[Please note: This is a repost of a post published on this blog in May 2013.
I have added an image of the ‘purpose of emotions’ chart which I mentioned in the post and linked to the article which contains the chart (it’s a different article from the one in which I originally found the chart, but the chart is the same).
Rereading this post was interesting. At the time I was going through an experience which was very stressful, partly because it stirred up old wounds, issues, frustrations, and it forced me to dive deep into my past, myself, and finally confront all those things I’d buried, was avoiding, ignoring, pretending had been resolved, etc. The bit at the end where I say “Whew! Long post!” made me laugh because compared to posts I would write later on, especially in more recent times, this is a short post.
These days I’m not angry in the way I used to be, thanks in part to ranting on my blog which enabled my anger to express itself openly, tell its story and get its message across to me. I’m more internally at ease. When I get angry now, I’m learning to be open about it in the moment but do it in a rational manner – suppression and repression also have a purpose to serve, they taught me how to have self-control over myself and my emotions. Blogging the story of my emotions has helped me to ask better questions of myself and my emotional reactions. My relationship with my emotional nature has shifted into a more constructive one… or at least that’s how it feels]
I’ve written about my anger before. In fact my anger fuels a lot of my posts. I have a lifetime supply of suppressed anger within me. Since I was first able to feel the emotion, it has been denied expression. This denial of expression caused more anger. More anger equals more inner resources channeled towards suppressing that anger. Which explains why I have always suffered from intense exhaustion. Suppressing anger takes a lot out of a person, so much so that they have very little energy left for anything else. Anhedonia ensues. Depression. No energy to charge up joie de vivre.
My parents were very angry people. But they were allowed to express that anger all the time. They did it whenever they felt like it, without concern for anyone else. However they were always very concerned about themselves, and they did not like it when other people expressed their anger, especially when it was in response to something my parents had done. They did not appreciate the consequences of their actions, and were always trying to deflect those consequences, and the blame for their actions, elsewhere. It was always Poor Them versus Meanie Others. They found that playing the victim worked a treat when it came to manipulating others. It’s very hard for others to lay blame upon or be angry with a victim. I was one of those others. I was not allowed to be angry. They ridiculed it – you’re so cute when you’re angry – seemingly affectionate, yet oozing with dismissive contempt. I was not even allowed to have an angry expression on my face. Apparently the wind was going to fix it so that I would be permanently disfigured, and others would flee from me in terror. They did not care whether my anger was justified or not. It bothered them and they didn’t want it in their lives. So I had to be forever happy. I was constantly told that I had a beautiful smile, but only as an order that it should be used. Interestingly enough, I ruined that smile by chipping a huge chunk out of my front tooth in an accident. I was angrily castigated for doing that, what had been perfect was now marred and needed to be hidden. Yet for me, doing that brought a sense of relief. I didn’t have to smile anymore.
The other day I was searching the internet trying to find some basic information about the purpose of anger. Most of what I found were articles and websites giving people advice on how to control their anger. Anger is bad, it must be denied expression. This pissed me off. More repression and suppression. And we wonder why people snap and explode. There is nothing sudden about it, it took a long time to build, and it eventually could no longer be contained. Like a volcano. We’re very harsh on people who snap and explode because we are all suppressing anger, and we feel that since we’ve managed to contain ours, others should do so too. To maintain our civilised society we must all make sacrifices, and natural urges are the first things to go. Unacceptable emotions must be eradicated, acceptable emotions must be exaggerated until we are all happy smiley people.
Finally I found a chart which gave the uses of our emotions, the reasons they exist, their purpose in our lives, why we have them, and what happens when those emotions are denied their natural expression. Anger’s purpose is to give us a shot of power when we are under attack, to fuel our strength, and allow us to stand our ground and stand up for ourselves. To protect our territory when a trespasser ignores the Private Property – No Trespassing sign. Expressing that anger allows us to ward off the attack and warn the attacker not to continue with what they are doing to us because we can defend ourselves. If we stop our anger from serving its purpose, and deny it expression, then our attacker thinks they can continue to attack us, they might even conclude that we like what they are doing, and so the cause of our anger doesn’t go away. We get even angrier, because we are putting up with something we do not want to put up with, we are angry at ourselves for allowing ourselves to be a victim, and every time the attacker attacks the pressure inside of us builds because the anger has nowhere to go.
Purpose of Emotions chart via – Huffpost: Listening to Your Authentic Self: The Purpose of Emotions by Lara Fielding
If we deny anger its natural place in our lives, then we don’t express it when it is roused, which blocks its flow, dams it, and the anger begins to collect within us, creating inner pressure. We have to maintain the dam, be vigilant for cracks, for weaknesses in the structure. But this is a full time job, one which we are doing on our own, no shifts, no rest, and at some point we are going to fail, a moment of exhaustion, of distraction, and the dam will burst. Since we have been collecting years and years of anger, the destructive force of the dam breaking and thousands of gallons worth of anger gushing out all at once will be devastating. Had we just expressed the first drop, then the drop after that… expressed the anger when it was aroused, allowed it to fulfil its purpose, it would have dissipated, and we would be able to move on.
Last night I realised a truth about my anger, and it has opened my eyes to a lie which I have been living for a very long time. I have been telling myself that I am a noble hero for suppressing my anger and directing it only towards myself. Because I have so much anger due to never being allowed to express it, because I grew to fear what would happen if I ever expressed even the smallest amount of it towards another person, however justified, because I saw how harmful anger expressed can be having been at the receiving end of my parents’ outbursts many times over, because I only learned about the negative side of anger expressed, I created a story for myself, a legend to live by. I became a wounded hero who must at all costs protect others from the raging inferno inside, better to destroy myself than to even mildly hurt another. Even if they deserved it because they were hurting me. I knew they were hurting me because they were hurting. So, I couldn’t hurt someone who was already hurt. Other people were fragile, too delicate to handle anything unpleasant, especially not the power of my anger.
Wow! I know I’m a bullshit artist, but I didn’t realise quite how talented I was, this is some of my finest work!
Whenever I get angry my modus operandi has been to distance myself from other humans. Like a bomb disposal expert, I alone must defuse the dangerous explosive device, and everyone else must stay away for their own safety until my work is done. If I die in the line of duty, then my work still gets done. If I survive, then I can return to the inhabited world and give everyone the good news that they are all safe, and smiley face is back.
This legend has spawned spin-offs. Such as, that I am willing and able to absorb the emotional explosions of others fearlessly, and that I can often defuse others before they explode. And this pisses me off even more because I attract those who need a person into which they can dump their emotional baggage, get a reassurance ticket, then leave to go and enjoy their baggage free holiday, until the next time. I can’t get pissed off at them, because I created this hell for myself, so it’s all my fault, and they get a free pass to behave as they please. If I ever lash out because they want to dump, and I have no space for their dumpage, then I end up being labeled a baddie meanie and they cry and cry until they are sick and that’s my fault. I have to make amends. This causes me to get angrier. And the whole cycle just keeps going and going longer than the energiser bunny. If I could turn this anger into actual power, real fuel, I think I may just be able to solve the sustainable eco-friendly energy crisis.
Whew! Long post. The upshot of my realisation about my anger is that… I’m mad as hell and I need to express this constructively. Creatively. Positively. Naturally. Time to reprogram myself. Time to use all this fuel to power a dream, and win… even if it is just not to use all my energy resources up trying to contain one of my energy resources. Hope this makes sense to you, it does to me… finally!