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How do you connect with and process repressed anger?

I curious to hear how others have managed to connect with anger that you have repressed all your life, and process it and let it go. If you felt able to share your story?

I think I am ready to tackle this now, and that I need to for my healing journey. For me, I repressed so many emotions growing up. The message was clear: do not have emotions. Do not express them. I have no right to any of them. And if I did (dare to, or make the mistake to) express them, I was wrong about all of it and that was expressed in a number of ways to reinforce the message not to have emotions.
So I have very ingrained ways of thinking about expressing emotions.

I think I have just made the connection that expressing emotion (like anger, but also distress) in an uncontrolled way, (i.e just letting the feeling come and letting it out how it presents itself) is different to it being 'uncontrolable'. I.e. nothing terrible will happen. So that feels important.

So if you feel able to share your experiences, I'm very keen to hear and learn.
 
when i first allowed myself to feel anger, i turned into a rage-aholic for a number of years. anger really is a mind-killer. when my anger erupted, i was an equal opportunity hater. i hated everything and everybody equally. figuring out the true source of my anger was a highly unpleasant challenge. random targeting was sooo much easier.

anger channeling was my ticket off that not-so-merry-go-round. my most urgent need for an anger channel happened in the 80's when my region still had a plethora of unauthorized dump sites where people left old appliances, furniture, etc. several of those dump sites became my anger channels. i channeled my anger into breaking those appliances, etc., into pieces small enough to be carried out in a trash bag.

i am happy to report that the decades of practice since has made it easier and far more practical to express my anger while it is still fresh, more easily focused and/or more appropriately targeted. keeping up is MUCH easier than catching up.
 
Thanks @arfie
when i first allowed myself to feel anger, i turned into a rage-aholic for a number of years. anger really is a mind-killer.
Yeah, I am a bit worried about unleashing a monster. And I suppose it is to be expected at times with going from one extreme to another before it settles into hopefully a healthy equilibrium.
keeping up is MUCH easier than catching up.
Love this! Thank you for highlighting.
 
I think some things you already do, like swimming. I think part of it is adding to your tool bag other strategies, perhaps ones you’ve never tried, or are curious about? In my city there’s a place called the “rage room” (or “break room” can’t remember) where you can go break stuff. There’s also making big messy art—I found crayons especially helpful for getting it out (now I want to do some crayon art! Pressing hard, melting, etc.)

So the term sublimation means taking one thing and transforming it into another, sort of like alchemy. The anger gets turned into exercise, dance, art, smashing, whatever.

I think the important thing is that if you are doing something like exercise or art as a way to process, not to block whatever emotions come through—like screaming and crying. I know you like to sing—I’m imagining some really loud yelling/screaming song (you probably know of some artists who sing like that?)

What I’m getting at is that grief is closely tied to anger so if there’s rage, there’s probably tears somewhere behind it and to let it all come out—until you’re at that exhausted calm, even laughing state. Not to block it along the way.
 
After yesterdays session I understand it better......not really well but better.

Lots of dealing with it is when you get to separating past and present. It's part of how PTSD works, it flips a switch so yesterdays danger and trauma feels like its today, immediate, right here and now.

To start separating yesterday from today starts to leave that anger attached to the past not the now. It's hard to explain more than that but it is a stage in therapy you will get to. When things start to flip - from my fault to what others did to me, from what was done being some insignificant thing to the monstrous horrible thing it really was.

It's yet another PTSD mindf%$k....
 
When my personal boundaries are violated and feelings of anger arise, I experience a warming sensation (or hot depending on the intensity) on my forehead and detect the onset of sweating. This bodily reaction serves as an indicator, prompting my brain to initiate a calming response, encouraging me to exercise patience and observe the unfolding situation. I wanted to add, there are multiple of layers of recognition...this is one of my upper level....closer to my cognition...I used to have it as if a person punched me in the stomach before I went to therapy.

My recommendation to you is to deliberately focus on recognizing instances when your boundaries are crossed during therapy sessions. These instances can range from minor interruptions while you are speaking to major disruptions in empathic connections, which may evoke feelings of abandonment or attack again depending on your personal knowledge of you (some injustice feeling). Consequently, feelings of rage or an infantile sense of anger may emerge, though your rational adult self may swiftly suppress them naturally. I believe that doing this in therapy is the most effective approach because it allows you to identify the bodily signals, activate your analytical mind to comprehend and address them, and have the guidance and support of your therapist to bear witness and provide insights.
By deconstructing this process in a therapeutic setting, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire cycle of anger in safe space. Subsequently, armed with this knowledge, you can navigate similar situations in your everyday life outside of therapy.

If you struggle to experience anger in therapy which can happen, then you can start talking about it and allow to bring up experiences in the past where you were pissed off and see how the sensation plays out again in the presence of the therapist.

Hope this makes sense to your question.
 
I don't think there's anything particularly special about feeling anger, which I'm aware isn't going to be a very popular take. I'm just not convinced that it's necessary for healing. Even when I lose control and act out, a few seconds later I regret it. It scares people and sometimes I break things that have a lot of value to me. The more anger I express, the more I feel, and it winds up creating a cycle of destructive impulses.

In terms of understanding that people have harmed me and holding them accountable, often anger can be the motivating factor there - it does serve an evolutionary purpose, but I would even argue that the feeling and adrenaline and frustration would get in the way of really processing those things. This isn't to say that you shouldn't express anger in a healthy way, but for me that has been more tied to learning communication skills, being assertive, maintaining boundaries, tolerating distress, and reducing outbursts.

Most of my treatment from the time I was a very young child has been focused on behavioral modification and anger management and actually, there is a good deal of evidence that says expressing anger in a "cathartic" way (screaming, breaking things, etc) can do more damage than not because it reinforces the pathway of aggression in your brain. Even acting it out in a safe place like a rage room, it actually increases the risk of you being aggressive in the future in unsafe places. There is always benefit to understanding when someone has harmed you and recognizing injustice when it happens, but physically externalizing rage has very few benefits.
 
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Which means f*ck it, my cunning plan not to feel it is not so cunning.
LeSigh. Baldrick strikes again.

🤣

Back on target though? Try flanking it. To feel anger in DIFFERENT ways than the way you’re avoiding. There are dozens and dozens of shades & flavors of anger. Getting comfortable with all of the complexities and subtleties? Doesn’t actually make it one molecule easier (sorry) to deal with the core bit …but… it shrinks the core bit down from planet sized to grapefruit.

Or, to TOTALLY mix metaphors, (although I think emotions exist on a plane of mixed metaphors, illogical creatures), it turns an amoeba 🦠 into an octopus 🐙 Instead of absorbing all of the shades and variations of anger so they all SCREAM the same way to your senses? (AbuseAbuseAbuse) The tentacles wrap and twist around the outside, easily seen as what they are, until they unwrap and let it go. Even if there are still sucker-marks that occasionally remind.

***

One example amongst those dozens? My son was utterly convinced at a core/panic-attack/self-hatred level that any time he got angry he was abusive and dangerous. Until? Amongst seeeeeeveral other types of anger being in his life, which helped but didn’t make much of a dent, he started playing football. Where very specific TYPES of anger are both excitedly encouraged AND enjoyed AND expressed. With very strict limits. It was the exact combinations of things he needed, in order to make a difference. I WATCHED it simply blow his mind. And not only did he get to express anger he felt GOOD about? But the seething roiling pit of anger he was walking around with… got to be blown off / used to a porpoise🐬 (autocorrect is now playing with my emotions <.< Ahem!) …anger blown off by being used to a purpose. He was happier than I’d seen him in yeeeeeears whilst he had that outlet. It wasn’t blind rage. It wasn’t abuse. “When in doubt? Hit someone.” didn’t hurt anyone. Covid killed football for 2 years, and he’s back to being Mr.Cheerful without that outlet and control. But? The seething & roiling is mostly gone. Still an occasional visitor, but not an omnipresent one just under the surface, or pushed deep and threatening to explode. He needs some more practical/useful/fun anger outlets he doesn’t have. And he may well always, or the shift may become permanent where anger isn’t an issue. I don’t know. But ^^^that’s^^^ what I mean by flanking It. He didn’t sit and let rage wash over him, to get used to anger. That would be stupid. No matter how many therapists recommend “sitting” with your emotions, doesn’t make it any less stupid. That’s what he was trapped with BEFORE he had ways to learn to use & control & direct it.
 
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Following on from what @Friday said about her son, I have the opposite problem to you in that the emotion I expressed was anger. And the more I was encouraged to feel it and sit with it, or direct it into smashing things up and yelling - the worse it got. I was extremely aggressive and quite violent as a child for a long old time. I didn’t have any regrets either, if I’d been violent, I saw it as tough shit.

The turning point - learning to harness the anger. For me, that was boxing, but things like martial arts work brilliantly as well. Refine it, aim it, that ability to turn it on and off helped translate outside of training on the bag/pads. Because it wasn’t just uncontrolled smashing things up and sticking my fist through the wall again. It was directing it, learning to use it as a skill, learning when to hold it back, and when to let it all go.


Perhaps in a roundabout sort of way, it might help you to find something you can use to help you direct and control the anger, if you are worried it might come out in such a way that might be uncontrollable and messy? Get one step ahead of the game and try to get in touch with it in an environment where it’s channeled from the start.
 
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