You have grown up in a household where people always blamed you. You walked on eggshells. You knew you could not express your emotions. Now you have grown up, and every time you get angry, you don’t say anything. You just “move on.” It is highly likely that you are repressing all this anger. This thing that we call repressed anger is a complex and interesting psychological phenomenon. It basically refers to the unconscious suppression of anger-related emotions. The fact that it is unconscious means you do not even know that you are doing it. So the question becomes, how do I find it and address it? This article will delve into this exact question.
Repressed Anger Defined
Anger powerful emotion that mostly comes up when you as a human feel threatened in some aspect. Maybe someone has directly threatened you or maybe someone has indirectly tried to ruin or destroy things you value. While it is a very natural response to feeling threatened, some individuals tend to avoid acknowledging and expressing this anger. This is repression, a defense mechanism where we prefer to block a natural response instead of letting it come out.
Repressed anger can arise from various factors. For instance, in some cultures, it is expected that you will not display anger. It can also arise due to traumatic experiences or the manner of your upbringing . Basically, the person repressing their emotion tries to avoid the unpleasant things associated with it, such as stress that may come or conflict that might arise . What they don’t realize is that over time, repressed anger can build up and start affecting their mental and physical health.
It is essential to distinguish between suppressed and repressed anger. While the latter is unintentional, and the individual repressing anger may not know their tendency, the former is a conscious act. Suppression is a conscious effort to deliberately hold back or control emotions, thoughts, or impulses .
It is difficult to measure and report repressed anger, for there is considerable deception of self and the other . The individuals may feel some symptoms in their body, such as increased heart rate, and even show behaviors akin to anger but will deny the feeling of aggression when asked directly or confronted. Some studies have shown that those who repress anger do not report negative emotions during stress, but their heart rate and physiological arousal are high .
What are the Symptoms of Repressed Anger?
Nothing can stay inside forever. What you end up repressing does come out one way or another. Emotional or physical symptoms emerge and if they are left unaddressed, they can have horrific consequences for you. Some ways in which repressed anger manifests itself are:
Unexplained Negative Emotions
Some people experience chronic irritability and frustration. No matter what they do or what seems to be happening in their life, they are dissatisfied. Their suppressed emotions may also resurface unexpectedly, and they may experience mood swings . These unexplained emotions are actually the result of repressed anger.
Poor Coping Strategies and Mental Health Concerns
Individuals who repress anger tend to avoid facing and addressing their feelings and use distraction to cope with upsetting situations. This causes stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions  .
Negative and Intrusive Thoughts
Individuals with repressed anger tend to get negative and self-critical intrusive thoughts. In other words, their anger turns towards themselves and starts harming their self-esteem and overall well-being.
Some authors consider depression to be anger directed toward the self . Studies have linked repressing as well as suppressing anger to the depressive episodes a person experiences.
As mentioned above, anger can lead to physical symptoms as well. Some studies suggest that anger which we don’t address, causes issues like chronic muscle tension or headaches. Further, it may weaken the immune system, cause high blood pressure, high cardiovascular reactivity, and even lead to the development of serious disorders like cancer   .
Poor Relational Well-Being
Repressed anger means that somewhere the person is not able to identify their emotions and communicate them effectively. They may also struggle with expressing their needs or setting boundaries . This can create an emotional barrier and impede healthy connections with other people. Thus, the person may have poor relationships.
It is thus vital to know how to deal with anger effectively. Facing repressed anger might be challenging, but one can do it with simple tips.
How to deal with repressed anger?
Addressing repressed anger can seem daunting, but it is a journey one must take for a healthy and happy life. Some ways to discover and manage repressed anger are  :
1) Awareness and Acceptance of Anger
Recognizing and acknowledging repressed anger is the first step towards addressing it. Since it is an unconscious process, one may be unaware of even repressing their anger. It is helpful to sit with unexplained emotions, track them in your body, and try to understand what may be causing them. Journaling can be beneficial to understand one’s thoughts and emotions deeply. It is important to remember that anger is natural and valuable. Accepting one’s feelings, however negative, can be the first step to resolving them.
2) Learning Healthy Expression of Anger
One can learn assertive communication strategies to express anger healthily by learning techniques and setting clear boundaries. With repressed emotions, it is easy to get triggered in situations that may not otherwise be harmful (ex: a friend coming late or canceling the plan). One may find it helpful to understand their triggers when they get triggered and find healthy ways to release this anger instead of blowing up or avoiding it.
3) Finding Ways to Channelize Anger
Anger comes with much energy. Engaging in physical activities like exercise or sports or finding creative outlets such as painting, writing, or playing music can help release pent-up emotions.
4) Practicing Mindfulness, Meditation, and Compassion
It is essential to be mindful of what one feels and allow that to occur instead of avoiding it. Practicing mindfulness can help you observe your emotions. Since mindfulness is about accepting without judgment, it can also help you accept and acknowledge your emotions. Once you become conscious of your feelings, you are no longer repressing them, so this process will allow you in stopping the habit of repressing anger. It is also essential to practice compassion for self and others and let these feelings or situations, which may not be ideal, exist.
5) Seeking Therapy
If repressed anger significantly impacts your daily life or relationships, consider seeking the guidance of a mental health professional. Therapists can help you by taking you on a journey to understand where this repressed anger is coming from and how can you handle it better.
Learning to acknowledge and express one’s anger healthily can lead to better overall well-being. Unfortunately, many of us turn in the opposite direction and tend to avoid unpleasant emotions like anger by repressing them. This leads to negative effects on our emotional, social, and physical health. Once you begin to see this connection, you will realize that it is absolutely essential to work on releasing this repressed anger and fostering for yourself a happy and healthy life.
If you are someone who represses their anger and is struggling with it, contact the experts or explore more content at UWC. United We Care’s wellness and mental health team will guide you with the best methods for self-discovery and well-being.
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