Are you Having Difficulty with the Emotion of Anger?

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I learned that anger was deadly...
I learned that anger was deadly…

Recently I read a quote about anger and how everyone should embrace it and all the reasons that anger is useful. I agree that anger is useful and that anger is often justified, but I had a pretty big problem with feeling any anger and expressing it was out of the question. I had to look at WHY I had that issue in the first place before I understood that anger was useful to me in any way at all.

First of all I looked at my experiences with anger.

When my mother was angry she hit. Picture a small child (me) being hit with a belt by someone who was three times my size and three times my weight. I was powerless. When I think about how I would feel today if I were beaten by a stranger in a dark alley, I am sure that I would fear for my life. I am sure that as a child I also feared for my life when I was being beaten with a leather strap by a raging adult who was over 3 times my size.

I learned that angry people were dangerous. I learned that anger is dangerous.  I learned that angry people do scary things and that angry people can inflict huge amounts of pain.  

It is logical to understand that I was focused on trying to make sure that my mother didn’t get angry. Since I was powerless, I believed that the only thing I could do to avoid getting hit was try to make sure she didn’t ‘get angry’.

I had also been reprimanded for my own emotions. I had been taught that even if I had an “unhappy face” I was unappealing and somehow unworthy. I was not supposed to be sad; I was reprimanded for not being happy and for not smiling.

Sometimes when I was happy and playing with my brothers I was criticized and punished for being too loud. These mixed messages were really confusing. I didn’t have a clear idea of why I was ‘in trouble’ at any given time.

I learned that the expression of my emotions was more about her mood than it was about mine and therefore my only option was to accept that the only way that I could hope to avoid punishment was to figure out how to make sure that I didn’t upset her or make her angry.

“I” was more about her than I was about me.

As a teenager I recall my mother being impatient with me when I was in a good mood. And deep down I feared that my good mood might trigger my mother’s anger. And I NEVER wanted to do anything that might trigger her anger. How does one learn how to ‘be’ under those circumstances?

Having these mixed and conflicting messages about anger is confusing and causes a kind of spin around the emotion of anger itself. There is ‘a truth’ at the bottom of this whole thing and I had to get to that truth in order to feel the emotion of anger without fearing the emotion of anger. I had to find the truth about how anger was perpetrated against me in order to feel and validate that I was justified in being angry but that feeling or being angry didn’t put me or someone else) in danger like it did when I was a child.

There is not one time in my childhood that I recall ‘feeling’ angry and I don’t recall ever trying to express the emotion of anger. It was by looking at the reason at the root of that fact that I was able to finally feel anger for the years of life that had been taken from me. I was able to feel and to BE angry for the way I had been discounted, falsely defined, dismissed and unheard. I was able to feel anger that I missed out on having loving nurturing parents. I was able to feel anger for the abuse that I suffered at the hands of adults. I was able to validate my pain on a deeper level when I realized that I had a right to be angry.  

My experience with Anger is that it anger was taken out on me; as with all dysfunctional family system teachings, I learned that what is acceptable for some is not acceptable for others. I believed that anger belonged to nasty, abusive, scary people. Anger didn’t belong to me for 2 reasons; one, I wasn’t nasty, abusive or scary and I thought that NOT being or feeling anger proved it. And two, I was not allowed to have my own feelings OR the right to have my own emotions and as a child I didn’t even consider that I was allowed to have them.

I was also taught that hitting other people in the adult world was called ‘assault’ and assault is against the law. For some reason I never thought that being beaten as a child was against the law… and that was yet another mixed message.

Recap:

~I was taught to accept their actions and their anger as ‘normal’ and even right. Anger was “their right” but over the years I learned that anger was not my right. I didn’t believe that I had any right to feel the emotion of anger.

~Couple that with the fact that I was deeply afraid of anger and I didn’t want to BE anything like the people who had perpetrated their anger onto me.

~I associated anger with being hurt both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to hurt anyone the way that I was hurt and since I associated anger with that hurt, I didn’t permit myself to have that emotion.

In order to heal from trauma and the resulting depressions and issues, I had to sort this out. I had to see the truth and the false about anger. I had to understand what I associated anger with and what it meant to me because of what I was taught about it and all the mixed messages that I had received about it. I had to see the danger I faced as a child because of anger expressed by others and how I learned to survive it.

As an adult I had to take my rights back. As an adult and through healing from trauma and abuse I took my right to FEEL and have emotions back. Healing as an adult, I took my right to be treated with respect and equal value back. As an adult I found my rights to have boundaries and put them in place.

Today I live as an adult but I had to validate all the pain and dysfunction I suffered as a child before I could be who I am today. Today I understand that I have a right to be angry and that there is such a thing as justifiable anger.

Today I KNOW that ‘their anger’ was not my fault and was not caused by me, nor is it my responsibility to carry the burden of responsibility for someone else’s mood or their actions.

NOTE: when I finally validated my right to anger, when I finally expressed my anger at what had happened to me ~ the physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional neglect and abuse  ~ I no longer felt angry. Although I was afraid that if I allowed anger to rear it’s ugly head I would be trapped in anger forever, that never happened!

Please share your thoughts about anger or any other emotion that was shut down. You may use any name you wish in the comment form. 

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There is freedom on the other side…

Darlene Ouimet

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225 response to "Are you Having Difficulty with the Emotion of Anger?"

  1. By: Carlos Posted: 31st March 2016

    I think my biggest issue with being angry is that I prohibited myself from feeling such emotion in “full force.”
    In TV shows, I hear people comfort the abused by saying: “Be angry at the things they did, not them.” Of course they would say that, because this is TV where some of the people who did something bad, will feel extremely guilty and will thus try to earn their abused love one’s trust and respect again. But in the real world, this isn’t always the case. My issue was the fact that I wanted to do both. I wanted to be angry at the sins and the sinners.

    But that glimmer of hope inside of me, hindered me from going “full force” because I thought that if my anger was only geared towards the sin and I chose to continue seeing the good in my abusers then things will be okay.

    Ha that worked out quite well now didn’t it? NOT! They may have said sorry for some of the things they have done, but the fact that they are still not willing to share trust, respect and love in equal portions, goes to show that those apologies were not really sincere.

    When I stopped fooling myself that
    there will even be a slight inch of sincerity within those apologies, I eventually made peace with what I wanted to feel. I am angry at the sins of the past, the present, the future and most of all I am also angry at the ones who have done them or continue to do them.

    When you’ve decided that change is in your agenda and that you’ve realised that it’s been long overdue for you to do your share of the work, then get back to me. If that time doesn’t come, well then tough. Not having any of your tears, only to have me in tears again anymore.

  2. By: Fi MacLeod Posted: 24th September 2016

    Yes, I totally relate, I am still reclaiming anger and redefining it for myself.

  3. By: alex Posted: 24th September 2016

    I felt a no was never heard, so it seemed neverending –

    why was a simple word not enough to make them stop –

    why did I have to become a road rager to the point they became scared of me – which just ended in me becoming scared of myself in the process

    as it s not what I wanted to be or do –

    yet simple words didn t seem to work – what would –

    in care this was however repeated –
    whan in a hospital you would calmly ask what you wanted they always said no – if you however were to the point of a genuine meltdown and unable to communicate clearly and calmly, THEN there was help, meds or …. I felt still unheard and unable to handle boundaries and make them work too

    it seemed people would walk over them til I d burst in yelling and then they d run off – and I d feel like running too

    been told it s cause it s all i ve known i atract easily people in my life
    who too will not respect boundaries –

    and that people who do respect them exist, as in, if a simple no is not enough, it never will be and you can simply end the contact

    which as a child was impossible

    whenever I ran off – people would kindly bring me back home –

    but been told – now you can say no – and if it doesn t work leave the situaton or make the situation dissolve in so many other ways

    it still saddens me cause it made me believe i was like them after all, exactly the same –

    which is not true – but things get so confusing

  4. By: Jim Posted: 7th February 2017

    I can very much relate to your inability to feel or express anger and how it can make you feel trapped. As a small boy of 6 through 11 there might be times when I did something that set my mother off and I would get smacked in the face repeatedly. If / when I put my hands up to protect myself, my mother would tell me that she would smack me more sometimes so hard that I felt my survival was threatened. Hence I learned a very early and unfortunate lesson that if I tried to defend myself I would get it worse. Later in life, the experience of getting hurt more if I tried to defend myself often left me feeling paralyzed emotionally and reluctant to defend / advocate for myself if I felt I was being treated unfairly.

    Much as you described, a big part of my behavior at an early age was making sure I did not doing anything to set my mother off. My I was really all about her. This behavior has carried forward especially in my professional life especially as it relates to dealing with people in positions of authority or power over me. I often find myself feeling trapped or stuck about saying or doing the wrong thing to avoid “setting them off” or causing them to get angry at me which may result in retribution, perhaps with the possibility of terminating my employment, ie, me.

    I also found that as a child and later as an adult if I did doing something wrong or make a mistake on an exam or in sports or at work, it was much easier to get an stay angry at myself because it is easier to direct the anger inward vs outward. There is no risk of retaliation – however, it has set me up for a lose lose situation.

    In my current employment I find myself being angry with my supervisor who brought me into my job because of my expertise and skills and willingness to make tough decisions. Yet whenever I have tried, she has refused to back the actions and the organization is paying a price.

    While I feel a great deal of anger I feel myself almost immobilized in my ability to express them to her out of fear that they will set her off and when she gets angry, I will ultimately suffer.

    I have returned to therapy with an EMDR practitioner to deal with these issues. However, your description of your experiences, struggle and success in dealing with and expressing your anger give me much optisimism.

    Thank you very much

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th February 2017

      Hi Jim
      Welcome to EFB ~ I hope that this body of work blends nicely with your EMDR work. Thank you for sharing.
      Hugs, Darlene

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