So many people have trouble expressing anger. More than that, they feel afraid of their anger, as if it’s dangerous, and so they unconsciously avoid acknowledging or feeling it.
Last week I talked about how you don’t have to be annoyed at everything that is annoying. And while that’s true, this week I want to talk about how it’s okay to feel annoyed and angry sometimes.
Annoyance and anger are normal human emotions that are okay to express in a healthy way and always okay to feel.
Unfortunately, what many of us do instead is internalize our anger and direct it to ourselves — which can lead to low self esteem, negative thought spirals, and depression.
Let me tell you a short story:
When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I was at an amusement park with my family. I had an ice cream cone and had asked my mom to hold it for me so I could go on a ride. I had a great time on the ride, and when I ran back to my mom the ice cream cone was gone. She told me she had to throw it away because the ice cream had started to melt while I was on the ride.
We went on with our day, but apparently I was sulking the entire time. My mom kept asking me what was wrong, and suddenly I blurted out, “I hate myself.”
My mom was stunned. “What do you mean, honey? Why would you say something like that?”
Finally after a few minutes of deft mom-maneuvering and peppering me with questions, she coaxed out the truth.
I wasn’t angry at myself — I was angry at her for throwing away my ice cream cone! But I didn’t know how to say that, or even how to acknowledge it to myself. So instead, I directed my anger inward because paradoxically that felt “safer” to me (all of my fellow highly conscientious people out there know what I’m talking about).
It sounds silly — but we do this as adults all the time. We feel uncomfortable not only expressing our frustration towards someone we’re upset at, but also uncomfortable even feeling it. And so when the emotion is triggered (which, if you are a human being, is inevitable) we have to find someplace to direct it. For some people, we direct it inward and internalize it, so we don’t have to deal with the discomfort of being upset at someone else.
I want to encourage you, though, that there are much healthier and productive ways to deal with your anger. So remember:
- Anger is a normal and healthy human emotion! Yes, of course you want to be able to choose how you act on this emotion so you don’t get caught up in unhealthy reactivity.
- That being said, there is nothing wrong with feeling angry at someone. Like any other emotion, it’s just an experience of a feeling moving through you rather than something that you own or that defines you.
- Please don’t internalize your anger and direct it towards yourself. When you learn healthier ways of expressing anger, it no longer needs to feel like a scary emotion you have to avoid.
Often people direct anger inward because they don’t know how to communicate boundaries in a healthy way. If you want to learn more about how to set healthy boundaries, read my article Setting Limits Can Keep You Sane: Here’s How to Do It.