Anger is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” I can’t help but think that definition is falls short of all that’s encompassed with anger.
Is anger bad? Wrong? For me, that depends on how it’s expressed. But I don’t think the emotion itself is bad.
Anger lets us know when something isn’t for us. Let’s us know when someone has crossed a boundary. Let’s us know when something is wrong. It’s a way of our emotional body saying, no thank you, and ignoring it can bring about devastating results.
Studies show that children who are allowed to express their anger turn into adults who not only express their anger in healthy ways but also get over it quickly. Those who are forced to hide it, suffer greatly, and it can transform into rage, which often isn’t controllable.
And that has been my experience.
On one hand, my mother’s cool, calm approach to life taught me to shut down my anger or shift it into passive agressiveness (my LEAST favorite expression of anger). But then my Spanish father allowed me to express my anger, especially during my teenage years.
Truthfully, I am ingrained with anger. It is one of the character traits my father’s side of the family wears like a badge of honor. Our intensity makes us who we are.
Or that’s how the story goes.
I grew up seeing anger expressed easily and often. Whether it was loud voices or things being broken, anger was typical.
And I had plenty of my own.
It always simmers below the surface of my otherwise cheerful personality. I used to say, as much as you get to enjoy the sun, the clouds can roll in at any time. But the good news, is that it leaves just as fast as it arrives. Like an afternoon storm in the South.
When I was younger, it was expressed through yelling, passive aggression or shutting down.
And while you might think hot tempers and screaming are the worst ways to express anger, shutting down was infinitely more damaging because it required I shove those heavy emotions into the pit of my belly and ignore them.
Sidenote: I have huge issues with my stomach/digestion these days.
So it was no surprise that anger became one of the biggest subjects my psychotherapist and I dove into. Well, it’s more so that my anger kept rising to the surface while tackling subjects versus me bringing it up.
She helped me realize that although I know how to express it, releasing it was a whole different ballgame. In fact, I did a TERRIBLE job at releasing it. Hence, the stomach problems.
I’d talk, yell or throw something, but none of that actually helped me to release it. And while you might be imaging some lunatic, it actually takes me a LOT to get angry. I snap quickly but have to be pushed to get angry. And that’s because I grew up in a family of intense people who expressed themselves and their angry loudly. I wanted to be different but underneath, I was the same.
Anyway, she had suggested a few ways for me to release my anger — writing, twisting a rag/towel or recording voice notes. But none of these worked for me. I would get even angrier trying to write as fast as my fear felt. Couldn’t handle the texture sounds of twisting cottons. And voice notes…NO.
But one day, a breakthrough came. I had a total meltdown with my partner. It was last Fall (hey, 2020!), after his second surgery and I was once again having to rearrange my schedule to take him to the doctor’s office when I had much to do. And I LOST IT.
I told my partner to leave me alone — screamed is more like it — and went into our bedroom where I shut the door, took a towel, and started beating it against the bed with ALL the force I could muster. It was almost instinctual. It felt animalistic. I felt crazy. And I didn’t give a shit. I had SO MUCH anger inside of me, I had to GET IT OUT, and it worked.
Afterward, I felt calmer than I had in a long time. I was relaxed. And we went to the doctor’s office.
Then it hit me. I’m a physical person. When anger hits me, it intoxicates my body and therefore I needed to find a way to physically release it. But I wanted to be sure to release it in a positive manner.
When we break things, hurt ourselves or someone else in the midst of releasing energy, it doesn’t work. Not only because it’s not a wise decision, but because energetically it can’t be released negatively.
The next meeting with my therapist, she shared a few ideas before sharing that one of her clients uses empty Coke liter bottles and beats them on the kitchen counter and my ENTIRE BODY SAID YES.
All I could imagine was housewives across the country beating bottles on their kitchen counters, haha!
“Bottling” has now become an accepted and regularly exercised practice in my household, and my partner has even taken it up himself with great results.
The secret to releasing anger is uncovering the type of a person you are and designing your “anger release practice” in accordance with that. For some, screaming loudly in their car driving down the road works. For others, writing a mean, nasty letter is the solution. While others, like me, need to get physically involved and move the emotion through our body.
It has become such an answer to prayer that I’ve begun sharing this with everyone I know and funny enough, my friends and family are picking it up.
We all have pent up anger lingering in our past/present that needs to be released and while learning to express it is the first step, the only way to true health and wellbeing is through release.