Much of the self-help advice out there seems to advocate suppressed anger. They bypass this important emotion and go straight to forgiveness instead.
People who have been gaslit and abused are expected to calmly set boundaries. The advice says to act in a monk-like manner and remember not to blame your abusers.
Common knowledge says forgiveness is the path to peace. Regardless of whether anyone has said sorry, expressed understanding, or asked for forgiveness.
More often, you are told to forgive in spite of receiving none of the above. That would be fine if there were evidence that forgiveness advances healing. But there is no such evidence.
On the contrary, suppressed anger can be far more dangerous than withholding forgiveness. Truth is, you are not a saint and you don’t have to act like one in order to heal.Suppressed anger can be far more dangerous than withholding forgiveness. Click To Tweet
There’s nothing wrong with healthy anger. In fact, it’s essential to both your mental and physical health.
Anger has much to teach us and arises as a signal that something needs addressing. It could indicate wrongdoing toward you, for example.
If you’re like me, you might have held your anger in until you could no longer. Then something triggered you to explode and express anger inappropriately.
That’s an unhealthy release of the emotion. But the answer is not to go all Zen and pretend you never experience rage. Instead, embrace that emotion and lose the shame you feel around harboring it.
Consequences of suppressed anger
Women especially have been raised to believe anger is unacceptable. As a result, we never learned how to process our anger. More often, we did our best not to feel it.
When you talk yourself out of your anger, you minimize your feelings. This is a dangerous form of self-abandonment that can lead to physical as well as mental health problems.
Anger tells you when something needs to change. Suppressed anger prevents that change from happening. And the consequences can be disastrous.Anger tells you when something needs to change. Suppressed anger prevents that change from happening. Click To Tweet
In his book, When the Body Says No, Dr. Gabor Maté explains how suppressed anger can lead to an array of diseases. He goes so far as to call it suppressed rage.
Releasing suppressed anger does not mean unleashing it on someone else. That’s often the fear around our anger: that we’ll hurt others if we acknowledge it.
But you can experience your anger without taking it out on anyone. You can feel anger toward someone and not have to unleash it on them.
It’s a matter of connecting with your anger to better connect with yourself. You acknowledge that you feel angry and have a right to feel that way.
Denying your anger does not make it go away. Instead, it turns against you and ravages your body with disease. There’s evidence it causes depression and anxiety, too.
Suppressed anger means denying yourself full expression of your feelings. That’s why advocates of “good vibes only” can seem fake and hard to relate to.Suppressed anger means denying yourself full expression of your feelings. Click To Tweet
They’ve cut off part of themselves in the hope that bypassing “negative” feelings will bring joy. But it’s a counterfeit happiness and the body knows the truth.
How to embrace anger
That’s why learning to embrace and process your anger can be a lifesaver.
This includes feeling your feelings instead of denying them. When anger arises, locate it in your body and get curious about what triggered it.
Often, our anger is about one thing that needs addressing. When we suppress it, we deny ourselves the chance to resolve that one thing.
Instead we invite depression which makes us feel bad about everything. And removes our motivation to do anything about it.
You might have the urge to dispel the angry feelings and that’s what makes you lash out. Try a different way of releasing the emotion such as movement or journaling.
Listen to what your anger is trying to tell you. What needs to change in your life? What’s one step you can take toward that change?