You actually think you COULD drown your kids or bash someone with your shopping trolley and you are not sure how to control it. In those moments, if another hippy tells you “you need to relax” or recommends that you try yoga or meditation, you feel like you just might shove a carrot into their mouth and light it.
What now? You are too angry for yoga or meditation, but it’s probably what you need. Right? Or what if you are angry but never show the world you are? In other words, your anger is deeply repressed and all it needs is a final trigger and you think you might lose it. What then?
You’ve always been angry. This is huge. Now that you understand your problem, you can tackle it. All you need to do is…. what?
Chronic anger is dangerous. Not just because you could lose your temper inappropriately (a valid concern) but because of what it’s doing to your body. Repressed anger has been linked compellingly to everything from headaches to cancer. First of all, let’s establish what we’re talking about.
Chronic repressed anger may or may not look like anger. If you’re irritable and blow up at the slightest thing, or spend all your time seething about slights you know deep down a reasonable person wouldn’t give a thought, you might know you’re angry, but are probably repressing the cause.
A buried trauma or the chronic, banal neglect of your legitimate needs as a child can both leave you imagining you have nothing to be angry about. When the anger erupts you blame someone else so it’s somehow not really your anger.
Or, neither you nor those around you experience you as bad-tempered or unreasonable – they find you gentle, understanding and helpful. Unfortunately, you can’t always help because you’re exhausted all the time, or in chronic pain, or have terrible period pains, or are frequently blinded by migraine.
For women in particular, anger can be unthinkable – it’s not who we are. It’s not just that we can’t see any reason for anger – our self-esteem is bound up with the idea of selflessness and empathy.
You’re not going to yell at loved ones because you understand intellectually that they’re not to blame, besides which, you feel things entirely from their point of view. (Except, perhaps, for those times of the month when you’re ‘not yourself’!)
WebMD lists anger’s possible effects as headaches, digestive problems, skin complaints, high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s also the prime suspect in chronic anxiety or depression, which can manifest as chronic fatigue or lead to alcoholism or self-harming.
Pioneering Dr John E. Sarno of New York University identified a strong physical link between chronic anger and chronic pain, most typically back pain. The brain alters blood flow to an area to create a physical pain intended to distract from frightening unconscious feelings.
Chronic back pain can lead to awkward movements resulting in permanent injury. Psychologist John Bradshaw suggests this unconscious effort also has a muscular component which is behind the physical exhaustion many of us experience.
Meanwhile, the constant quest against cancer has turned up some interesting results, with some studies suggesting people who find it most difficult to express emotions are more likely to develop the illness. Shockingly, a University of Michigan study of anger’s affects on women observed three times as many deaths during an 18-year period among women with long-term suppressed anger.
None of which is helpful to hear if you’ve no idea what to do about it. Traditional anger management works to intellectualise the angry behaviour with a view to minimising damage to your relationships and the impact on other people; unfortunately you can’t think your way out of anger itself.
Respected spirituality and health guru Deepak Chopra believes repressed memories and emotions are stored in the body at a cellular level, but can be accessed and released to achieve physical healing. Only by actually releasing our anger can we rid ourselves of our anger.
Cellular biologist and pharmacologist Dr Candace Pert has confirmed his findings. She went on to identify how emotions cause cells to release specific chemicals intended to temporarily block cell receptors, leading to permanent damage and disease from chronic emotional states. Safely accessing the cellular memories and resolving and releasing the associated emotions, on the other hand, allows cell receptors to stay open, maintaining physical health.
Tackling those irrational outbursts with traditional anger-management approaches (anger management classes, yoga, meditation, stress balls, therapy) could leave you feeling empty or not really fully ‘released of all your anger’.
What you really WANT to do IS explode but it’s not really allowed. It’s essential not to blow up inappropriately at the people we care about, or at complete strangers – unfortunately a cathartic release could take years off your life.
This is why I created Tantrum Club. It’s a club where you can get together and experience a complete and utter cathartic release which is safe and healthy. You can destroy things, break things and scream your lungs out. Then we discuss what you are so angry about and work out how to strategise life in ways to avoid the build up of anger.
Read all about it here: www.tantrumclub.com/the-science-bit. The new program of meetings for women creates a non-judgmental space in which to use safe techniques to release repressed anger.
Only then, free from unconscious sabotage, do participants consider the causes of anger and the unhealthy behaviour it generates. Seeing things from the other person’s point of view is entirely optional.
I am training Tantrum Instructors at the minute and the best ones are those who KNOW all about their own anger and want to deal with it whilst exploring helping others process and deal with their anger too. You can lead your own local Tantrum Club, so contact us to find out more.
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