“You can’t selectively numb your anger, any more than you can turn off all the lights in a room, and still expect to see the light.” -Shannon L. Alder
Was there ever a time in your life that anger was absolutely a “no no” to express? Maybe it was unsafe to express anger as a child, or you were taught to believe it was a sin and you had to repent. Maybe anger was scary because abuse came with it, or it was used to have power over you. Maybe your own anger scares you. There are many reasons anger can feel unacceptable.
Sometimes the natural emotion of anger gets turned inward and can lead to depression, isolation, and more. Other times, anger is expressed outwardly and can come out in the form of projecting on to others. Some project anger in a passive aggressive way; on the surface this can be confusing to the one projected on. It can come out in seemingly kind ways – but it is harm in disguise.
When I was in a Survivor workshop at the Meadows, they taught us a phrase, “Own your own shit”. I had many new awarenesses during that time about myself, family dynamics, situations I’d been in, or was in. One realization I owned was dysfunction around the emotion of anger. Once my eyes were opened to this, I wanted to heal, and learn how to deal appropriately with my anger. We can only change ourselves, and when we change there is a ripple effect on others.
I was a naturally outwardly expressive person and did not hold everything back. It was also true that I had some deeply suppressed anger in areas of my life where it was not safe, or acceptable, to express it without some kind of retribution. This caused me to believe the anger and me were the real problems. In truth, it was the *dysfunction* of not knowing how to effectively engage with anger that was the real problem! Like grief, when anger is suppressed, it oozes out in a variety of dysfunctional ways: anxiety, illness, relationship problems, to name a few. I no longer wanted to project my anger on to others, or suppress it.
Happiness and anger are natural emotions; anger, like happiness, is there to help us. People don’t tell themselves to stop being happy, so why do we tell ourselves to stop being angry? Emotions arise and we don’t control them. It’s the *reaction* to them that is in our control.
I remember a time during my recovery I came into my therapist’s office, plopped down on her couch and shared that I could not stop being angry; I demanded to be “fixed” now. My discovery was that I needed a whole new relationship with anger.
As part of this, I consumed books on anger, I did activities, I journaled, I walked until my feet hurt, and I received energy healing. I needed to be in a meditative, quiet state so I could hear what messages anger had for me.
The new relationship with anger was truly a gift. Like I learned with grief, it provides windows into our hearts. It’s an opportunity to learn forgiveness, self love, compassion, and more. The anger just *was*, and there were reasons for its presence. I had to be willing to go into it and explore what was underneath; woundedness was underneath some of mine. In many cases, the anger was an appropriate protective mechanism. I had to look into what I thought I needed protection from and why. I had to learn to love these parts of myself that developed out of necessity. It gave me an opening to thank them, and to to continuously find healthy sustainable ways to express this vital human emotion.
Anger helped me find my voice again. This softened my heart. I implore you to look underneath your anger — there are wonderful discoveries your heart needs! And, your heart is needed in this world.
Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.