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Anger: A Misunderstood Emotion

At a few points in my life, I can recall experiencing anger that didn’t dissipate for weeks or months.

My outlet was usually writing words to people I was angry at that validated my anger. It was like a release. Of course, I’d rather have coped with it differently at the time and chosen to explain myself more effectively or chosen to not say anything at all, but I was a teenager in the depths of mental health struggles and in a lot of pain, which is not an excuse, but a reason; a means of understanding; a passage of time I would one day unlearn.

“When we know better, we do better.” When we feel better, we choose better.

I got to a point more recently where I didn’t allow myself to experience anger at all because mine was so frowned upon and misunderstood in past experiences. When I would feel anger coming on, I vehemently avoided it. Sometimes when I see other people’s anger, great fear and sadness overcomes me. I never want anyone else to feel similarly because of me.

I’ve seen anger and rage in faces around me growing up that felt so upsetting, so I’d imagine I carry some of it because it was passed down in a sense — because it was not to be addressed ever again, which means I never got a chance to understand it or learn or grow from it; it just remained scary. 

More toned down levels of anger can also be misunderstood. I think if people don’t know the full story or realize there is a much deeper root, it can easily be misunderstood and seen as a threat, instead of a human emotion that requires love, kindness and attention. 

I shut anger out of my life because of my past. It’s slowly returned because I’ve allowed myself to feel it again. It’s not always pleasant and I can keep it at bay until I have time to safely express it, but at the end of the day, it is natural and I’m going to honor it. 

As I’m unlearning keeping a stoic front at all times when I feel anger wash over me, the song “mad woman” by Taylor Swift has shown anger to me in a more understandable light. Anger can be ugly, scary and unwanted, but it’s also often based in reaction; Taylor explains through her lyrics how her anger is her reaction to being wronged. In my past anger, I was wronged, humiliated, misunderstood, ignored, pushed aside, etc. and that was the cause. Of course we want to remain calm in situations it is called for and of course we want to be sure we are coping effectively when we feel anger coming on, but it is also natural; anger is a valid emotion and part of the human experience. 

“And there’s nothing like a mad woman 

What a shame she went mad

No one likes a mad woman 

You made her like that 

And you’ll poke that bear ‘til her claws come out

And you’ll find something to wrap your noose around

And there’s nothing like a mad woman”

Taylor touches on how it is often viewed as inappropriate, especially for women to display anger. In sharing her anger and her right to feel the way she does, she begins to normalize that all people can and will experience anger. We all know those tropes of how a man can be viewed as “powerful” or “taking control” for expressing anger, while a woman doing the same can be viewed as “overly emotional” or “crazy”, so I appreciated that Taylor addressed anger in an honest way because it makes me feel like I can talk about mine, too. Anger is a human emotion we all experience, so shedding light on it normalizes it. The song “mad woman” provides an outlet where people can listen to it and feel seen. 

It’s tricky when anger is also associated with violence or being completely out of control. There are certainly levels to it. The anger that turns into violence is something I don’t understand. I think in a way you can separate them out; violence is wrong, while expressing anger can be scary for ourselves and others, but safely expressing anger is very important for all people to find. Yelling, ripping up paper or punching a pillow could be appropriate and helpful, as it could relieve the feeling, while of course, becoming violent or verbally abusing someone is wrong. 

At its root, anger can mask deep sadness, shame or fear. We can have compassion for the root, so why not what is being presented?

Sometimes other people’s anger scares me because of my past traumas. I see safe people express anger and it can shake me. I’m always trying to lean into those feelings when they appear because I want to tolerate it better. In the past, I would have numbed it out or become emotional. I’ve been trying to find balance with it. Aggressive and violent anger is something wrong and something I will never tolerate, of course. The kind of anger where you’re frustrated or upset is natural. 

As someone with PTSD who is sensitive to others expressing anger, anger is not something I’m fully used to yet, but I’m hoping it’ll become more normal to me as I learn to safely express my own feelings.

We must become comfortable with the emotions we are the most uncomfortable with. In becoming comfortable with emotions like anger, we choose to validate ourselves. As we validate ourselves, the healing begins so we can grow and ultimately feel the more coveted emotions like joy and calmness.