Nine Signs That You’re Suppressing Your Anger
“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion that is a sign that you feel trespassed against. It is a warning light to protect your boundaries, property, or loved ones.
When used for that purpose, a healthy expression of anger ensures your survival and healthy emotional balance. When abused, it can make you really undesirable company.
This is why so many people swing wildly the other way and suppress anger altogether.
Are you stuffing your anger? Let’s check these signs and see!
Learning how to express anger in a healthy way is taught by our parents. Both of my parents are super cool, so I didn’t often see anger.
It’s no surprise, then, that I was a sarcastic child.
I got away with this for a while, and began to develop a pretty stunning and vicious wit. Then one day my dad calmly said to me, “Sarcasm is veiled hostility.”
Yikes! I was a daddy’s girl and didn’t want to be seen in that light!
I began to self-reflect.
Was hostility what I was trying to convey? It wasn’t. So, I dropped my passive-aggressive way of hiding anger and began to communicate more directly and honestly.
Once I did that, most of the things that I was angry about were either short lived or not present at all.
Conflict avoidance starts out because we don’t have the skills to confidently navigate differences of opinion and we want to avoid it altogether.
Over time, it leads to a pile of unresolved issues and becomes a way to avoid expressing anger.
The thing is, it only kicks the can down the road. When it gets to be unbearable, it’s often easier to walk away than to tackle it. So, it’s not a great strategy.
Did you know depression can be a sign of unexpressed anger? Yes! Anger and depression do a dance.
When we have so much inside and don’t feel we have a safe space to get it out, it turns inward on us. It manifests as depression.
Then, when something happens to shock us out of that, we can erupt with anger.
Then we feel regret for being over the top. The energy relaxes again, and dips back down into depression. It’s a cycle that many people experience over and over again.
Shutting down is a sign of emotional overwhelm which could be a trauma response, or it can be a sign of suppress anger.
Everybody doesn’t blow up. Some silently seethe and plot their revenge. These are the people who typically adopt the saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t resolve conflict. It just takes it to another level.
“I’m Never Angry”
When people say, “I’m never angry” that’s a huge red flag for suppressed anger. This probably comes from not being allowed to be angry.
What they say instead is that they are frustrated, disappointed, upset, or soften it to something that is acceptable.
They may also play the peacemaker role to deal with their emotions.
This isn’t true. It’s not real. Your body knows the difference and the energy will get stuck and create dis-ease if not given a healthy outlet.
Life is about expression. Humans are emotional creatures.
When that mode of expression is not allowed or criticized, they find a work-around. One of those work-arounds is to be super correct, overly controlled, controlling, and self-righteous.
They’re very aware of what is “correct” and can bang you over the head with evidence that they are not angry, you are.
Are you seeing the covert pattern here? Everything is done on the sly.
Passive-aggressive behavior is another example. Maybe the person doesn’t ever say anything, but they distance themselves, stop talking, slam doors, stomp around, or sigh dramatically.
These types of things display displeasure while not admitting it outright. They are also vague enough to give the person acting this way plausible deniability.
The problem with vague communication is that you are expecting the person to guess what you want and how you feel. That doesn’t typically work very well.
People with suppressed anger keep score. They know exactly what infraction occurred when and just how badly it made them feel.
They also know if you made up for it, and just how much groveling you still need to do… even if you don’t!
These grievances come up whenever there is a new fight, but they are used as knives to hurt each other, not topics of discussion. So, they never get resolved.
And the hurt just keeps on hurting.
Guilt and/or Shame
Guilt is a result of feeling that we have acted outside of our values. Guilt comes from self-judgment.
Shame happens when we feel we’ve done something that will get us kicked out of the tribe. So, either other people know about it, or we fear that they will. Shame comes from the feared judgment of others.
Since suppressed anger is a learned experience from families that don’t allow anger, both guilt and shame are common symptoms for people who stuffing their anger.
Let It Go Now
What To Do Instead of Stuffing Your Anger
Ending sarcasm didn’t teach me how to do anger in a healthy way. I had to let it out.
Once I got started, I was on a roll! Everything I was too shy to say come out very directly and bluntly. I become a truth telling machine.
And guess what? Nobody died. No bridges were burned. No friendships were lost.
In fact, they were strengthened.
So, that’s what I suggest you do.
Explore your feelings. Journal. Get clear.
Feel those feelings.
And if they need to be expressed, talk it out. Take the time that you need. And be very clear about what you perceive, how you feel, and what changes you want. You may not get it, but at least you expressed it.
Anger is a useful emotion. It keeps you in touch with your values and warns you to maintain your boundaries. If you are not using it for that purpose, you may end up feeling like a doormat.
Don’t do that to yourself. You are here to brighten the world with your special sauce. It won’t taste too good if it’s seasoned with the bitterness of anger.