There’s a lot of shame surrounding the emotion of anger. You are shamed for having it, feeling it and whatever you do, don’t dare express it. This is especially true for women. Is it any wonder anger gets stuck when many of us don’t have a clue what to do with it?
We are told it’s not a real emotion because it’s acting as a cover for other emotions like sadness which is a much more respectable emotion to have, at least in some circles. If I had a cent for every time I’ve seen a meme or quote deriding anger, I’d be a millionaire.
As Karla McLaren reminds us in The Language of Emotions, emotions can arise in clusters. When we allow anger to do its job of protecting us, emotions like sadness may well come up but not because we’ve gotten rid of anger because it’s “bad” and a smokescreen for other, more acceptable emotions; but because we’ve allowed ourself to feel it and its accompanying sensations in the body. There are very few experiences in life that call for just one emotion.
I think another reason anger is so disparaged is because it’s a reminder that we’re animals, we are instinctual and we have a wild side. Anger can feel fierce, scary, out of control and too powerful but that’s only because we haven’t learned how to properly use and feel it. The concept that we have the potential to be wild, instinctual animals doesn’t conform to many people’s idea of what constitutes a “civilised” society. But we’re not doing so great as a civilised society, are we? We’ve a myriad of chronic health problems caused by unresolved trauma, not to mention the violence that we see against people and nature. Unlike what many seem to think, these issues aren’t caused by anger, they are caused by unfelt anger and other emotions. As psychiatrist Ivor Browne says; trauma is unexperienced experience.