How aware of your anger are you?
Many of us may say, ‘No, I am not angry’; we may talk of anxieties or depression but not our emotions. We may not recognise the feeling of anger or we may have the feeling but cannot label it as ‘anger’. This is because as children we may have learnt to suppress our anger if taught that it is wrong to express it; we are responded to in a negative manner or no one listens to why we are angry. So we come to learn that anger is a negative emotion and we find ways to repress and ignore our emotions.
The reasons for our anger are unique to each individual yet we may all find ourselves silently shouting, ‘It’s not fair!’, ‘no one ever noticed me!’, ‘how dare they treat me like that!’. We get so good at repressing these feelings that as we develop in to adults we do not even think that we have been or are ever angry.
What are the effects on us after years of repressing our anger?
When we are aware that our feelings of anger are being triggered and we try to hide it our anger turns inwards on to ourselves. We may experience anxiety; anxiety tells us that feelings of anger have been triggered, so we focus on the anxiety without an awareness of our underlying anger. Anger can often be confused with anxiety and we may fear the feeling of anger yet it is the anxiety which gives us the uncomfortable feelings, not our anger.
Depression is often the result of long-term repression of anger and other emotions. It leaves us lacking in motivation with feelings of hopelessness, despair and lethargy. Once anger is acknowledged and felt in the body, such as a knot in the stomach, we can begin to start feeling hopeful for the future and energised again.
Anger, like other emotions is a valid response to situations. If we avoid it, we avoid ourselves. We avoid angry feelings in many ways such as by walking away, crying or submitting reluctantly to the needs of others. It is as if we are saying, ‘I don’t matter, I don’t deserve better than this’ or ‘it’s bad to get angry’. If we acknowledge our anger we can begin to learn to be more assertive, stand up for ourselves, change a situation and get our needs met. We stop feeling helpless and powerless.
How can psychotherapy help?
Most importantly, the psychotherapist will be listening carefully and compassionately as you talk about the difficulties that brought you to seek help. Together you can begin to explore your feelings and emotions. It is often difficult to recognise what these feelings are and the psychotherapist may focus on your bodily sensations, helping you to describe them, such as muscle tension across your shoulders or tightness in your throat.
By linking these feelings to your thoughts, we can begin to label these feelings with an emotion. Most often, the first emotion to emerge may be anger, and together you and your psychotherapist can begin to explore the relationship between your feelings of anger in the present to your possible feelings of anger in your childhood. It is through processing your past anger that enables healing to take place; helping with your feelings of self-worth and re-working ways of getting your needs met when you next feel angry.
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