What do you look like when you’re angry? Do you start shouting, banging, and insulting everyone around you? Or do you stand still as if nailed? Or do tears burst out of you? Or is it not visible at all? And what’s happening inside of you? Do you feel okay? Or is there a boiling sensation inside that you’re trying to cope with?
We encounter anger every day. In ourselves and in the people around us. Some people are easy to notice when they are angry. In the best case, they make those who it concerns feel it, and in the worst case, they take it out on everyone who comes their way. And then there are people among us whom we say about: ‘I have never seen them angry in my life. They are such a peaceful person. Nothing can upset them.’ What happens with the anger of these people? Where does it disappear? Unfortunately, it often stays inside and can cause great harm there. Or it finds some inconspicuous way out after all.
The way we express or experience anger (or emotions in general) begins to take shape in our early childhood. The way our parents (or other close persons) approached our own emotions as well as their own significantly affects how we perceive, experience, and express our emotions in adulthood.
On the contrary, if our early models have a problem with aggression, explosiveness, and uncontrollable expression of anger, there is a risk that we will not know how to find constructive ways to deal with it. We may have a much greater tendency to explosiveness, or we may have a panicked fear of expressing anger or engaging in conflict. And so, in every conflict, we remain paralyzed.
When we are confronted from an early age with the idea that we must not get angry, that it is bad, that we must always be kind and peaceful, strong inner conviction can remain in us that anger must be hidden at all costs and if we feel it, it means that we are bad. The truth, however, is that anger does not just evaporate. It always finds a way. But when anger goes through indirect paths, it is usually not a win for ourselves or our environment.
When anger goes out, but unnoticed
Despite appearing calm, anger can be strongly felt within us. For example, in the form of passive aggression. Many married couples could talk about how tension and anger can fester in quiet households, and how silence can torment people.
Another subtle but insidious alternative is irony. Some people are masters at striking blows at the most sensitive places – all with a smile on their face and a final remark: “I’m just joking anyway.”
Sometimes, by venting our anger through side roads, we release only a part of it, and even with its expression, we are not satisfied, because it does not lead to a constructive solution. Additionally, we can greatly distress our loved ones this way, despite feeling that we have protected them from our anger. As a result, we often don’t feel good ourselves, nor do our loved ones, and the conflict remains unresolved.
When anger stays inside