In this important blog, we’re exposing hidden anger and giving it a voice. People will tell you that anger, bitterness, hurt – all unpleasant emotions – fade over time. They don’t. Especially if they are deeply rooted in pain and fear. My apologies if that sounds harsh, but if you’re going to heal, you have to get real.
Right from early childhood, we develop an ability to suppress negative emotions and create ‘coping mechanisms’ to deal with situations that seem beyond our control. Over time, as we grow older, those coping mechanisms no longer work, so new ways to deal with unpleasant feelings and emotions are found. Often this is how addictions begin. Children who grew up in a violent environment, or one in which a parent was always raging and threatening, will find it most difficult to express anger. In fact, as adults they see any form of anger as a negative, and fear the consequence of voicing it themselves. However, there is a difference between normal human expressions of anger, and the aggressive tones of rage. Rage is anger out of control. Rage takes over your whole being.
It’s important to understand that just like every other emotion, anger (not rage) is a natural healthy human emotion. The trick is learning how to express it in a way that is safe for yourself and others. In fact, there’s a popular theory that depression is anger and rage turned inwards. Depression can also be considered as a coping mechanism in action. Sadly depression is a condition I found all too often in adult clients who were subjected to a raging parent during their childhood years. Hidden anger in its extreme. The fact is, when you suppress negative emotions, you can’t help but be holding back on all the positive ones as well. So lets deal with your hidden anger before it gets to that stage!
Signs of Hidden Anger
On a day-to-day basis, hidden anger is expressed in very subtle ways. These are some of the camouflages to watch out for as signs that you (or people around you) may be suppressing anger:
♣ Perfectionism – that killer of joy.
♣ Sarcasm (and innuendo) – a passive-agressive form of anger. If you’re on the receiving end it’s sometimes delivered through the guise of a loaded compliment. Women are a master of it. You’ll intuitively question the intent behind it. Likewise, telling jokes that make others look bad is a form of retaliation. It’s a way of venting annoyance that you can’t say directly to the person.
♣ Too Nice? Sure – exaggerated sweetness is a red flag signalling anger in disguise.
♣ Feeling tired all the time, just generally lack lustre. When you’re unable to express negative feelings, the result can be a loss of drive. Nothing feels like it’s fun. Staying in control uses up all your energy. As stated earlier, depression is the extreme version of this.
♣ Not sleeping.
♣ Procrastination – especially if doing something that is not to your liking.
♣ Always running late. Yes. Not kidding.
♣ Holding grudges. According to Nancy Colier (psychology Today), grudges come with an identity. With your grudge intact, you know who you are—a person who was “wronged.” What you’re really after is the comfort and compassion you believe you didn’t get in the past. Your indignation and anger is a cry to be cared about and treated differently—because of what you have endured.
It’s easy to deny that anger is the reason you might be guilty of some of these (maybe even all of them). However, if you’re exhibiting behaviours associated with hidden anger, there’s a good chance you’re alienating the people around you. Unconsciously or not, anger creates a block to intimacy. It reminds me of a quote from the movie How to Be Single. When the boyfriend leaves he says, “This isn’t me leaving you. This is you pushing me away.” Says it all really.
And if you’re feeling anger, it’s got to be in bed with blame. It’s a toxic duo. In order to free yourself from your anger, you need to first be honest with yourself that it’s there. What happens if you don’t let it go? Well for starters, you might just lose a few more friends. More scary is what it will do to your physical body! Holding on to anger, blame, or bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill the other person. There’s a popular theory relating to the link between cancer and carrying toxic emotions. I’m just say’n. And I’ve already mentioned depression.
The truth is, anger is a surface emotion. Whats driving it is hurt, pain, or fear. By getting to the bottom of it we begin to let it go. When you decide to embrace your anger and work through it, you will discover the truth about what you are really feeling. It’s the denial of your anger that causes the most damage.
Tools I personally use for working through hidden anger:
♥ Breathing. When I feel anger rising, I sit quietly, and spend some time deep breathing. Try practicing yoga – there are some wonderful breathing exercises specifically designed to bring calm to the body. This means you consciously take some time to process your anger before you react in a way that you might later regret. Practice this step along with ‘divine guidance’.
♥ Divine Guidance. Sitting quietly and breathing, I ask my higher self for guidance, and I’m prepared to act on the answer I’m given. Divine guidance never steers me wrong. I do this by listening to my physical body. Every single ache or twitch, no matter how small, is a sign that something is trapped which I need to face. Fear, anger, resentment, blame.
So sitting or laying quietly, I breathe into that part of my body where I feel the physical manifestation of my trapped emotions. And I ask my pain “What am I holding onto? What do I need to let go of”. Next, I ask my higher self for the appropriate affirmation and I chant it to my physical body until I feel at peace and the psychical pain has gone.
If you leave it long enough, you may have quite a build up of pain in your body. It may take a while of continued loving practice to heal deeply imbedded emotional pain. Once you become proficient at this practice, you will do it as soon as there is a twinge, before it can manifest into something bigger which needs more work.
♥ Journaling. As long as you’re open to being honest with yourself about the role you play in your own life, journalling will provide some amazing insights which lead to deeper understanding of your self. It’s a powerful tool for expressing all your thoughts and feelings in a form that is safe. It’s important to remember too that all emotions are a natural part of being human. Denying the existence of our anger is what creates the drama in the first place ! Through journalling you are free to express your true feelings without censorship or judgement, so that you make way for the love and compassion and forgiveness that lies at the heart of us all. It’s been laying in wait beneath the weight of unexpressed anger.
Don’t know how to begin journaling? Start with the breathing exercise. When you get to the heart of what’s troubling you, pretend you are writing a letter to that part of you. for instance, “Dear fear of abandonment….” etc. Don’t censure what you’re writing. Don’t read back over what you’ve written. If you find that unhealed childhood issues arise, your writing may become larger and more childlike in appearance as you regress. If there is a block to begin, simply start by writing anything at all. Before long it starts to take on a life of its own. Whenever I finish cathartic writing, I like to perform a ritual, a further letting go, by burning what I’ve written and declaring that it’s no longer something that controls me.
♥ Letting go of Grudges. Learning to be more compassionate with myself is the key here. It’s the old adage “you teach others how to treat you”. It’s got to start with respecting yourself. When I truly began to believe I was worth it, I began to manifest loving compassion within all my interactions. Try reading When I Loved Myself Enough by Kim McMillen, and practice one act of self-love until its part of you, then move onto the next. I prefer to have a hardcover copy of her book. It’s my Love Bible!
♥ Mandala Writing. I have mandalas pasted into my journal, and sitting to write all my strengths within this mandala not only calms me down, it also reinforces my strengths in a most powerful way. I make mine creative and colourful – all things that add to my sense of feminine nurturing.
♥ Looking in the mirror. If a person is mirroring a quality/quirk/habit within myself that I have not been willing to see and acknowledge, this too will likely cause an angry reaction in me. Mirrors are very powerful and require a great deal of self honesty. Any time you have a strong negative reaction to another it is a good sign that you are looking into a mirror. Admiring someone’s good qualities works the same way! Speaking a truth which my ego is not yet ready to accept will also cause an angry reaction. This is a biggy!
♥ Communicating. Are you afraid of speaking up and speaking your truth because you fear losing the other persons love? Chances are you experienced the angry outburst of a parent/boss/friend etc in the past. This will crippled your ability to speak up for yourself. You learnt that its safer to keep quiet. However, if you lose your voice in any relationship, you stop living your truth and you slowly start to lose yourself. A great deal of anger can fester away below the surface in this situation!
Resolving a situation before it becomes a bigger issue involves communicating your feelings instead of letting them fester. Of course, there is an art to communicating which doesn’t involve being nasty. The first and second exercise above will help you get to the bottom of your upset before you communicate, so be sure to do this first.
How to communicate what you feel…
“when you” ….. (what behaviour is upsetting),
“it makes/made me feel”…… (what are you feeling – unloved, ignored, left out, dumb, jealous etc),
“because “…… (why? keep it about you… without being insulting of the other person).
If you practice this dialogue before you speak to the other person, you may just find that what you’re feeling has nothing to do with them. Rather, they have simply triggered a deeper insecurity that you need to heal.
Open honest communication requires practice and self-reflection. Lots of it. You’ll feel awkward the first few times you try it. But the more you try communicating your feelings honestly, you will begin to notice that its very freeing and empowering. Resentment that builds up into anger is often actually anger at yourself for never having the courage to speak up. Again, it’s about being honest with yourself and taking responsibility for where you’re at and why.
As for the consequence of honest communication, well, there may be a backlash. You’ll have to be ok with that. Loving yourself means you’re willing to let go of friends who don’t respect you. Fearing being alone and unloved keeps you suppressing anger and feeling powerless. Is it time to be honest with yourself?
Expose your own hidden anger and meet the depth of your experience with supreme kindness. Surprise yourself at the freedom you’ll discover. Forgive yourself too when you stray off the path into resentment and bitterness. That’s what makes us human. It’s a process. ♥