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Angry Feelings

Angry feelings
Second Opinion Carmel Wynne Irish Times 06 02 2007 by kind permission
Anger is looked upon by most people as a negative emotion. This is understandable because we are more familiar with seeing anger acted out than acted upon. People who regard anger as a dangerous emotion have good reason for their judgment. The destructive expressions of anger are only too familiar in our modern society. The aggressive young guy who smashes his fist into a wall or the young girl who smashes dishes in a furious eruption of pent-up anger have never been taught how to use anger constructively. As a society we fear the expressions of anger. We are advised to cool it, calm down and keep it in. However, when those churning feelings get out of hand, as any emotion can, we try to suppress it and then we blow up.
It's not a pretty picture to watch anyone with repressed anger erupt in a fury. The tantrums of the two-year-old child, who turns red with rage and acts out her anger by kicking and screaming, are recognised as a healthy stage of development. The child has recognised that she is separate from her mother and is seeking independence. When children are discouraged or punished for showing they are angry, they learn to fume inwardly. If they are not allowed to express anger the emotion does not evaporate and disappear. It remains alive and active in them no matter how they attempt to block it, deny it, hide it or push it away. When we don't feel safe to express our anger we find ways to suppress it. We feel the emotion building up in us and dumb it down. In time, when our capacity for suppression is full, we begin to repress those feelings. Repressed anger is genuinely not experienced.
We've all watched someone who is obviously furious but denies that he or she is angry. Through gritted teeth they snarl the denial of a dangerous emotion that everyone can clearly see but they do not feel. It is terrible when a person who has spent a lifetime denying their true feelings loses control and erupts with rage. Often it appears to be a very minor incident that sparks the over-the-top reaction. The person loses all his or her dignity in an orgy of ranting and raving in an abusive and shrewish explosion that seems totally out of character.
A healthy question you can profitably ask yourself is: what do I do with my anger? Do I express it in a healthy way? Do I push it away, repress it, medicate it or attempt to deny that I get angry? If I repress my anger, bury it too deeply and turn inwards, the anger that I rightly need to show to others will instead negatively affect my health. Anger, like every other emotion, gives us feedback. Today we have new insights that enable us to recognise it as a healthy, positive, contacting emotion. Religion made anger one of the seven deadly sins. This has given us a distorted and negative connotation of anger. We have learned to fear the feeling instead of understanding that it is a necessary and healthy life-giving experience. Anger begins with energy, those churning feelings that tell us that something is not right. This is usually a signal that we need to take action and assert ourselves.
Healthy anger is the positive energy that signals the need to assert ourselves, go after a goal, fulfil a desire, move out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves to unlock our potential to do more with our lives. The emotion of anger is important and necessary because it connects us with a source of strength within us. When we express anger we get in touch with a part of ourselves that wants something it is not getting. Learning how to channel this emotional energy in a healthy way frees us from artificial restraints. It is a valuable component of our emotional wellbeing. Anger is a healthy energy that with practise we can harness for our good. If we lack the freedom to express anger, we cannot fully experience life and love and personal freedom.
Carmel Wynne is a life skills and business coach and psychotherapist.
Moving On from Adult Bullying is a peer support group that meets on Monday evenings 20:00 - 21:30 
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