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Can't Express Anger? Why You're Depressed and What to Do
One of the many factors that contributes to chronic depression is the inability to feel and express anger.
This is nothing to be ashamed of since few individuals have excellent role models for expressing anger while growing up. Family’s tend to pass bad communication habits from one generation to the next; people automatically teach what they know.
Anger naturally arises when we are being treated with disrespect, our privacy is being invaded, we are being used or manipulated, or our needs are not being met. In situations such as these, anger is our built-in security system. Unfortunately, too many of us learn to distrust or disbelieve our own security system.
How We Learn to Distrust Our Own Anger
As children, we learn to trust our emotions when our caregivers respect them. When we express an emotion, such as anger or sadness, and our emotion is met with acceptance, we learn it is OK to feel what we feel and say what we feel.
We become comfortable with the feelings and emotions that are accepted by our family members or other caregivers.
We learn to distrust our anger when:
- The adults in our life have learned to distrust, dislike, or be fearful of anger, so they do not accept ours either.
- We were dismissed, put down, or punished whenever we showed or expressed anger.
- We were continually blamed for the anger that the adults in our life felt.
- We were repeatedly told that our anger was “ridiculous” or had no basis.
As children, we need to learn how to express our anger in effective and suitable ways, and that is something caregivers need to model and teach. This discipline is necessary, and it can be done without giving children the message that anger is bad.
Five Effects of Distrusting Anger
If we have difficulty showing anger, we will have one or more of the following issues:
- When someone is angry with us, we assume the blame for their feeling and may crumble into a pile of guilt and shame.
- We avoid confrontation.
- We may continually bypass our feeling of anger and experience hurt and shame instead.
- We cannot stand up for ourselves.
- Others are always right, while we are always wrong.
It is easy to see how not being able to trust our anger and use it to demand respect for ourself can trigger symptoms of depression such as worthlessness, hopelessness, and sadness.
Five Suggestions for Trusting Your Anger
Learning to trust and express anger takes effort, but it is an effort worth making.
- If this is a lifelong issue of yours, consider professional counseling or group therapy to help you accept and express your anger effectively. You learned to distrust anger within relationships, so you will likely have to learn to trust it within relationships.
- Consider the fact that you are not responsible for how another person feels. People emotionally react to things according to their own personal thoughts and perceptions. Plus, they are responsible for the way they express themselves.
- Emotions are not “right” or “wrong.” Emotions arise according to our assumptions about how things are. Our assumptions may be mistaken or skewed, but our emotions will always be true to our assumptions. It is our assumptions that we must question.
- If anger was used as a weapon of fear or manipulation by your caregivers, the anger was misused. This does not mean anger is negative.
- If you cannot yet express anger, at least acknowledge to yourself that you are angry or that you have cause to be angry; it's a good start. You have as much right to your feelings and emotions, including anger, as anyone else.
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