicates when one's basic boundaries are violated, even though this is not conscious. The reaction is quite obviously an angry reaction because the person is now reacting to being violated. This may occur as an external expression of anger and can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression.
How do we know if the reaction is from the past or in the present?
The rule of thumb is that if the reaction is not comparable to the incident, then the reaction is from the past, i.e. ‘past feeling’ or 'past time'. When the feeling from past time enters present time it becomes real and our reaction can be projected on to someone else as if they were the violator.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to start the process of the unconscious becoming conscious by freeing up frozen feelings from the past. Once the feelings are processed, they transform into a memory without the unconscious emotional drive.
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About Paul Barrett
Paul Barrett is a clinically accredited counsellor/psychotherapist in private practice based in Chelsea, Harley Street and Little Venice.