I have been in Italy for about 3 weeks, and being here reminds me of the time when I was a teenager where my emotions were overwhelming and all I wanted was to be free and to make my own decisions.
I especially remember that being angry was the norm. I cannot really say if I was expressing it or repressing it at the time, or maybe a bit of both, as I remember wanting to explode and to tell people how angry I was, but at the same time, my logical side was telling me to calm down.
The truth was that I was angry at myself for not knowing how to get unstuck and finally achieving the freedom I always wanted.
The reality is that I started my road to freedom when I made the decision to look within and heal the emotional wounds that were creeping in from my past, and one main area I learned and now teach as part of my signature program is to listen to your emotions as they have important messages behind them.
Anger is one of those emotions that is important to listen to, so this post is for you if you don't get along well with anger...if you tend to repress it instead of expressing it, if you are frightened by the very thought of showing it, whilst keeping it all inside.
In reality, anger, like all other emotions, is useful, in the sense that it has a function.
Anger is meant to point out to you what is wrong so that you can decide what to do to fix it.
Therefore, not feeling it, or feeling it but doing everything to reject it, can be a problem; not only because you have a useful tool that you do not use, but also because repressing leads to accumulating it and risking turning it towards the wrong target (usually yourself).
Give yourself the right to be angry.
The first step towards a more peaceful experience with your anger is to allow yourself the right to get angry, instead of distancing yourself from it (more or less consciously).
So, I want to invite you to think about the consequences of unexpressed anger, because I hope to change your mind about an emotion that may seem terrible while it is just doing its job, just like all the other emotions.
I want to assure you that this post is not an invitation to let the anger you feel explode and with it overwhelm and destroy everything!
I am convinced that listening to it, welcoming it, and understanding why (or with whom) we are angry, helps us to choose how and when to express it. In a nutshell: it allows us to manage it and not let it invade us to the point that anger manages us and our behaviour.
Where does the anger you don't express end up?
Have you ever thought about where the anger you don't express ends up? In my practice, I have often encountered two possible destinations.
1. The body. When you don't feel an emotion that would be natural to feel in the circumstance in which you find yourself, or you feel it but you forbid yourself to keep it present and give it a voice, it will get expressed through physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular pains, heartburn, and inflammation.
I am reminded of a person I worked with who suffered from strong migraines when she came to my practice; this wasn’t the reason why she came to see me, but working together, we discovered that anger was synonymous with meanness (she always wanted to be a good person at all costs) and loss of control (for her, control was fundamental). Accepting and giving space to her anger had allowed her to transform it into an emotion like any other - and therefore worthy of being listened to and expressed when necessary.
When we said goodbye at the end of the journey, the migraine had become a memory. And in fact, now that I think back, her anger no longer needed to find alternative ways to make itself known.
2- Your own value. When you get angry at someone because of an injustice, but you don't speak up for fear of how the other person will react, you may tend to turn the anger to yourself, by criticising and devaluing yourself.
In practice, instead of expressing your disappointment to the person, you shift the focus onto yourself and your responsibilities, on how much and how you have done wrong, on how you could have avoided that wrong.
You feed discouragement and bring yourself down, undermining your own value.
Continuing to channel anger towards the wrong person (yourself) can be a great way to avoid conflict and maintain apparent peace, but it is not the solution if you want to make peace with yourself (and stop beating yourself up), is it?
What do you say...can you try to see the anger you feel from another perspective, more useful and less scary and destructive?
What does the anger you feel want to say to you?
If you would like, tell me where your unexpressed anger ends up: does it spill over into your body, your worth, or where else?
If you found this post useful and helpful, and you are ready to go to the next step and make the emotional change that you have been looking for, act NOW.