On anger: swallowed

When angry feelings come up, they can seem overwhelming, cataclysmic, and downright petrifying. It isn’t only the angered, saddened, or painful emotions that are swallowed, because the happier ones can be swallowed as easily: “try not to get your hopes up,” “don’t just sit around smiling,” “don’t get too excited.” However, what I would like to spend some time expressing, is that when anger isn’t acknowledged and allowed to breathe, fearful consequences are compounded.

As a preface to this article, I’m not advocating that we all should go around and intentionally be angry all the time, or that we should live our lives fueled by rage. I am advocating that if we feel anger, we allow ourselves to feel it and we acknowledge that it is there rather than denying that it exists.

When we swallow our anger, not allow ourselves to feel angry with our partners, not get angry with our kids, not express our anger towards others, we hold our tongues, avoid discussions, hide our reactions, drown them with alcohol, numb them with pills, or find some escape from those feelings. In these actions our anger doesn’t disappear, it simply goes further inward. We can be angry with ourselves for being angry. We can push others away to not hurt them with our anger. We can beat ourselves up for not being nicer. We can hate ourselves for having these feelings while we hate others for the feelings they evoke, and the cyclical descent continues.

The more that anger is swallowed, the more that it is buried under a deep fear of being released for the damage it might cause; damage arises from the swallowing of anger and not from the anger itself. Swallowing anger and burying it under a fear of release is a reaction that for many people becomes a habit, which in turn seemingly becomes the only way to endure life and to survive. With that, pressure builds and unwanted feelings are driven out any way they can, which can be damaging to one’s self and others.

If anger goes unreleased and continues to build, then in the smallest way, words go unspoken, and in the largest way, persons can be killed. I write that, not to sensationalize anger, or to stoke a fear of anger, but to point out something I have seen very clearly in my life and in my work. To put it another way, we don’t die from feeling our feelings, no matter how scary they may seem. What can happen, which many people would like to conveniently forget, is that as fragile beings, we can restrict our lives and die from not feeling our feelings.

(Originally written September 20, 2012)

About the Author


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I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice down in the greater Long Beach, CA, area. I've been in the mental health field, formally, since 2005, and I consider it a deep and rewarding honor to see other people grow and live the lives that they want. If I'm not sitting on a couch with a cup of tea in hand, I'm probably on my bicycle, or lost in my own thoughts on the beach; meditating, tweeting, blogging, and talking into a video camera are also known to happen.

BradyOn anger: swallowed

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