There is an aspect of my personality that I have never understood and always been ashamed of – my temper.
I have long practiced emotional regulation and I am surprised at how well I am able to hold in together in certain situations.
And similarly surprised when I am not.
When I either shut down or blow up and lash out – which often feels out of my control.
I have spent decades trying to understand what triggers my temper until my research led me to the topic of repressed anger.
What Is Repressed Anger?
Repressed anger refers to anger that is unintentionally or unconsciously avoided, denied, pushed down, or not expressed often out of fear or shame or an attempt to avoid uncomfortable feelings related to stress, conflict, and tension.
Unlike suppressed anger – where you purposely avoid expressing anger that you are aware of experiencing, you may not even be consciously aware of your repressed anger – until it rears its ugly head.
Anger is a normal and healthy emotion that is typically triggered in response to situations where you feel disrespected, diminished, shamed, or belittled, or experience a loss of power or control.
It serves the purpose of keeping you safe and should not be ignored or repressed. Internalizing or repressing anger can negatively impact your health and your relationships. For example, repressed anger can lead to physical stress on the body and may contribute to anxiety, depression or even physical pain and fatigue.
Signs of Repressed Anger
Repressed anger can present in a variety of ways, impacting the way you feel, think, and behave, including:
- Discomfort with conflict or confrontation
- Relying on distraction or avoidance to cope with difficult emotions
- Control issues
- Difficulty setting boundaries, standing up for yourself, or saying no
- Shutting down, avoiding people, or self isolating when upset
- Explosive outbursts of anger when you can no longer repress your feelings
- Complaining when things don’t go your way
- Defensive when accused of being angry
- Frequent negative or self-critical thoughts
- Overuse of sarcasm or cynicism
- Feeling bitter, envious, or resentful of others
- Being passive-aggressive when you interact with others
- Ignoring things that bother or upset you rather than addressing them
- Holding grudges and ruminating on things that upset you
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, or bad when you are angry
- Never feeling angry, but often feeling sad or depressed
- Feeling uncomfortable when others share intimate emotions with you
How Repressed Anger Impacts Your Health
Anger is a biological response to perceived threats, so your body goes into a hyper alert sympathetic state that is designed to help you survive. Anger gives you energy to protest and change unhealthy physical and emotional situations
When repressed, anger can present as the following health concerns:
Fatigue: Repressed anger and resentment is exhausting and may stress and fatigue you
Sympathetic Dominance: Repressed anger can put the body in a prolonged state of chronic fight or flight stress where your blood pressure and heart rate increase and your body releases certain hormones, which give you a burst of energy.
Poor Emotional Processing: Repressed anger can prevent people from appropriately regulating, processing, and expressing their emotions. Emotions are messages. When you overlook an emotion, you lose the opportunity to reflect, learn from it, and develop insights into your priorities and values.
Poor Emotional Regulation: After suppressing their anger for too long, some people eventually explode and have a major outburst of anger.
Emotion Swapping: While you may not consciously feel angry, swap out anger for a different, “safer” emotion like sadness, anxiety or depression instead.
Depression: When anger is repressed and turned inward, it may fester and turn into shame and guilt which pave way for depression. You may feel sad when you are actually angry.
Conflict Avoidance: If you are not comfortable managing your anger in a healthy way, you might not be comfortable around any kind of conflict or confrontation related to other people’s anger. Like emotion swapping, avoiding conflict is another protective method to keep you “safe”.
Control Issues: Repressed anger might contribute to a need to control others and situations in an attempt to keep yourself safe. Controlling behaviors often stem from anxiety and fear. When things feel out of control, it’s natural to want to control them in order to feel safe. Controlling behaviors can also be related to habits, food and substances.
Passive-Aggressive Tendencies and Sarcasm: Passive aggression is the indirect or covert expression of anger. Similarly, sarcasm is a passive-aggressive or seemingly “safe” way of expressing anger, disappointment, or frustration.
Poor Boundaries: Disordered boundaries – either too rigid or non-existent – may help you avoid other people’s anger.
Numbing or Emotional Shut Down: Repressed anger can drive you to numb, shut down or withdraw. You may also choose to numb with distraction, alcohol, drugs, exercise, sex or other unhealthy obsessions.
Exploding: You may wait so long to express your feelings that you eventually explode. When you bottle up anger, there is a cumulative emotional effect. The cost for continuing to push it down is it can build and build until you explode in a way that can permanently damage your relationships.
Guilt + Shame: Anger might make you feel like a bad person. You might feel guilty or ashamed of your emotions, especially if you grew up in a family system where anger was unacceptable.
Self-Righteousness: When repressed anger is paired with perfectionistic or obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it may manifest in a self-righteous way, in which you may become highly critical of yourself and others with unrelenting standards. Perfectionists tend to bottle up resentment for two reasons: the accumulated self-hate for not being able to meet their own standards, or other people’s sloppiness or lack of ethics. When you have dedicated your life to doing the right thing with a high standard, it is understandable that you may feel resentful when others don’t but still seem to ‘get away with it.’
What Causes Repressed Anger?
Repressed anger often initiates in childhood, especially if you grew up in a household that shamed or criticized emotional expression, prompting you to feel unsafe sharing your feelings, causing you to repress emotions instead of express them.
Other common triggers of repressed anger include:
- Being rejected for expressing anger in the past
- Having perfectionistic or neurotic tendencies
- Having the tendency to intellectualize your emotions
- Wanting to please others
- High levels of shame
- Struggling with impulse control and emotion regulation
- History of trauma or traumatic brain injuries
Essential Oils for Repressed Anger
Essential oils can be powerful tools to help allow you to work through your emotions and release repressed anger. Your sense of smell links directly to the emotional control center of your brain known as amygdala, where emotions and emotional memories are stored.
Your sense of smell is the only one of your five senses that is directly links to this unconscious area of your brain, known as your limbic lobe, making the sense of smell and the tool of essential oils the most direct path to healing emotions like blame, shame and guilt.
Essential oils inhaled through the nasal passageways enable immediate access to the regions of the brain that house these intense emotions like anger and rage so we can integrate and release them. The word “emotion” can translate as “energy-in-motion.” Emotion is the experience of energy moving though our bodies. This emotional energy actually works at a higher speed than thought and essential oils can help us clear the energetic residue of blame so it doesn’t remain in our thought patterns, negatively impacting your energy field or your health.
Liver Support™ Blend to Support the Emotional Health of Your Liver
Anger that we don’t process and release can get stored in your liver, according to Chinese medicine. I believe anger can be the most intense and the most damaging of all the repressed emotions, because of its intensity. The more we try to suppress it, the more it rears its ugly head in ways that can undermine our health, our growth and our personal relationships.
Energetically, your liver is responsible for maintaining harmony and the smooth movement of energy (known as chi) throughout the body, including the smooth transition between feelings and emotions as situations change around us. This liver energy supports your drive, planning, endurance, perseverance, quick, clear intellect, ambition, patience, and organizational abilities.
When your liver energy is balanced, you probably feel kind, benevolent, compassionate and generous. When your liver is physically or energetically congested or stagnant, you might experience intense feelings of angry outbursts, irritability, resentment, frustration, rage, impatience, jealousy, or even depression.
You might also feel the need to control both yourself and others which might present an attachment to strong opinions, or being power-hungry or over-ambitious. Basically, you seek power so that nobody has power over you. Control dynamics also play out as blame, shame and guilt.
Your liver energy works in conjunction with your gallbladder energy. If gallbladder energy is stuck, it can back up into the liver causing energetic congestion which manifests as rage, anger or frustration.
Liver Support™ helps support the release of anger, including frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, being critical of yourself or others, control issues, an inability to express your feelings, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, not being recognized or appreciated.
Formulated to help move through and release anger and negative emotions attached to traumatic experiences from the cells of the liver to promote optimal healing. The oils in this blend assist the body to recognize, work through and release the anger, fear, or frustration caused by traumatic experiences so they don’t overwhelm you.
It allows you to gently let go of negative emotions, including repressed anger, which can create stuck energy and impede an organ’s ability to heal.
Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion. You can also apply it around the ankles as this is often an area where we hold resistance to moving forward in life and block the ability to receive joy and pleasure. Start at the back of the ankle and apply under the ankle bone around to the front and back under the other ankle bone, all while allowing yourself to release challenging emotions. For more tips on detoxify emotions, read this article.
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