Can you own your anger?


Anger is rarely welcome. It is not designed to be. It is meant to keep others away and therefore protect its owner. Anger, if not expressed respectfully and assertively, is simply a defence mechanism that can lead to further conflict and unhealthy relationships. It is unusual for us to be so unsafe that we need it as a constant form of protection. Most of us do not live in an environment that is so dangerous that anger is the norm.

Anger held in is unhealthy for us and leaks out as passive aggression which corrodes relationships like acid. Anger expressed aggressively damages others’ emotional health and cuts through our relationships like a knife.

Anger expressed assertively can set healthy boundaries, clear up misunderstandings and improve relationships. In fact expressed assertively, anger can resolve a conflict rather than make it worse.

Here’s a list of behaviors under each of those titles mentioned here. Make a note of which ones you use. Maybe think of the ones that are your “go to” behaviours and which ones you use less often. How many behaviours can you honestly own in each section?

Passive aggressive behaviours include:

  • Withholding communication, affection or support
  • Manipulating conflict
  • Taking the martyr role
  • Self blame
  • Helplessness
  • Sarcasm
  • Bitchiness and backstabbing
  • Sabotage of self and others
  • Bullying through exclusion

Aggressive behaviors include:

  • Intimidating and threatening
  • Using words deliberately designed to wound
  • Bullying and harassing
  • Criticism and blame
  • Volatile, unpredictable mood swings
  • Manic agitation
  • Lack of empathy
  • Vengeful and vindictive

Assertive anger behaviors include:

  • Empathy
  • Direct and honest
  • Principled
  • Engaged
  • Determined
  • Considerate
  • Solutions focused
  • Brave
  • Clarity about own needs coupled with awareness of others needs

In our experience most people can own up to some behaviours in all the areas. Without generalising too much, as a society, we tend towards the passive aggressive because we realise that anger is not valued and we are not sure what to do with it. This means we push it down within ourselves. That is when it can start leaking out in passive form. Remember, just because I bury it deep, it doesn’t mean I am not angry. Occasionally when we can’t bear the pressure of storing up all this anger we explode, lay waste to all around us, and wonder why those on the receiving end are so shocked, hurt and scared.

To quote Aristotle…

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy”

What he is talking about is assertive anger which is the brave way of being angry.

Being assertive in our anger is not easy, it is brave and it is worth it. The point is not to never be angry, but to understand when to be, when not to be and how to be appropriately angry. That is why people attend anger management classes.

You may ask “what is a an article about anger doing on an emotional health site?”

The answer is that anger is just one of our feelings, and it can be a combination of issues we have with our emotional health that draws us towards anger; issues with our feelings and how we express them, self esteem, our stress, and our past. Equally, these and many more may not lead us to be angry but instead we may develop deeper challenges around anxiety, depression-like symptoms and become withdrawn. This is why we find our members appreciate the comprehensive assessment that they can retake every 28 days with our online emotional health support at Inner Calm.