A common statement I hear from clients (more often my female clients) is “I should not be angry.” Clients will shame themselves for feeling angry even in situations in which an appropriate response would be to feel angry. In fact, suppressing or bottling up your anger (especially in situations where anger is warranted) is not healthy! Suppressing or bottling up your anger can cause depression, anxiety and put you at risk for eventually lashing out in an inappropriate way. It will also put you at risk for tolerating behaviors from others or situations that are not healthy, safe or appropriate.
Anger is a powerful emotion that can motivate people to take action—often in very difficult situations that require tremendous courage. So the next time you feel angry, instead of telling yourself “I should not feel this way,” ask yourself “Why do I feel this way?”
If you find yourself realizing you feel angry because you or someone else is being mistreated, disrespected, put in an unsafe situation, etc. let this anger move you to appropriate action. For example, once one woman let herself feel her anger she realized she was being emotionally abused by her partner. Until she tapped into her anger she had been feeling depressed and allowing her partner to bully her and convince her that she was “crazy.” Her anger helped her to take the difficult step of leaving the relationship. In another case, once a client explored his anger he realized he was being taken advantage of at work. He then let this anger motivate him to assert himself with his coworkers and eventually secure another job in which he was treated with respect. Another client realized she was feeling angry and hopeless about many events in the news. She channeled this anger to give her the courage to get involved in social causes that were important to her (something she had previously been reluctant to do).
So remember, the next time you feel angry let yourself feel it. Don’t suppress it. Don’t avoid it. Listen to what your anger is trying to tell you and be open to be possibility of letting your anger move you to make a needed change.