If we have any natural fault, it is hiding
our own anger from ourselves. Here is a checklist to help you determine if
you are hiding your anger from yourself. Any of these is usually a sign of
hidden unexpressed anger.
1. Procrastination in the completion
of imposed tasks.
2. Perpetual habitual lateness.
3. A liking for sadistic or ironic
4. Sarcasm, cynicism or flippancy in
5. Over-politeness, constant
cheerfulness, attitude of "grin and bear it".
6. Frequent sighing.
7. Smiling while hurting.
8. Frequent disturbing or frightening
9. Over-controlled monotones speaking
10. Difficulty in getting to sleep or
sleep through the night.
11. Boredom, apathy, loss of interest
in things you are usually enthusiastic about.
12. Slowing down of movements.
13. Getting tired more easily than
14. Excessive irritability over
15. Getting drowsy at inappropriate
16. Sleeping more than usual - maybe 12
to 14 hours a day.
17. Waking up tired rather than rested
18. Clenched jaws- especially while
19. Facial tics, spasmodic foot
movements, habitual fist clenching and similar repeated physical acts
done unintentionally or unaware.
20. Grinding of the teeth- especially
21. Chronically stiff or sore neck.
22. Chronic depression-extended
periods of feeling down for no reason.
23. Stomach ulcers.
This is not about rage. Rage is anger
out of control and taking over your whole being. This is about the
feelings we call, irritation, annoyance, getting mad, etc. All these
negative feelings share one thing in common: they are considered
undesirable at best, sinful or destructive at worst. We are taught to
avoid then-to avoid having them if possible it isn't) but certainly to
avoid expressing then. Unfortunately, many people go overboard in
controlling negative feelings; they control not only their expression, but
their awareness of them, too. Because you are unaware of being angry does
not mean that you are not angry. It is the anger you are unaware of which
can do most damage to you and to your relationships with other people, since
it does get expressed, but in inappropriate ways, Freud once likened anger
to the smoke in an old-fashioned wood-burning stove. The normal avenue for
discharge of the smoke if up the chimney; if the normal avenue is blocked
the smoke will leak out of the stove in unintended ways-around the door,
through the grates, etc. checking everyone in the room. If all avenues of
escape are blocked, the fire goes out and the stove ceases to function.
Likewise, the normal (human) expression of anger is gross physical
movement and/or loud vocalization; watch a red-faced hungry infant
sometime. By age five or so we are taught that such expressions are
unacceptable to others and lead to undesirable consequences such as being
beaten or having affection withheld.
We learn to "be nice", which
means (among other things) hiding bad feelings. By adulthood even verbal
expression is curtailed, since a civilized person is expected to be
"civil". Thus, expression is stifled and to protect ourselves
from the unbearable burden of continually unexpressed "bad"
feelings, we go to the next step and convince ourselves that we are not
angry, even when we are. Such self-deception is seldom completely
successful, however, and the blocked anger "leaks out" in
inappropriate ways, some of which are previously listed.
The items in the list are all danger
signals that negative feelings are being bottled up inside. It is true
that each of them can have causes other than anger (procrastination, for
example, can be due to an unreasonable fear of failure), but the presence
of any of them is reason enough for you to look within yourself for buried
resentments. If you are human, you will find some. If you are fortunate,
you will find few, since you will have learned effective ways of
discharging them. If you are like most of us, you will need to unlearn
some old habits before you can learn new ways of handling "bad"
feelings, ways which are constructive rather than destructive.
Getting rid of a lifetime accumulation
of buried resentments is a major task which is one of the goals of
psychotherapy. Whether such a process is necessary for you should be
decided in consultation with a qualified professional person. Our
immediate concern in the paper is to provide you with some techniques
which will help you stop adding to the pile what ever its existing depth.
The process of dealing with negative
feelings can be divided into three parts for purposes of discussion,
although the living of it is all of a piece. The parts are:
1: Recognition of the feelings.
2: Owning it-acknowledging that it
3: Discharging it-acting on it in
Everybody has his own bodily signals
indicating current on-the-spot anger. Look for yours: Friends and
relatives might be helpful, since they may be aware of your irritation
before you are, and may be able to tell you how they can tell, when you
are upset. Some common signals are: Clamming up; Blushing; Shortening of
breath; Drumming with fingers; foot tapping, shaking or twisting; laughing
when nothing amusing is happening patting or stroking the back of the
head; Clenching jaws or fists; tucking a thumb inside a fist; yawning or
getting drowsy; Suddenly refusing eye contact with another person;
Fidgeting; Apologizing when none is asked for; A pain in the neck, Gut or
back; Headaches; A rise in voice pitch. The list is interminable; try to
find out what your signals are.
If you find yourself depressed or blue
and don't know why, Think back over the past twenty-four hours and try to
figure out who did something to anger you. (Depression is usually the
result of repressed anger.) Forget you are a nice guy and imagine yourself
to be the toughest, most unreasonable, childish person on the earth;
review your day and look for an incident wherein this imaginary person
might have gotten angry. When you find the incident, ask yourself why you
didn't get angry. Chances are you did and didn't know it. Remember what
you actually did and said in that situation; try to "relieve it"
you may learn some of your own internal anger signals.
The anger is yours. The other person may
have said or done something that punched your anger button, but the anger
is yours, and-so are the feelings it triggers. You cannot make someone
else responsible for your own feelings. Blaming does not help. nothing the
other person does will help, unless it is in response to something you do.
Accepting anger as your own is easier if you discard the idea that
feelings need to be justified. They don't, and frequently cannot be "should" and
"feel" are two words which do not belong together. It is
senseless to say that someone "should feel" some way. Feelings
are just there in the same way your skin, muscles, and vital organs are
just there. In fact, it is downright harmful to worry about what you
feelings "should be" Such worry will get in the way of finding
out what your feelings are is the best start to deciding on the best thing
First, foremost, and always. Don't hide
it. You'll probably not be successful, anyway, anger demands expression.
If you have recognized it and owned it, then you will have a choice of
when, where and how you may express it. Society (and your own safety)
forbids violence. Friendship or other interpersonal relationships (such as
husband/wife, employer/employee) make explosive verbal expression
ultimately self- defeating. Just saying," That makes me angry", or
"I do not like it when". may not be as satisfying as bashing
someone , But it is far more satisfying that saying and doing nothing.
There are in reality a few situations in which it is to your best interest
to delay expression, but none in which you can afford to delay recognition