Generally, there are two kinds of relationships we can have with anger. We can externalize it outwardly, through speech and behaviours, or we can internalize anger, by maintaining it within our psyche and body. When practised in a rigid, extreme and dysfunctional way, both patterns have negative consequences. Typically, it is said that men tend to externalize anger while women internalize it. However, in reality, this is not necessarily the case.
This is the inability to contain anger. It may involve someone shouting, punching things or acting aggressively. In psychiatry, dysfunctional externalizing involves the lack of self-control. Someone who externalizes their anger may act violently or harshly at others. with little ability or potential to self-reflect on what they have done.
A highly sensitive person who tends to externalize their anger may be irritable all the time, easily annoyed and triggered. When they were young, they may have been argumentative, defiant or exhibited other conduct problems. They may also act out by taking drugs, engaging in reckless behaviours or even intentionally hurting others to release their own resentment.
Externalizing anger is not always unhealthy. It can also be done in a kind and diplomatic way. Healthy externalized anger can look like assertiveness and necessary boundary-setting. Furthermore, people who do not suppress their anger know it when they feel it. Once they have externalized their anger, the feeling leaves their system. It does not get stuck in the body or fester. For those who repress there anger, however, the opposite happens.
Many people see anger as something bad, something they need to repress, hide or quickly undo. However, anger is a natural emotion — neither good nor bad — and it serves a function.
Unfortunately, for myriad reasons ranging from childhood family experiences to social conditioning, many mistake anger as something “bad” or even immoral, and have unconsciously deeply suppressed this natural emotion. But, what is suppressed does not automatically disappear.
Internalized anger can be repressed anger or the inability to get angry. The highly sensitive person who internalizes their emotions suffers internally, within themselves. As they divert their anger towards themselves, they can suffer from depression, anxiety or somatization (emotions turning into bodily pain or physical ailments).
People with repressed anger may find that they rarely feel angry, but experience chronic lethargy and numbness. The problem is that while the process is highly unconscious, it takes a lot of energy to suppress and re-divert anger. They are tired because much of their energy is consumed in denying what they ought to naturally feel.
Another problem is that, on the flip side of anger, there are precious human feelings such as joy, excitement and passion. When a person represses anger, they may find many of these desirable feelings are numbed out too. They find it difficult to be passionate or excited. They may feel disconnected from own needs and desires. They may even find it hard to feel or express affection for others.
The Map of Consciousness
Anger actually registers quite high energetically on the Map of Consciousness, shown here on the left. In fact, anger is needed in order to effect change in life as it registers just before “pride” and “courage,” both of which are vital ingredients to change.
How does anger feel, anyway? That depends largely on the situation. Words often used to defining the feeling include unaccepting, resistant, defiant, antagonistic, hostile, dissatisfied, lack of clarity, upset, resentful, and even involve some guilt. Without some courage, there is no chance for change.
Anger’s inner dialogue can sound something like: “I am tired of not getting what I want.” Or, “I am angry!” Or “I am not going to accept this any longer.” This last one can launch you into pride, which resonates higher on the Map.
Common External Reactions
So, how might you react externally to feeling anger? Here are a few common scenarios:
• You are unwilling to accept your situation.
• You finally begin to stand up for yourself. You realize no one is coming to save you.
• Your voice is excited or energized.
• You bite your tongue or fight back tears.
• You displace your anger by projecting onto others.
Sample Questions for Anger
To gain more clarification for yourself, try asking yourself some questions, such as:
• Am I willing to remain so disempowered?
• Am I willing to wait for someone to come and save me?
• If Anger were a messenger, what would it be trying to tell me?
6 Proven Steps for Mastering Anger
Are you the master of your anger or is your anger controlling you? Feel overwhelming anxiety at the thought of doing something new? Or feel out of control because you or someone you love was unfairly treated?
Such things are normal. Everyone gets a little overwhelmed sometimes. This becomes a problem, though, when anger — or any emotion — sweeps in and gains control. It’s important to realize that expressing anger is empowering, provided it’s done in a healthy manner.
Thankfully, there are ways to get past this quickly and easily. These six steps are proven to help people master their anger.
Figure it Out
What are you feeling right now? In order to address your anger, you have to know what you’re dealing with. Take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Don’t be afraid to dig deep. The anger you think you’re feeling might be masking something else entirely.
Take stock of the feeling. There’s nothing wrong with feeling any emotions, even negative ones. They all serve a purpose. Emotions are part of being human, and they have something to teach you. It only takes about 90 seconds on average for an emotion to pass through the body as long as you don’t resist it.
Of course, your anger can’t teach you anything if you don’t start asking questions. Why do you feel this anger right now? Questions are great things because they interrupt the emotion itself, keeping it from taking over completely. Even better, questions teach you something you might not know about yourself otherwise.
When was the last time you felt anger? Think about how you got through it before. This serves two purposes. First, you’re reminding yourself the feeling won’t last, so there’s no need to get lost in it. Second, you recognize that in controlling the emotion successfully at least once before, you can do so again.
Reframe Anger and Look Forward
“OK, so I’m angry. What can I do for myself to put that energy to work for me?” Don’t stop with the past and present, but also look to the future. You’re not just going to manage this anger this time around, but each time it comes up. Need some help? Try visualizing yourself handling your anger in a positive way.
So where will you go from here? It’s time to turn your thoughts into actions. What did you visualize in the last step to help change things? It’s time to do it. After all, plans without action aren’t worth a whole lot.
By working through each of these six steps, you’ll find your anger — any emotion, for the matter — isn’t in the driver’s seat. You are. Revel in the feeling of knowing you’re in control, no matter what you feel!
Donna S. Vieira is a certified Gentle Trauma Release Practitioner and Astro-Empowerment Coach who uses her knowledge of Astrology in sessions with her clients. She’s also a published freelance travel and lifestyle writer, blogger, and editor who has traveled the globe. You can read about some of her travels at FromMyTravelBag.com. She and her chef husband, Fernando, own Globetrotters Bed & Breakfast/Gallery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, where they have been welcoming guests from around the world since 2002.