Beneath the Surface: Understanding and Transforming Repressed Anger 

Understanding the root causes of repressed anger is essential for healing.

There have been many times when I have said to my best friend, ‘I just don’t get angry, I don’t feel it.’ I was convinced that I didn’t have an angry bone in my body. If I told her a story, she would get angry on my behalf. I would end up jumping in to defend the perpetrator. I was very uneasy near anger as an emotion. 

Fast forward many years, and I heard myself asking my coach, ‘Is it possible for a human being to just not HAVE anger, to have never experienced it?’ As I heard myself ask this, I answered my own question. No, it is not. Human beings experience a full range of emotions, anger included. I then flashed back to all the times I had googled ‘do I have repressed anger?’ over the years…and here we are today. I’m writing this blog to share with you what I needed to find on those google searches… 

Through my own healing journey and undertaking my coaching & hypnotherapy trainings, I now have a different and healthy relationship with anger. I have worked with many clients who have expressed similar sentiments—that anger doesn’t exist for them, or they don’t know if they have ever felt it. Others acknowledge its presence, but being able to feel it in a way that is not overwhelming is new territory.

This blog aims to explore what repressed anger is, how it might manifest in your life, and how to initiate the journey to transform it.

What is repression of an emotion?

Repression is the unconscious blocking of unpleasant emotions from your conscious mind. It is the ejection of unacceptable emotions that become removed from your awareness before you have a chance to process them. It can also be known as dis-associative amnesia. 

Ultimately, it is a defence mechanism that helps people to cope with a stimulus (in this case anger) that they believe can harm them. It is your brain doing its best job at keeping you feeling safe. 

Why do some people repress their anger?

Repressing anger can be a complex psychological response influenced by various factors:

  • Family dynamics: Many people fear anger, perhaps because of how they’ve seen it expressed or experienced it, maybe through shouting or violence, throughout their lives. Therefore, it’s a very valid fear. For some, that fear can be so strong, they would even tell you they have never even felt anger. It’s been subconsciously repressed so deeply because the connection to anger as something frightening is very real. The mind will work on protecting you from by not accessing it. If the expression of anger you have experienced hasn’t felt safe – you may well view it as a threat.  
  • Upbringing: You have witnessed your parents or carers also not get angry about things that deserved some expression of anger so you have witnessed how it is ‘best’ to remain quiet instead of expressing your truth.
  • Fear of consequences: If you did express anger, you were reprimanded, silenced or shown it was safer to keep quiet. 
  • Social Conditioning: Many societies and cultures teach that expressing anger is inappropriate or unacceptable. Individuals who grow up in such environments may learn to suppress or repress their anger to conform to societal norms.
  • Cultural or Gender Norms: Cultural and gender norms can also play a role in how anger is expressed and perceived. For certain genders, there may be specific expectations or stereotypes regarding anger expression, leading individuals to conform to these norms.

Overall, repressing anger often stems from a combination of learned behaviours, coping mechanisms and past experiences. 

Recognising and addressing the underlying factors contributing to anger repression is essential for promoting healthy emotional expression and overall well-being.

What is the impact of repressing anger?

Repressing of anger (and of any emotions really!) could lead to greater anxiety and psychological distress, stress and depression. There are also physical symptoms that are associated with repression; high blood pressure, skin conditions, fatigue, headache, dizziness, pain. Behaviourally, it might be noticeable that someone is repressing anger is they are having difficulty talking about it. They may become defensive when asked about it or they ‘numb out’ to avoid the feelings. 

According to the work of Dr. Gabor Mate, a repression of anger can lead to serious illnesses, such as cancer and chronic immune diseases. This is because a repression of anger leads to the chronic secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that supress the immune system. This is because the energy required to repress the physiological feelings of anger e.g. pushing a beach ball into water take a huge toll on your nervous system and physiology over time. 

Steps for starting to work with repressed anger.

When you start to recognise that you have repressed anger, knowing how to respond can feel overwhelming. If that’s you, know this: It’s not bad to feel anger. It’s not bad to express anger. You are not bad for feeling or expressing anger. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel around anger and it’s perfectly okay for you to begin exploring it and expressing it, in ways that feel safe to you.

  1. Accept that all humans have anger and will experience it at some point – it is a perfectly normal emotion to have.  
  2. If you can, journal on your relationship with anger growing up
  3. Find a safe space and start exploring healthy ways to express your anger, these might look like:
  • Have a rage – throw something (safely of course), shout, stamp your feet. 
  • Spin, spin, spin, dance, dance, dance – find novel and different ways to move your body.
  • Write it out, as a poem, in a journal, in whichever way it comes. You don’t have to keep it.Speak to someone, a friend, coach, therapist, say it out loud to someone you trust, let them help you to validate it – your anger is okay and welcome. 
  • Crack on some loud music and have a wail/sing/ cry/ make whatever noise wants to come – let yourself get primal. 

All of this to say, it’s better out than in. Repressing and suppressing emotions of any kind is not a good time for mental health and longer-term mental and physical health. Also, to note, that whilst in the beginning, it might feel never ending, actually, on the other side of it, is so much more access to freedom and authenticity, so much more self-discovery and truth. 

Embracing anger for emotional liberation

In conclusion, as I reflect on my own journey and the experiences shared by my clients, it’s clear that repressed anger is a real and significant challenge for many. For years, I denied the existence of anger within myself, only to realize that it was simply buried beneath layers of conditioning and fear. Through introspection, education, and professional training, I’ve embarked on a transformative path towards healing and understanding.

Understanding the root causes of repressed anger—whether it stems from family dynamics, societal norms, or past trauma—is crucial for beginning the journey of transformation. It’s essential to recognize that repressing anger can have profound impacts on mental, emotional, and physical well-being, leading to anxiety, depression, and even chronic illness.

Acknowledging and accepting anger as a normal human emotion is the first step towards healing. It’s okay to feel anger, and it’s okay to express it in healthy ways. Journaling, movement, creative expression, or seeking support from trusted individuals are all valuable tools for processing and releasing pent-up emotions.

Ultimately, repressed anger is like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. By learning to embrace and channel our anger constructively, we can alleviate the internal turmoil and reclaim our emotional freedom. Remember, it’s better out than in—repressing emotions only serves to harm our mental and physical health in the long run. Embrace your anger, explore it, and let it guide you towards a path of healing and self-discovery.

If this article resonates with you and you are ready to talk about being the fullest, most authentic, expression of yourself book in for a free discovery call.