Last week was tough for a number of clients. I got to thinking about how great it would be if Madison had an Anger Room (a safe place to express anger in multiple forms). Navigating angry feelings can be confusing and when you have abuse in your past it can be even more difficult to know what to do. A place like the Anger Room provides an outlet for learning about different expressions.
One might think that we all experience anger so what is complex about the process? Many of us suppress it for fear that we will act out in a way similar to the abuse or abuser we experienced. It is a scary thing when one has spent their life being a good, caring, gentle person who wants to stay away from conflict and angry feelings. It almost seems logical to become someone who is on the opposite side of rage. However, because anger is a universal signal that something isn’t right, problems occur if we ignore or push it away. People that experienced abuse didn’t feel that they could express themselves properly (for whatever reason) and were also taught that it was not okay to have the feelings of anger. Hence, in many ways their system is taught that it isn’t safe to have a response of anger, even when it is a healthy reaction.
Any time we pretend that our emotions don’t exist or don’t honor them, they float back up in unpredictable ways. And this very thing is often what a person is trying to avoid by suppressing the emotion in the first place. So what is a person to do if they are scared or unfamiliar with how to feel anger and express it?
One of the first things is to begin to identity when you think you might be having anger. You begin to be aware of when you feel angry and where it is in your body. This allows for grounding and a signal that you are accessing the situation beyond just a momentary reaction. Once you have basic identification of what you consider to be angry feelings, you can look at what the anger is about… the person/situation that is currently happening or a trigger to how you were treated in the past. Once these beginning steps are in place, you can look at how to express the anger in a healthy way*.
People hold anger in different ways and that means that what works for one may not work for another in providing some relief from the intensity of the emotion. Some people need a strong physical outlet, others need to write, many need to express the anger with the person (in a safe way) verbally, and others might need a more creative way to share these feelings.
Anger isn’t a bad thing, it is an emotional response to learn and teach you about your system. What is harmful is when you don’t allow yourself to express emotions in a healthy way. Your angry feelings are telling you to listen to yourself and look at the situation around you. This is a powerful tool for the ability to set boundaries, create a plan, and act in a healthy way.
*Please seek help from a therapist if you need assistance with this process.