Anger is a very complicated, uncomfortable emotion. We don’t like to feel it because it can make us feel out of control, even afraid of ourselves. Often it comes paired with shame and anxiety.
But anger is just a feeling!
And like all other feelings, there is nothing inherently wrong about feeling it. Many of us tend to view our experiences of getting angry as weakness, something to be embarrassed about or to hide away. With uncomfortable feelings, it can be easy at first to decide to just bury them away and not think about them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually make the feeling go away. While it may dissipate for a period of time, the underlying reasons for that anger have still gone unaddressed, which means they are going to come up again. And the longer we put off dealing with them, the harder they become to deal with.
So why are many of us so afraid to acknowledge what we’re angry about?
Why does getting angry so frequently make us feel shame? There are many reasons why this can happen. And of course, the reasons for you are going to be completely different than the reasons for someone else. Taking time to explore your own feelings is the only true way to get to the root of it. But it’s hard to jump in without guidance, so I’ve listed a few possible explanations below:
- You grew up in a home where anger meant punishment was coming: if getting angry was not a safe emotion in your childhood environment, that fear will linger into adulthood until it is explored and addressed. If a parent would take their anger out on you, then you likely have a deep rooted fear of getting angry that developed as a survival mechanism. But now that survival mechanism isn’t able to tell the difference between an expression of anger that is a threat, and the experience of feeling angry, which can actually give us useful information about ourselves.
- Anger makes you feel out of control: Sometimes being angry can be scary, because it feels like we are experiencing life without having any control over it. Getting so overwhelmingly angry that you feel the urge to yell or cry or break something can be frightening.
- You associate anger with confrontation, and confrontation with loss: If you frequently find yourself monitoring how you act, or even feel like you are “performing” around those you interact with, anger can be uncomfortable because it threatens to disrupt that act completely. If you express it, then you are no longer keeping yourself in a small, palatable box for those around you. This can lead to confrontation, which you might have very little experience with if you tend to hold yourself back while around others. This, again, can make you feel out of control, and perhaps even threaten your sense of self or your relationships.
But anger isn’t your enemy! Just like any other emotion, anger can give you useful information about your needs, desires and circumstances.
Many reasons we feel anger are often facilitated by our mind trying to inform us of some sort of mistreatment. In that way, when you listen to it, your anger is actually trying to take care of you! Your anger might show up when you feel:
- as though your feelings or experiences are being invalidated
- that you been treated unfairly
- as though you’ve been disrespected
- that you need to grieve, but haven’t allowed yourself to
So how can you start to manage your anger with care, rather than bury it with shame?
Explore how the anger showed up:
Ask yourself questions like;
- When did I start feeling angry?
- What was happening before I started feeling this?
- What happened to trigger this feeling?
- How did I notice my anger?
- Did my anger manifest in my body? (Ex: headaches, stomach aches, upset stomach, etc.)
Explore what the anger means:
- Looking at what triggered the anger, are there any other feelings there? (Ex: embarrassment, frustration, hurt, etc.)
- What are these additional feelings telling you? (if you’re frustrated, why are you frustrated? If you’re embarrassed, what made you feel that way? etc.)
- Was a boundary of yours violated? Which boundary? How does that boundary make you feel safe? What does that boundary violation mean?
You can explore all of this in your head, out loud to a therapist, written down in a journal, etc. But taking time to explore what is behind the anger is the key to understanding how to move forward without just burying or exasperating that feeling. Then, when you have explored why, how, and for what purpose your anger showed up, you can decide on what next steps are right to take in order to move forward.
If you need support managing your anger, our clinicians can help you through this journey. Get in touch to find the perfect clinician for your needs.