When you picture a "good girl/boy", you don't spontaneously imagine them getting angry, do you? And that's part of the problem.
Anger is an emotion that we tend to demonise. It is usually associated with violence, aggression or lack of self-control - three points that seem to be the antithesis of the qualities of a sensitive or even highly sensitive person.
Because of the deep empathy that highly sensitive people are known for, but also because of their childhood conditioning, many HSPs have difficulty in apprehending their emotions in a healthy way, and in particular that of anger, which is often the root of many of their aches.
Anger is however a very healthy emotion which underlines our capacity to defend or protect our integrity when one of our boundaries is being overstepped.
An injustice, a frustration, a feeling of powerlessness, a disrespect for our integrity, and our jaws clench, our breathing quickens, our eyes crinkle, our muscles tense and our temperature rises.
Anger reflects a need to release an excess energy, but sometimes also a call for listening, understanding, changing or repairing something.
E.g. After the builder had certified that the work in my flat was nearly done, I paid them a visit to realise that they were behind schedule and the work will not be finished before my move in date.
> I am angry, I do not feel that my request was being listened to, I demand redress.
Healing tips: Why do I get so angry, it's not that terrible after all!
> When did I first feel this way? When was the first time I didn't feel listened to?
> Can I trace this memory back? What would I have needed at that time (e.g. listening, respect...)? How can I give that to myself today?
Anger is neither positive nor negative, it acts as a simple messenger. The information it brings indicates that one of our boundaries has been crossed and we can therefore choose to reaffirm it or explore the underlying need it highlights.
E.g. I'm getting angry over nothing at the moment.
> What is it in my life right now that challenges my integrity?
> What is it in my life right now that generates frustration/unfairness/powerlessness...?
> If I was completely true to myself, I could...?
> What would I need in order to honour my integrity?
Sensitive people, however, tend to fear anger. Many people say, for example, that they hate conflict or are completely intolerant of violence.
Anger is not necessarily synonymous with aggression or violence. Aggression is only one possible response to the emergence of anger, but many other responses to its manifestation can be chosen such as calmly expressing your frustration, setting a boundary, writing a letter...
The more we develop self-awareness and understanding of our emotions, the more we become able to respond to anger in a healthy and graceful way.
All too often we label the expression of anger as the opposite of the expression of love; if my partner loves me, he should never be angry with me.
This is obviously not true! In a healthy, authentic relationship, we make a point of creating space for the expression of our frustrations and concerns. By inviting love and forgiveness, each person will be able to express their boundaries so that both can negotiate together what feels right for each other.
If, however, the boundaries of one are fundamentally incompatible with those of the other, and no flexibility can be envisaged that respects the integrity of each, then a healthy and fulfilling relationship may be difficult.
Despite this natural need to feel and express anger, this exercise remains particularly uncomfortable for many highly sensitive people, to the point where they may even unconsciously completely disconnect from it.
It will therefore be difficult for them to express it but also simply feel it.
Why do we repress/suppress our anger?
Anger is unconsciously taught to be repressed or suppressed because it is deemed inappropriate.
Most of us have grown up in an environment where obedience is rewarded, whereas the behaviours that a child typically uses to express anger are objectionable.
When feeling joy, a child will naturally hug, sing, dance, jump...
In the same way, anger triggers an excess of energy which one will spontaneously need to release. To do this, a child will naturally turn to the means he knows are at disposal.
E.g. stamping feet, shouting, throwing things, breaking...
Despite knowing that a child is accompanied by a lot of chaos, it is not always easy for parents not to be in constant control of all their actions or not to give in to anxious reactions when faced with the frustration of their little one.
It is also difficult to pass on a healthy way of accepting and releasing anger if it is not something you have learned yourself. Don't panic, it's never too late!
To teach your child to healthily process and release their anger, you can teach them to bite a toy designed for this purpose, to go running in the garden..., then to communicate their frustrations and boundaries calmly so that they can be heard.
The education we receive conditions the way we manage our emotions, but among the causes that lead to the unconscious repression or suppression of our anger are also traumatic experiences (trauma) and the unexpected, excessive expression of emotions.
Following a traumatic experience, we may experience feelings of shame, sadness and guilt, which will then fuel anger that is often unjustly directed at ourselves.
Furthermore, when one has witnessed a loved one or an authority figure having repetitive and unpredictable outbursts of anger, one may have associated this emotion with fear, danger or even dysfunctional relationships.
Fear of abandonment, rejection being there as original wounds may also influence the relationship to anger. If we express our anger to our parents or to an authority figure, we risk being abandoned.
These mechanisms can then translate into adulthood as an inability to communicate our own needs, set boundaries, speak up for ourselves and more.
Why does suppressed or repressed anger is problematic?
HSPs are naturally empathetic, which makes them particularly aware of the emotions and needs of others that they often prioritise at the expense of their own energetic and emotional boundaries.
In addition to the imbalances we have already discussed, stored anger can be the cause of many ills. A repressed emotion does not go away, it grows silently until it can be heard.
To get our attention so that it can be processed and then released, stored/repressed anger may be at the root cause of :
depression (when you are disconnected from anger and therefore not consciously realising when you are actually angry at someone or something, your emotions may turn into feelings of sadness, disinterest, numbness...)
paranoia or extreme distrust (unconscious projection of anger onto others who become a source of anxiety, potential threats...),
high standards and expectations of yourself (especially if you have perfectionist tendencies) but also high expectations for others who you may judge for their lack of ethics. "If I make a constant effort to tick all the boxes and not allow myself to feel/acknowledge the frustration its causing me, I cannot tolerate other people lack of self control."
Passive-aggressive behaviour. Anger is expressed through manipulation, humiliation, gaslighting... often without realising it. "If I do not allow myself to be angry, I can nevertheless make the other person "pay" for that repressed anger indirectly."
Self-destructive behaviour, addictions, anxiety, chronic stress...
As anger acts as an indicator of a crossed boundary, when we are disconnected from it, it can be difficult to remain true to ourselves and protect our authentic self (our integrity) which can therefore end up being stifled.
Although stifled, our authentic self will always try to bring us back to ourselves by inviting us to feel, by forcing us to repeat limiting patterns, by triggering physical pain...
Repressed anger is one of the first causes of somatisation (physical reactions to psychological problems). It can be the cause of back pain, digestive problems, insomnia, ulcers, liver problems (due to long term repressed anger and fear), chronic pain or illness...
Do you have any repressed anger ?
Is it difficult for you to say "no", to stand up for yourself or to set boundaries?
Are you never angry but often feel sad or depressed?
Are you excessively sarcastic and cynical?
Do you feel the need to control everything in your life?
Are you uncomfortable with confrontation and conflict?
Do you have chronic muscle tension?
Do you experience chronic stress or anxiety?
Do you shut down, avoid people, or isolate yourself when you are angry or upset?
Do you feel guilty, ashamed or bad after getting angry?
Do you tend to criticise others or are you overly critical of yourself?
Are you particularly demanding of yourself?
Do you have unexpected outbursts of anger or get excessively angry over a detail?
This list of questions is not exhaustive, but if you answered "yes" to most of them, you probably need to re-evaluate your relationship with anger and most importantly focus on releasing energy blocks that may have built up within yourself !
Some healing tips to help you release repressed anger
Acknowledge your anger and gradually try to find its roots. You can of course be supported in this process!
Journal (write down what you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, it's up to you! ). This will allow you to reconnect with your emotions, your feelings and therefore by extension to reconnect with your authentic self which will be happy to show you the way to a healthier and more fulfilling life where you occupy your rightful place.
Identify your triggers. What situation, person, scenario... is causing you to repress your anger or overindulge in anger? When did you first feel this? Can you trace it back to a specific memory?
Learn to express your anger in a healthy way and communicate your boundaries/emotions. Again, don't hesitate to get support in doing this!
Express your anger in a productive way through sport, creativity, a project that will enhance your life...
Get these stagnant energies/repressed emotions moving through yoga, meditation, an energy healing session so they can be processed and released...
Learn to get back at the centre of your life by respecting your own needs, setting healthy boundaries and practicing self-compassion.
Did you enjoy this article? Please do let me know and/or share your experience with me on social media or by email at email@example.com.