March Madness: Understanding Your Anger Language
How did I get here?
Ever have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, awful day? One where you thought the only reasonable solution was to buy a one-way ticket to Australia. What about a terrible,horrible, no good, very bad, awful month? That’s how my March was, but before you give me any pity pats on the back let me explain why my March Madness will lead me to April Gladness. (Corny, I know.)
Recently I got off the phone with a friend after a frustrating conversation when it hit me “I don’t understand his anger language.” Here we were, two friends wounded by miscommunication and blocked by different anger languages.
You might be asking yourself, “Lena, I’ve heard of Love Languages, but I’ve never heard of Anger Languages. Is that something you just made up?” To those people I reply, “Yes. Potentially. I’m no expert, no Brene Brown. I’m just a regular human being learning how to communicate more effectively with others the hard way; trial and error.”
Quick raise of cyber hands, who has read The 5 Languages of Love by Gary D. Chapman? For a quick synopsis CLICK HERE. As a people-oriented individual, I spend A LOT of time analyzing other’s love languages so that I can “fill their love tank” as Chapman likes to say. But let’s say it like it is – you can’t fill someone’s love tank if you’re angry.
Back to the phone call with my friend. I hung up the phone and furiously kicked every rock on my walk home. I had spent so much time trying to learn what made my friend happy that I skipped over learning what made him mad. I wondered, had I known his anger language, could this problem have been avoided? And, even though it was too late to avoid conflict, could this anger turn into something constructive and productive? Could this energy be used for something better than kicking rocks down a mountain? I wanted this to become a learning experience; I wanted to understand A N G E R.
Why do I suppress anger?
Did you know that women are more likely to internalize their anger, which can lead to heart disease, headaches, depression, and even cancer. BEING ANGRY IS A FREAKING CARCINOGEN. We know that suppressing emotions is unhealthy yet we do it all the time. Why?!
Perhaps we are afraid of the uncontrollable. We fear that if we show anger we might appear weak or crazy so at a young age we’re conditioned to suppress anger. How many times have you heard a guy complain about a girl who was crazy because she got mad at something seemingly insignificant?! Anger isn’t ladylike, so we fight it. We hide it. We are told that feeling anger is a danger zone and we mustn’t trespass.
But….is it? What if I said BEING perpetually angry was unhealthy but FEELING anger was perfectly normal and actually desired. Would you believe me if I threw in statistics about how suppressing anger is related to obesity, alcoholism, and depression? You can read more about that HERE.
How do I suppress anger?
I know how I suppress anger and while I wouldn’t put it on my resume, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I internalize the anger and blame myself for being the root cause of any situation that causes contention. Logically I know I’m not 100% at fault, but I wear the coat of blame and my blood boils underneath. I use it to shield me from the world and while doing so, my feelings of guilt and imperfection quickly lead to depression. Before I know it, I’m madder at myself than the people who have hurt me because I find myself repeatedly asking, “What did I do to deserve this? Why did I say that or do this?” I expect my closest friends to recognize my pain, yet I’ve buried it away.
Now maybe that’s just me, but I have a feeling it’s not. You can fall anywhere on the spectrum from “I handle anger well” to “Watch out, I will destroy everyone and everything in my path when I am angry.” No matter where you are, there is always room to improve.
The 5 Languages of Suppressing Anger
- Depression. Not all depression stems from anger, but when anger is internalized, it quickly turns to guilt, which turns to depression. Often these people aren’t mad at the ones who hurt them as much as they are mad at themselves. They take blame for the situation and absorb the anger like a self-loathing sponge.
- Silent Treatment. These people want to work through their anger alone. They find it easier to shut people out or to shut up, but the lack of communication can lead to more problems for both parties.
- Scapegoat. Unlike the Depression group, these people are looking for OTHERS to blame for their anger.They contain their anger until they explode, often at a person less powerful than them and uninvolved in the root of the problem.
- Passive Aggressive. Perhaps the one we’re most familiar with, passive aggressive people serve the dish cold. They find anger to be an ugly trait and attempt to disguise their emotions in snide comments or cold body language.
- Volcano. They recognize that they’re angry but to avoid confrontation they bottle up their anger and wait for it to blow over. We have all done this because sometimes it’s easier to wait for things to blow over than addressing small issues. Watch out though, containing big issues has far reaching negative consequences to more than just your physical health.
Why should I give anger any consideration?
Great question. Yesterday while I was debating writing this post I overheard the girl walking in front of me tell her friend, “That just means the world to me, that he was willing to communicate.” That was the only thing I heard but it stuck with me all night. Healthy communication means so much to us whether we recognize it or not. Can you imagine a world where we spoke openly and honestly about all of our emotions. A world where women weren’t labeled “crazy” or “dramatic” for expressing anger in constructive ways.
Let’s return to my phone conversation. This is what I roughly said: “I’m annoyed that this and this and this happened. Why are you being so cold? Can’t you see that I’m upset, why haven’t you done anything to help me, do you not care about me?!” but this is what I should’ve said: “I was angry because I felt shut out of your life. I felt unappreciated and I felt that I couldn’t address any issues because it would only push you further away. My anger language is guilt and depression. I internalize the problem and overanalyze the situation instead of talking directly with you. I’m sorry, next time I’ll voice my concerns right away.”
My friend could’ve said something along the lines of: “I was annoyed by your rude behavior and snippy remarks. I was hurt that you treated me so coldly and because my anger language is to shut people out that’s what I did. I did it to protect myself from hurt feelings and unnecessary drama but I’m sorry it hurt you. Next time I will try to be more open to you.”
Can you just imagine a world in which we communicated like this? Where we recognized what our anger language is and told our loved ones so they could understand how to better communicate with us. We could eliminate so much of the pain that comes as a response to suppressed anger. Even better, we could take the energy anger produces and use it productively. Anger, like vulnerability, could become just another way for us to form deeper relationships.
March was a terrible, no good, very bad month. If I allow it, I can turn my March Madness into April Gladness. I know why and how I suppress my anger but I’m also well aware that so far that hasn’t helped me climb the mountains in my life. I’m dedicating the month of April to using anger in a productive and constructive way.We often talk about creative energy, but what about angry energy? We can channel that energy into either kicking rocks down a mountain or climbing up to the top.
Thank you for reading and sharing. I hope this gives you the extra push you need to address any suppressed anger you have in your life. I’d love to hear your ideas concerning anger, so comment below and stay tuned for a follow-up post! I may be a fool, but April won’t get the best of me.
Additional sources and articles: