Anger sounds like an upfront and obvious emotion and it can be when it erupts and everyone around you gets to feel the heat, but anger can also burn you from the inside, and it can happen beneath your level of conscious awareness. This unhealthy simmering anger can seriously affect your health and the quality of your life if you leave it bubbling beneath the surface.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as angry. We try to appear cool and calm when we are in company, and we like to convey the impression that everything is well in our world. But many of us have anger lurking beneath our apparently calm exterior, and while it may not be so obvious to others, hidden anger is a potential danger to our health and greatly affects the quality of our lives and our relationships.
Anger properly expressed is healthy, so long as it is dropped once it has served it's purpose. Ayurveda (India's ancient science of natural health) teaches that properly expressed anger is natural and nourishing to our self-esteem. When anger becomes a problem is when it is held onto for long periods, or when we hold it inside ourselves...
How do you know if you have hidden anger? Here are some tell tale signs to look out for:
Are you quick to shout or swear if you drop something, or if anything goes wrong when you are doing simple tasks?
Do you get irritated or angry with other drivers on the road?
Do you get frustrated while waiting in queues, even though you you've got plenty of time to get served and be where you need to be next?
Do you sometimes find yourself getting suddenly irritated with friends and family?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then it's likely that you are living in a state of irritability due to hidden anger. The trouble with hidden anger is that it causes damage where it is trapped internally. Anger is, by nature, an outward focused emotion.
If we hold anger inside it tends to transform into seething injustice or resentment, and these anger mutations hurt us first and then those who live around us. There's a famous quote that says: “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
One way to deal with internal anger and resentment
One very simple way to begin to process internal simmering anger is to keep a daily journal. This journal is your special private place to record your thoughts and feelings. Keep it with you at all times and be on the look out for anything that makes you feel irritable, frustrated, or annoyed. As soon as you feel those emotions arising within you note them down.
Make a note of where you are, write down how you feel and write about what you think prompted your feelings. In a very short time you will notice that you develop a natural conscious awareness of what irritates you; and that awareness will bring issues to the surface where you can deal with them rather than leave them simmering inside.
The idea behind writing down your thoughts and feelings is not to increase you sense of frustration or injustice, but to externalize what’s been lurking beneath the surface so that it can be heard and then resolved. Until we know what we feel, we can’t get to the process of dealing with it.
Put Your Rage on the Page - How to Get Started with Your Anger Watch Journal
Firstly, this is an act of self-care. The purpose of this journal is not to burn the pages with the words coming from your pen, but to let yourself be heard on the page so that you can begin to develop a sense of emotional self-awareness.
You can use any notebook, but you might like to choose a special journal that appeals to you, something that represents a mood of reflection. This journal is to be used as a good friend, someone you can vent to and feel a little lighter afterwards. Try and use something that's a comfortable size to write in, but convenient to carry around with you too.
Record Keeping: In your chosen journal, or notepad, make a note any time you feel angry, irritated or frustrated with someone.
- What was going on at the time?
- What were you thinking / feeling?
- Did you express it aloud?
- If so how did the other person respond? And how did you feel afterwards?
Saving Insights: Now you're getting to the really useful part of logging your feelings.
Did you notice a trigger for your feelings?
Could you have handled it better/differently?
If you learned something -note that down too.
Once you have written your feelings and insights in your journal, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, drop your shoulders, relax your jaw and breath deeply for a minute or two, now close your journal until next time.
The Healthy Habit of Introspection
Many people who have adopted this introspective habit of writing their feelings down have noticed that not only does their anger and frustration naturally decrease as they become more conscious of their actions and reactions, but often unhealthy habits that they have been struggling with for years naturally subside too; things like stress related eating, smoking and alcohol consumption can all be reduced by the simple act of journaling your thoughts and feelings and being in touch moment by moment with how you think and feel.
In a future post I will be talking about a very powerful self-help technique that can help you really get to the root of what's bugging you and how you can set yourself free from the burden of anger, frustration and irritation.
Photo "letters she will never send" by Jillian Anne Photography