You may think you’re doing everyone a solid by suppressing your anger — yourself included. But it’s actually the opposite: The more you seethe, the more you’re doing everyone a disservice — yourself included. Because eventually, that shit is gonna pop up somewhere else.
Or, as a Russian proverb cautions a bit more elegantly, “Feelings that have no vent in words make other organs weep.”
Three of these weeping organs are pretty important ones, too — your stomach, heart and brain, where all of that bottled-up anger has been known to result in ulcers, migraines, strokes and cardiac arrest. And Boston-based therapist Aimee Falchuk says that “stuffed” anger that is not dealt with can often lead to other problems including feelings of depression and anxiety as well as acting out and passive aggressive behaviors.
I won’t lose my shit on you now, but you’re definitely going to pay for this.
Falchuk says anger is a natural response to frustration, and that you’re only fooling yourself if you think you can choose not to experience it — a train of thought she’s even Goop-ified. The key, she argues, is learning how to be angry rather than pretending not to be.
Easier said than done, but she swears it’s possible…
Get comfortable with the fact that you want to put your fist through a wall
“When we are angry we feel wronged or dismissed,” Falchuk says. “Inherent in that is a need to be seen and acknowledged. And for a lot of us, especially men, there can be a feeling of shame about those needs. Allowing yourself to feel the anger is a way of allowing yourself to feel the need as well. In this way exploring the anger can be really important.
“A person could be withholding for other reasons, too. Maybe anger was dangerous historically in their life, and they don’t feel safe with that emotion. In that case, they should listen to their body’s natural response to frustration: Oh, I just held my breath, or made a face, or pulled back my energy. They should stop talking, take a moment and name it. Maybe point it out to whomever was responsible for it: ‘Something you just said hit me a certain way.’ The goal is to shift from being reactive to mindful, and respond to the anger rather than reacting to it.”
Then, find ways to express it that don’t involve putting your fist through a wall
“Find a safe space to reveal it,” Falchuk says. “Go into your house and scream. Jump up and down. Take a kickboxing class or do any form of exercise. Or find a therapeutic setting where you can safely move the energy out of the way, and right behind it will be information about how to heal.”
Or at least a better way to communicate the anger you’re feeling
“If you go in charging and accusing, the person receiving the information will likely become defensive,” Falchuk explains. “That creates more separation. Go into it advocating for yourself rather than attacking. If someone is constantly late, you can either say nothing and build resentment toward that person that gets acted out passively, or you can take the risk and tell them their lateness makes you feel disrespected. Practice faith that if you take the risk of coming clean and admitting what another did has hurt you, it will lead you somewhere.”
It doesn’t mean you have to take the high road, either
“You can be aware that there’s a kid inside you who wants his way,” explains Falchuk. “The more we silence this kid, the more it will act out in other unpredictable ways. So feel the pain that’s underneath the anger. Most likely it’s grief, terror or disappointment. Those feelings probably come with a triggering memory. If you can get to that level of consciousness, you can work through whatever it was that initially hurt you and come back to the present day with a little less charge and tackle it head-on.”
Whatever you do, though, don’t look for answers in a pill or bottle
“Even if alcohol is a disinhibitor and allows feeling to come out, it’s numbing the resistance to the feeling and that’s where the healing happens. Whether it’s alcohol, Xanax, cigarettes or mind-altering drugs, they all just temporarily block the emotion.”