The anger of others and our own suppressed anger can play a part in many anxiety disorders and depression.
We need anger to survive. It is the precursor to aggression; all of us may have to fight to protect our loved ones or ourselves at some stage in our lives. Like anxiety, it is an energizer, readying us for action.
Anger can mask anxiety, for example, the first reaction of a mother that has lost a child, on finding the child, is often to scold him or her, getting angry with them masks the fear of what might have happened. Similarly anxiety can mask anger.
It is natural to get angry in conflict, to want to take some action and do something about it. As children, we often see our parents getting angry in dealing with various situations and when they act angrily toward us we want to complain, get angry back and end the conflict. But this isn't possible; we cannot fight a more powerful adult and anger toward a loved one is not acceptable because we love them and need them, so we suppress our anger. And it is suppressed anger, often starting in childhood that can become so important to anxiousness we experience in later life.
‘Angry' situations also make us scared; the anger is associated with being afraid so we suppress it further. From small children to teenagers, severe parent-child conflict often ends in tears (for the child) as the suppressed anger comes out in the form of crying.
In households of family conflict or over-strictness, some parents are angry virtually all the time. How many people with anxiety-related problems have had a childhood dominated by the angry man or woman?
Angry people get angry all the time. They know how to be angry so very well given the right situation (and isn't it strange just how often the right situation occurs for them?). Their voice, stance and what they say, demonstrate their anger impeccably.
Angry people usually want to tell others what to do and then criticise them for their shortcomings; their lack of inner peace is obvious: anger shows on their faces and in their whole demeanour, family and friends tread carefully as not to upset them.
Regarding our parent's anger, we need to realise that although it may often be directed at us, they are really angry with themselves and their lives. Regarding our own,suppressed anger, it shows in various things, such as: temper tantrums, petulance, sulking, boredom and verbal abuse as children; sarcasm, gossip, violent behaviour and illness as adults.
Suppressed anger runs throughout many, if not all, anxiety and depression-related problems. People with OCD often express high levels of aggression toward family or significant others, the release of bottled up emotions in PTSD frequently results in anger and in depression we feel that even getting angry is hopeless. Indeed, getting angry is a good defence against depression; angry people don't get depressed for they are always taking action to some degree.
It is not anger, per se, that's the problem; it's when it is not expressed or resolved that is. In (family) conflicts where the anger is not expressed or not resolved through conciliation, no making up with apologies, hugs, acceptance and compromise - anger festers inside us.
By Terry Dixon B.Sc.
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