What do you think of when you hear the word anger? Do you imagine someone, face red and screwed up, shouting and screaming? Often the image we have of anger is a very negative one, as if anger is an emotion that isn’t allowed. For many people it feels ‘wrong’ to be angry.
Healthy living is about experiencing the full range of emotions, both positive and negative. An analogy I use, is to imagine being asked to paint a portrait of someone whilst not being allowed to use the colour blue. It would be recognisable, but there would be something missing, and it wouldn’t feel quite so real. The assumption that aggression and anger are bad, ignores the fact that they come in many forms and are a fundamental part of life. To bite something is an aggressive act, so it takes aggression just to eat. If we were completely passive we’d starve.
Anger is an important emotion for us all to acknowledge. In our lives there are things that make us angry. Without feeling anger, we are unable to react appropriately and the anger is stored up instead, or covered with another emotion such as sadness or anxiety. This hidden anger can be turned in on the self, leading to self-hatred and low self-esteem, or even depression.
Often the reason for people not acknowledging anger is because they have taken on board messages that it is bad to be angry, or being angry makes them a bad person. Sometimes the need to keep others happy, or to be liked by others can cause anger to be hidden. The hidden anger can also feel unsafe, like it will be explosive and potentially deadly if let out, so then is kept hidden in order to stay safe.
So what can be done?
Exploring and accepting the things that have happened in your life with a counsellor can help you to explore situations where anger is being held back, or unresolved anger from your past is affecting your life now. A counsellor can help you explore anger in a safe environment, where you won’t be pressed to do anything you don’t want to do, giving you a place to slowly work with anger and express it in a safe manner.
A counsellor can help you to be more aware of your anger, and that there are many ways to express and deal with it in the future. To explore angry feelings and begin to express them, to learn that anger can be expressed safely, doesn’t just have to explode out, and can be used in an assertive, positive way as part of healthy living.
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