Anger: What happens when we acknowledge it?

Rage is a strong word and an even stronger emotion. Anger, being several notches beneath rage, is one that clients will often claim to have too much shame to give space for. But what happens to anger when it is not permitted to exist?

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Does it really go away or does it ping out uncontrollably in another place like in a game of Whack-a-Mole? Is anger really going to obey the order to remain hidden or will it retaliate to being pushed out and return as a ferocious ball of rage? 

The full spectrum of emotions are here, within us, whether we like them or not. Some feel great, whereas others feel uncomfortable. Some lift us up to where we want to be, whereas others beckon us back beneath our covers. Let’s be clear about this; anger, fear, shame, sadness and envy are all far down on the list of what we wake up wanting the day to dish up for us. 

But it is just this discomfort experienced from these unwanted emotions that, particularly for those who rarely had their emotional needs met nor modelled, can lead to stubborn mechanisms being erected within us aiming for a smoother ride in life. That being, a life that aims to avoid this discomfort. These mechanisms can seem very effective on a surface level, especially if we are still able to get by and hold down jobs and relationships. But often, they will bubble back to the surface, often in disguise and causing disturbances that can feel impossible to locate the source of. 

Anger not only feels uncomfortable to experience, it has the added disadvantage of having the tendency to leap out in the form of projections towards the jugular of others. And with these projections of anger, will often follow shame and further conflict in response. Consequently, society disapproves of anger. “I’m not an angry person” or “I don’t like to be angry” are frequent references to this emotion by clients in sessions with me.  

I wonder what the difference is between being angry at someone and feeling angry with someone. I wonder if it is possible to allow anger to exist within the self without it bypassing your thought processes and leaping out to someone else. And what would happen to the anger if it were given time and space within yourself to be reflected upon and perhaps too simply put, to be felt? I wonder what might be beneath that anger. I wonder if there might be tears there which have been very patiently waiting to be released, perhaps providing you with a release. 

It can be interesting to adopt some curiosity when considering what anger actually feels like. When anger is mentioned or brought up, we often consider the action of being angry with words or even violence towards another. But to consider how it exists within the self might pave the way to having a new relationship with this emotion. How does the body feel when anger is present and how does it affect the mind? It can be a very sudden emotion which can be hard to catch before it flies outwards, but to catch it, that is to become aware of it as it comes, can come with a potential for change.

Anger is never going to feel pleasant, especially at first and it might feel easier, safer and more supportive to explore this together in sessions with a therapist

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Reigate, Surrey, RH2
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Written by Hannah Downing, MSc, MBACP
Reigate, Surrey, RH2

In-person and remote psychotherapy There are many reasons why we find ourselves in search of a therapist.  You might have come to a point in life where you are in search of answers that you would like to explore together in therapy. Perhaps you have noticed patterns over time that you would lik...

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