I know, I know. I hate the title of this one too. The good news is that after this post, you will see much less of a mopey attitude. Promise.
Today’s enemy, today’s sermon, today’s you-get-points-for-just-reading, is all about unexpressed or unaware emotion—emotion that can come out in what I have called Emotionally camouflaged language.
Maybe I have talked about it before, but it’s like a drop in the bucket. Seriously. Anger is a huge topic, and it is a little daunting even trying to briefly get into it.
Anger is one of those really interesting topics. Not only is it by nature reactive, but people’s behavior towards anger can also be quite reactive. Most of us have a lot of personal history, including pain, fear and regret around the topic. Even if a person doesn’t share any of it with you directly; our attitudes around anger affects all of us.
So, yes, Anger is the big topic for the day (and future posts) and the antidote to what is ailing perhaps many of us.
It seems that many of us are taught explicitly, or learn by example and many forms of social coercion that being angry is somehow bad, or wrong, or inappropriate. It is fair to say women and minorities get even more social programming around anger and expressing anger that causes additional kinds of repression, or lack of know how in the ways to positively express anger in an acceptable way.
What is anger?
Anger is a legitimate emotional reaction when you or something or someone important to you has been devalued, has been invalidated, or has been treated poorly.
Anger is your brain’s way of trying to protect you.
When you are angry, you are always trying to protect something. Sometimes it is obvious, like a piece of land, the last slice of pizza, or a way of life. Often, and for most of us, it is much more subtle than that: we can become angry when a personal boundary is crossed, when an intimate emotional experience is handled badly, when we don’t feel understood, heard or seen in the manner that is important to us.
And for many of us, we just shut down those feelings, or shunt them into other places. For others, they explode with anger–obviously, any cursory examination of local or world news is replete with examples of the consequences of anger handled badly. I am not really writing today about the “exploders.” There are many, many books on how to deal with that. I am writing more today about what happens when we take the anger and suppress it.
For many of us unexpressed anger leads to depression. All that angry that has an actual external target somewhere—out there—gets turned in us on, and we crumble due to the symptoms of depression. People who are depressed are mad, but they aren’t letting any of that energy back out into the environment, or to the thing/person/whatever that hurt them. They keep all that emotion and the body and the mind react by getting depressed. I believe it is really that simple.
Think of anger as energy that needs to be released back into the environment. The environment that provoked the energy in the first place. I know this is hard to get. Imagine instead laughter. Think about how hard it is to suppress laughter when you are really happy and laughing your head off. You began leaking tears, your stomach hurts and cramps and everything else doesn’t function the way it should. Not what you want to do with that emotion, is it?
Now, of course, I am not suggesting that being in touch with your anger means punching someone every time you feel angry. You knew that though. I am suggesting that expressing anger with your words, with your wit, with your exceptional life coping strategies is important and should not be underestimated.
When you do address your anger to the person that provoked it, you are releasing all that energy back into the environment, rather than sitting on it, and letting it cause your blood pressure to go up, or give you an ulcer, or make you reach for that second glass (or third) of wine.
Anger is your ally. So start treating it like one, goddammit.
Next time: more anger. With more intensity and more feelings.