Repression & Anger

Understanding the 10 Types of Anger

Anger is one of the hardest emotions for me to deal with, yet it is one of the ones I experience quite often. Even over the most trivial things, my anger will flare up and destroy my entire day. I’ve noticed it rearing it’s ugly head more and more often since stopping my SSRI. It’s been looming over my head for over a week now, threatening to consume me at the slightest inconvenience. I don’t even know what I’m angry about a lot of the time. If I had to pick something, I’d say I’m usually just angry at myself.

For example, last night my dog somehow got into a tin of weed gummies I bought for someone for Christmas, eating them all in a matter of minutes. I was so furious, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t mad at her exactly. She’s just a sweet dog. She had no idea what she’d done, and she definitely paid the price for the rest of the evening. After that initial explosion of blinding rage, I usually turn my fury inwards. I’m mad at myself for being so mad, for not being able to control my emotions.

I think one of the reasons my anger tends to linger for so long is because I don’t know how to express it appropriately. Instead I try to stamp it out or push it down. Honestly, even looking it up hasn’t been much help in the way of learning how to express my anger in a healthy way. Most of the suggestions seem more like avoiding the anger than expressing it. If I express it at all, it’s usually in the most passive aggressive way possible. This is likely due to seeing my own mother deal with her anger in that way.

Anger is the most difficult emotion for me to deal with. Most of my other emotions are much easier to sit with, even the pain of sadness brings the relief of tears. There doesn’t seem to be any satisfying way for me to find relief from anger. Even if I lash out, it only leads to feelings of shame and guilt, or even fear in some cases if I’ve taken it out on someone I love and pushed them away. It also seems that anger begets only anger. It feeds off of itself, growing stronger and stronger as the day goes on and one irritation piles itself on top of another. Sometimes the shame is even welcomed as it momentarily diffuses my more explosive emotions and humbles me.

I genuinely don’t know who I am when I am angry. I see the discomfort and fear that I cause those around me, and despite my natural people-pleasing nature, even that can’t reach me in the moment. I feel as though I’m possessed, like I’m cornered and trapped with no escape route. I really think of myself as a sweet and friendly person, but the more often I find myself feeling angry and aggravated makes me question that self perception. I fear that others view me quite differently.

I’m truly at a loss about how to handle this disturbing aspect of my personality. Despite all of my self soothing techniques, my breath work, and my yoga practice, nothing is able to pull me back once I find myself on that perilous edge. The thought of meditating or anything like that only infuriates me further. My mind almost acts as if it wants to prolong or savor my anger. It feels as though my anger is justified and necessary in those moments. The idea of letting it go feels unjust and makes me even more angry somehow. I am the epitome of stubbornness when I’m angry. I don’t want to calm down. I want to explode and burn down everything around me. When I’m in that state not even the fear of severe consequences is able to restrain me.

I guess this is just yet another reason why I would benefit from talking to a therapist. I’m sure they would have some helpful advice to give me. For now I am going to try to do all that I can to simply sit with my anger. I want to examine it, mindfully move my mind over its surface, its edges, and its corners. Rather than staying locked away behind the aggressive rationalizations and justifications swirling around my mind, firing me up even more, I’m going to make an effort to remain in my body. I want to really feel exactly what’s happening. More importantly, I want to allow myself to feel it. One of the biggest hurdles is my absolute rejection of the emotion when it does arise. It seems unacceptable to me, which only makes it worse. Only by acknowledging and honoring my anger will I ever truly be able to let it go.

Making Up Stories for People

Years of yoga and meditation have helped me a lot when it comes to overcoming my anger impulses. The one area of my life where my anger still tends to flare up and overwhelms me is while driving. I don’t know why, but I have never gotten more angry than I get at people driving like assholes on the highway. Road rage is such a perfect term because it does seem to go straight past anger or irritation and straight to blinding rage. I have really lost myself a couple times, blaring my horn, flipping the bird, driving recklessly out of spite, etc. Just some real stupid stuff. I always feels so embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior later, but in those moment I have completely lost myself.

Normally when someone cuts me off or is driving under the speed limit in the passing lane, I immediately jump to thoughts such as “what an idiot,” “this person is a complete fuck,” “why doesn’t anyone know how to drive,” “this person has no consideration for anyone but themselves,” etc. These thoughts continue to race through my head as I become more and more angry. Often one small incident can have me fuming for the rest of my 30 minute drive. I keep going over it in my head, justifying why I was in the right and the other person was in the wrong. Often even assuming that the other person was driving like as ass on purpose just to piss me off.

One thing I have been trying to do to address these triggering scenarios is to turn them into a game of sorts. I’ve tried this in the past a little bit, but I think I was still taking it too seriously. I would try to come up with excuses why this person may be driving the way they are, but another voice in my head is usually screaming “that’s ridiculous,” “it’s so unlikely,” “how can there be THAT many people with reasonable excuses.” It feels like I was missing the point of the exercise. Originally my goal was to inspire sympathy for the person. Now my intention is just to entertain myself and maybe even make myself laugh. The truth of the matter is I have no idea who this person is or why they may be driving the way they are. I’m certainly not a perfect driver and have made excuses for myself in the past. So instead of immediately demonizing them and listing off to myself all the reasons they are a garbage person, I’m going to start making up elaborate life stories for them instead.

This doesn’t have to be something you only use while driving either. You can use this technique for any difficult people you encounter in life. It doesn’t matter how “true” or “likely” the stories you come up with are. The point is to turn an angering situation into an opportunity to have fun and invite some levity into your life. Sometimes it even helps for me to imagine someone else is asking what that person’s story is and I am coming up with one to tell them. Get creative!

Your story could be as simple as what is going on in this person’s life today that has them out of whack, such as just breaking up with their girlfriend or maybe they have a new puppy they just adopted in their car distracting them. Your story could also go all the way back to the person’s childhood. This person was raised by wolves and just reentered society a few years ago, managing to get their license, good for them! Make it as realistic or utterly wild as you like, whatever brings you the most joy and serves best as a distraction for your anger.

Certain emotions just can’t seem to coexist. The opposite of anger is compassion, so if that works for you, make up a sob story for the difficult person. However, for me, it’s often impossible to switch off my anger with compassion in the moment. It is more easily diffused with humor. The most important thing is to remember your intention. I tend to take everything too seriously, so it can be hard for me to let go of what I have deemed the “reality” of the situation in favor of something more silly. Remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what the “true” story of this person is, you’ll never know it anyway. There is really no reason to assume your negative perception is more true than a funny or compassionate one. Ultimately the only thing that matters is how you want to feel.

Reality is often stranger than fiction anyway. I also genuinely believe that the vast majority of people are not intentionally trying to be problematic. We all believe we are the hero in our own story. We all have justifications for even our worst actions. As tempting as it is to paint ourselves as the victim and the other person as the villain, what good does that really do us? It is much more fun to take the opportunity to be lighthearted and play pretend, and that’s what life is really about, just finding ways to enjoy every moment. I’ve already wasted far too many being angry.

Road Rage: Legal Definition & Incident Statistics

Insights From Resistance

What is the real story behind Grumpy Cat's name? - Quora

We all have preferences. We all have things we dislike or show resistance toward. These feelings of resentment and resistance toward people, places, situations, etc. can be so overwhelmingly powerful that it is hard to think about them or analyze the root of the issue. Instead of challenging these feelings, usually we just feed them. We look for reasons to confirm our feelings and opinions, excluding any information that may challenge them or provide an alternative perspective. Most of us are more likely to react than reconsider. Even the idea of questioning these deep seated ideas can cause more resistance to bubble up.

In an effort to take life (and myself) less seriously, I’ve been trying to practice more curiosity throughout my day. One of the things I’ve been most curious about is why I react with anger so often. For most of my life, it didn’t seem like a question worth asking. Of course I’m angry, I’d tell myself. This is unacceptable. How could they say that? Who could be that stupid!? Etc. Etc. I directed all my questions passive aggressively outward, never even considering that I might be the problem, that my reaction was the thing that needed to change, not the world around me. Even if I do still begrudgingly think someone else is in the wrong, the fact is, the only thing I can control is me. (Well theoretically anyway.)

When I started to question why certain actions or comments even make me angry, I was surprised to realize that most of the time, I had no idea. For instance, the other day my friend was making comments that made me think she wasn’t very good with money or understanding loans/debt. I immediately felt this spark of anger inside me and couldn’t stop that aggressive edge from creeping into my voice. I always feel so ashamed of myself after having these tense conversations. The people I’m talking to must be so confused and irritated by my irrational behavior. Why on earth do I care how my friend chooses to spend her money? It’s none of my business and doesn’t effect me at all. Maybe I’m just jealous that other people don’t worry about spending money or taking on debt like I do. Maybe I feel threatened or worried they’ll think I’m the stupid one who never uses the money I have to make big purchases or improvements to my life.

I don’t usually ever come to a decision about exactly why a lot of things make me angry. But to be honest, the reason doesn’t necessarily matter. Just the intention to be curious about my emotional response to things is enough to diffuse the rage inside me. Curiosity comes with a sense of openness, while anger, stress, sadness are more closed states. Both cannot exist within you in the same moment. It can be difficult initially to make that mental switch from closed to open, but once you do you can feel a noticeable difference. Not to mention, the more you practice flipping this switch, the easier it becomes.

Let’s practice a little exercise together, just so you know how it feels to be in a state of resistance. Imagine one or more opinions or beliefs you hold very strongly. Then just imagine trying to purposely challenge those very beliefs/opinions. Try imagining ways you could be wrong or misguided. Try to think of some good qualities or points of the opposite perspective. Quite difficult isn’t it? As someone who is very opinionated and stubborn, even this simple thought exercise makes outrage and fierce resistance start to rise up within me. I can feel my chest tightening, I can feel that closing sensation in my heart space. I immediately notice thoughts crowding my awareness trying to defend rather than challenge my beliefs. What a reaction to something so simple and harmless! I find it truly fascinating that this is so difficult for me. It is an amazing opportunity for insight into my own biases.

I think there is a lot to learn from our own resistance. It always brings to mind the saying, “would you rather be right, or be happy?” Once my sister said to me that she’d actually rather be right! I was shocked. That is the power of resistance. You can become so resistant to different ideas or circumstances and at the same time, so attached to that resistance, that you’d rather give up your happiness than alter your perspective. That is why it is so important to work on cultivating our curiosity as often as we can.

As you move through your day today, pretend you are a scientist or a researcher observing this human being called the “self.” When you catch yourself getting caught up in anger or your resistance to things, just think, “how interesting,” make a note of it, let it go, and move on. Life is so much more enjoyable when we remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. None of us really know why we’re here, where we came from, or where we’re going. All we can do is try to enjoy where we are right now. And the only way we can do that is by staying curious, staying open to all the new information and experiences this life has to offer. Let’s make a game out of it. Let’s see who can waste the least amount of time on petty irritation and useless resistance. Let’s see who can be the most curious, the most open. The game starts now!