When you’re upset with someone about something, do you:

> Say nothing, but silently keep score?

> Talk to others about it?

> Ice them out?

> Send them a passive-aggressive or sarcastic text? 

If any of those rang a bell, you are not alone which is why in this week’s episode, I’m breaking down the top 10 indicators that you might be suppressing and/or unconsciously repressing your anger. 

Raising your awareness around when you might be acting out feelings of frustration or anger is the first step to expressing yourself in a healthier way. I promise you, learning these skills will improve all of your relationships, including the one you have with yourself. 

There is a difference between suppressing (conscious) and repressing (unconscious), but in both cases, we are not expressing our anger, which can have real consequences. 

When we consistently avoid or deny our anger, it can contribute to anxiety, depression, and self-sabotaging behaviors. Stuffing it down and neglecting to fully process and express anger can negatively affect our relationships, career, family, and our mental and physical wellbeing. 

It is so important we recognize anger as a healthy part of being human. 

None of us has the power to never be angry, as hard as we may try. In my 20s, I was definitely the person who would say, “I never get angry,” because my anger was so repressed I had no idea how angry I really was. 

There are many reasons why this can happen, so let’s get into the different signals, signs, and characteristics of suppressed or repressed anger so you can get more clarity. 

1. Emotion Swapping

This is where you don’t consciously feel angry, but you might feel sad, anxious, or depressed instead. You swap out anger for a different, “safer” emotion. I definitely identify with this. In my family of origin, I learned expressing anger directly was NOT ok, BUT, being sad or upset was acceptable.  

Humans are wired to keep ourselves safe and minimize exposure to any perceived threat. As a child, you might have learned anger was a forbidden feeling, and to not be rejected within the family system, your anger had to go underground. 

If you are still playing out this behavioral pattern in your life, start to really pay attention to when you are feeling sad, upset, or depressed. Ask yourself where it’s coming from and try to recognize, name, and honor your true feelings. 

2. Sarcasm

When you think about sarcasm, it’s really a passive-aggressive way of expressing anger, disappointment, or frustration. I was the queen of sarcasm because it was a safe way for me to express the anger I was repressing.

If you often find yourself saying the opposite of what you think and feel with a sarcastic tone and maybe even an eye roll, start to get into inquiry around why it might feel safer than being direct. 

3. Conflict Avoidance

Do you avoid conflict? If you are uncomfortable with confrontation, it could point to a fear of your own and/or other people’s anger. Managing your anger in a healthy way is a skill– one many of us never learned. You might even be uncomfortable around any kind of conflict even if you’re not involved in it. 

Like emotion swapping, avoiding conflict is another protective method to keep us “safe”. But over time, avoiding conflict can leave us bitter and resentful. 

4. Control Issues

The next symptom of suppressed or repressed anger is feeling compelled to control others and situations- even those things that are not yours to control. Trying to control everything and everyone can also be a bid for safety. 

Take note: if you have codependent tendencies, you might be unconsciously trying to control the outcomes and choices of the people in your life. As a recovering codependent and former control freak, I get it. 

5. Passive-Aggressive

Passive aggression is the indirect expression of anger. It is perhaps one of the most destructive forms of covert communication. Door slamming, heavy sighing, saying “I’m fine,” in a tone that clearly expresses you are anything but fine, all of these behaviors are passive-aggressive. 

Let’s say you’re angry at someone because they didn’t respond to what you would consider a timely fashion. So the next time, you wait an extra-long time to get back to them because you want to make sure your message is clear. 

The truth, of course, is your message is vague as hell. Effective communication is direct. Acting out your anger in a passive-aggressive way might feel “safe” and like it’s still honoring your feelings, but it’s ineffective. 

Communicating your displeasure or frustration directly through a text or conversation is so much more effective. 

6. Boundary Disaster

Do you have disordered boundaries? If you have control issues, this could look like you having rigid boundaries (in the video, I give an example of me telling my college boyfriend, “I don’t do anger,” ?). 

Or, on the other end of the spectrum, you might have porous boundaries and have difficulty saying no, stating a preference, or talking true because you are trying to avoid other people’s anger.

7. Shutting Down

When you’re upset, is your go-to move to withdraw or stonewall? If your instinct is to remove yourself from the situation so you don’t have to talk about it or address it ever again, you likely have some anger brewing under the surface you aren’t willing to let out or recognize. 

Shutting down helps no one. Believe it or not, healthy conflict resolution is possible and so is expressing, processing, and understanding your true emotions, even anger. 

8. Exploding 

Do you wait so long to express your feelings that you eventually explode like a volcano? Maybe it happens over a completely mundane thing that has nothing to do with why you were angry in the first place… 

When we bottle up our anger, there is a cumulative emotional effect. The cost for continuing to push it down is it can build and build until we act out explosively, leaving carnage in our wake. Especially if you are someone who is anger avoidant a majority of the time, these kinds of episodes can permanently damage your relationships. 

9. Holding Grudges

Do you have a mental file cabinet of grievances? When we don’t process our anger in a healthy way, we can hold tight to grudges. It’s like our anger gets stored in this anger file cabinet and never really goes away. 

When we talk things out, confront people, and allow ourselves to be angry, we are much less likely to find ourselves ruminating about things that happened yesterday or 25 years ago. 

There is something healing and healthy in saying, “I’m angry about this,” or  “I don’t like the way you treated me”.  Because when you don’t express yourself, every time you relive the crappy experience in your mind, you’re releasing stress hormones. Your body doesn’t know the difference between now and then. 

You are still getting the negative impact of an incident that could have happened 20 years ago! It is self-defeating and akin to repeatedly slamming your head against a wall- no resolution, only pain. 

10. 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, ungodly, or considered unseemly. 

In my family, it was considered crass. Anger just wasn’t something we did. And no one had to send me a memo to tell me that, I just knew it. It was part of the unspoken rules of engagement in my family system or what I call silent agreements. 

Were there any silent agreements around anger in your family of origin? If you feel guilt or shame around your anger, think through what you learned growing up and what kind of behavior you saw modeled. This isn’t about blaming your parental impactors. It’s about getting context and clarity around your relationship to your anger. 

Bottom line: when it comes to our emotions, there are only two choices. We can talk it out or act it out. 

Trust me, if you are suppressing or repressing your anger, eventually, it will affect you because you do not have the power to make it disappear. In this week’s downloadable guide, I’m giving you some tips to express your anger in a healthier, more functional way. 

Download your guide here now. 

I want to hear from you so please, drop me a comment here or connect with me over on Instagram @terricole and let me know if any of these resonate with you.  

Anger is a normal part of being a whole, healthy human being. There are things you can do to recognize, process, and honor your anger.

I hope this added value to your life and as always, take care of you. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Yes, I definitely experience most of these. Very relevant. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain in my upper shoulders / neck for a decade, and I know now that it is directly correlated to my lack of self-expression, especially anger. I have a lot of it, and I struggle sometimes to get it all out. I want to be more creative, actually USE the anger in some creative way, but I feel stuck right now with that. The only thing I’ve found thus far is going back to dance (I was a dancer almost my whole life)and it definitely helps. Hoping for more inspiration in your guide! Xx

    1. HI Teresa,
      Thank you for sharing! It makes a lot of sense that your anger is manifesting in physical pain! It sounds like dance it a wonderful creative outlet for you ❤️

  2. Thank you for making this clear Terri. I avoid conflict and never express my anger. My mother would rage, and the rest of us would run around trying to go along to get along. When I am really angry I actually become withdrawn and cry privately. Keeping the anger in has been detrimental and I know the body holds all that stress. The older I get the harder it is to suppress, and the volcano recently shocked a coworker, who had been behaving passive aggressively towards me for some time. I shocked myself, and it wasn’t pretty, but it did feel good to get things out in the open. I wish I had been taught early on that it is healthy to express my anger in a productive way, instead of running around trying to fix everything and avoid conflict my whole life at all costs. Thank you for your wonderful work. I am finding it so valuable and comforting to help take better care.

    1. Hi Sue,
      Thank you so much for sharing. You’re absolutely in the right place! Keep working toward expressing your anger, and those outbursts will happen less and less. When you find outlets for it, you won’t feel your body bottling it up. Thank you for being here and I’m cheering you on along your journey! ❤️

  3. Dear Terri,

    Thank you for your very helpful articles & courses, uplifting meditations. And for just being you, and for sharing your experience and wisdom with others, as you do. Your work has made me aware of how many boundary issues I am struggling with, and that it is safe to speak up and let my voice be heard. That is so much worth!

    Also, this article on anger (in which I discovered myself in so many of the points!) encouraged me to express my anger feelings appropriately when they arise, instead of bottling them up, which I have done for so many years because of the fear of being disliked and rejected. After all, becoming angry would be a blemish on my image as the “perfectly good girl” ;p. And as you mentioned about yourself in your article, me, too, I always have perceived myself as “way-beyond-this-thing-called-anger” ;p. It’s so easy to fool oneself about oneself! Luckily, that “little good girl” in me has reached her limits, realising that she’s nothing but an illusion, and now she’s gettinger braver and more daring every day :). Thank you so much for all the support you offer with your work! I always look forward to your newsletters :).

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I’m so glad this resonated for you! I love that you’re expressing your anger and setting boundaries in a way that feels authentic. Keep it up – I’m cheering you on! ❤️

  4. Such a Fabulous topic! Thank you! I am already 44 years old and I need SO MUCH HELP WITH THIS! I’m terrified of anger! My own and everyone else’s too! I was once with a girl I really liked, at the beginning of our relationship, she just picked me up at the airport for a long weekend we were about to spend together. She picked me up an then as we drove out of the airport, she turned up her music really loud and I felt so abandoned in that moment, I asked her nicely if she would turn down the music or turn it off, and she absolutely RAGED on me so loud, I freaked out and instantly went into Freeze and Flight mode. I instantly began booking my return ticket to get out of there. I Just can’t get cool with anger, in others, in me, anywhere. … What to do Terri?! What to do?!

    1. Hi Derek,
      Thank you for sharing and for being here! I’m glad you’re recognizing the signs of suppressing anger. It’s important to let yourself express what you’re feeling as it arises. The more you practice it, the easier it will get. Try saying what you feel, even in the smallest instances, and see if you can calm yourself down to turn off flight and freeze mode and put yourself back in the moment.

    1. Hi Christina,
      I’m glad this resonated with you! I would encourage you to not view it as “wrong with you” and know that many of us struggle with this! It’s about progress, not perfection ❤️

      1. Thank you Terri for gifting this to YOM members I have a lot of these points and also now realise that the pain in my hip is probably suppressed anger I am 70 years old but will start working. On my repressed anger now that I realise that I have it. Thank you very much for your knowledge that you are sharing. ?

  5. This is so helpful! I have always been afraid to let my anger out. After taking a couple of your online courses and doing the work, I know that much of that fear had to do with fear of being abandoned.
    However, I still struggle with how to let anger out healthily, if there is such a word. Any advice on that?
    Thank you for all that you do to help others heal their struggles.

    1. Hi Robin,
      Thank you for sharing and for being here ❤️ It’s very common to struggle with expressing anger, especially if you were taught in childhood to suppress it! Keep working on showing your feelings in a healthy and authentic way even in the smallest instances. If you ask for someone to do you a favor, they say yes, and don’t do it. It’s okay to show that it angered you without exploding! I hope this helps ❤️

      1. “If you ask for someone to do you a favor, they say yes, and don’t do it. It’s okay to show that it angered you without exploding!” Wow, SO helpful and validating. I was just thinking about how to handle a similar situation… Men I’d like to date who express interest in seeing me in person, and then ghost. I’m really sick of it because I experienced a lot of broken promises and confusion as a kid. If I run into these men again and it’s appropriate, I want to give myself the chance to tell them that their choice to disappear upset me – that if we’re going to be a part of each other’s lives in any capacity, I deserve to be treated more respectfully. I was wavering on whether or not this would be an appropriate thing to do, but it sounds like it might be a healthy choice.

        1. Hi Teresa,
          I’m so glad this was validating for you! I appreciate you sharing and your reflection. I think keeping your boundaries in mind and remembering that you deserve respect will help guide you ❤️

  6. Thank you Terri. This was very informative and yes, I can see many of the patterns present in my life. We were not allowed to show anger in my family – and I’m still not allowed to. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life and also physical symptoms you referred to, which I can totally see is related to suppressed and repressed anger.
    The tips and strategies you provided are very valuable and I’m going to do the yoga flow class now. I exercise, eat and hydrate well, meditate daily and try to keep my words, thoughts and actions as loving as possible.

    Thanks for the blessing you and your book have been in my life <3

    Regards,
    Bev.

    1. Hi Bev,
      Thank you for sharing and for being here! I love that you are doing the work and are dedicating yourself to this type of growth. I’m cheering you on along the way! ❤️❤️

  7. I know someone who doesn’t do anger but sometimes a slightly sarcastic message may arrive. I respect him very . What is the best way to respond do you think?

    1. Hi Niko,
      That definitely sounds like suppressed anger! I think it’s important to stick to your side of the street here and not try to force them to express their anger. However, if their sarcastic comment hurt your feelings, you can certainly share that. Tell them how they are affecting you and your relationship. But be sure to not try to “fix” their unhealthy behavior. I hope this helps!

  8. Great video on this topic. I grew up with parents who suppressed their anger, but covertly took it out on their children. We were terrified of our mothers moods and my fathers punishments if we upset her, which we seemed to do by merely being children. Everyone was controlled by her and her feelings were the only thing that mattered. As an adult my brother is a very angry man, my sister was an alcoholic, she sadly died several years ago now. I blew up like a volcano with my mother and brother three years ago, due to years of her treating me like I didn’t exist and favouring him constantly. The result, my whole extended family had shunned me, for having the audacity to be angry and voice my opinions. I held the injustices and resentments for years until I could no longer do it. I have since sought counselling, and can now manage and acknowledge my feelings. Sadly I have no relationship left with my extended family though. They refuse to discuss anything and have just frozen me out.

    1. Hi Keren,
      Thank you for sharing, this sounds very difficult and painful ❤️ I’m holding space for you with so much compassion. Keep working on unlearning what your parents taught you and allow your anger to express itself in healthy ways.

  9. Thanks, Terri! This is another right-on presentation! I grew up with anger being bad, and only allowed for parents, not children. I have repressed a lot…I don’t like anger from myself or anyone else. I am working on it! Thank you so much again for your awesome insight and help.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}