Anger: Why We Need to Feel It, How to Cope, and How to Use It

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One of the things I heard very often, was that no one could ever picture me angry. As if anger just didn’t belong in my body and there was no way that my sweet demeanor could ever change into something other than “nice”. For a very long time I took it almost like a compliment. Like I was better, more in control, and that’s why an negative emotion like anger didn’t fit with who I was. It was a weird source of pride, that’s for sure. I know I am not the only woman or femme that has felt that way. It’s as if So like many femme folk, particularly, womxn of color, I developed a strained relationship with anger and expressing it.

However, after many hours in therapy and a lot of unlearning, I realized that anger isn’t this big bad emotion. Complicated? Yes. Big? Absolutely. But it’s not a bad emotion to feel or express. For a long time I just didn’t think I could feel it, or allow myself to sit in anger. It just had been so ingrained in me that anger was violent and good girls are quiet and nice. Breaking that down took a lot of work.

However, once I let myself feel angry (something I’m still working on), I felt so much better. I had spent my whole life up until maybe three years ago swallowing everything that made me angry. I put all of those frustrations away, or at least I thought I did. After a particularly heavy therapy session I realized that just because I wasn’t expressing my anger doesn’t mean I had never felt anger. The truth was, I had a LOT of anger, I just never did anything about it. I let it eat away at me mentally and physically. My anxiety would get worse, or my depression would flare up, mostly whenever anger came up for me I morphed it into something I thought I could handle.

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Once I decided to let myself feel angry I felt so much better. I could throw pillows in my room, vent to friends, scribble angrily in my journal. It was very freeing to let myself express and truly feel angry. At the end of the day, anger was there to help me realize what wasn’t working, what hurt, and what desperately needed to change.

I found myself standing up for myself, not letting people walk all over me, and actually expressing how I felt. At this point, anger felt novel to me. Absolutely huge but not unbearable. The movement from hurt to healed, involves and needs anger. If you can’t cater to your own emotions and examine why you feel the way you do, you just end up stuck. You don’t move on, you hold on to grudges, or you just end up hurting your own mental and emotional health.

Anger is important. It’s helpful. You can’t move forward without it.

Another thing I very quickly learned is that like all other emotions, anger can turn toxic if you let it. While you have to feel it and examine it you can’t be driven by it to hurt others. It’s really easy to get caught up in the height of emotion and forget that your actions and words can hurt others. Also, while you do need to sit with your anger, you can’t live in it all the time.

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So how do you cope with it?

Well, this is something I’m still working on, but I have picked up on a few things that have helped me. For starters simply talking to other friends and loved ones about your anger is helpful. Sometimes it takes an outside source to help you direct your anger or just validate it. For me, it’s really helpful to be called out when my anger becomes toxic and when it is helpful. Similarly, writing about it has been super helpful. I can write poem, short stories, or even articles. It helps me process my anger in a healthy and controlled environment where I can truly explore all parts of it without hurting others. Reading these entries over in a day or so also help me focus on what the root cause is and how to proceed.

If you are not one who like to process feeling this way, I find that doing physical things with your body is helpful. Whether it’s baking, running, yoga, or just punching your pillows, it’s important to have add that physical component, especially when you’re angry. I think there’s a balance between thinking about what your body is doing and thinking about that which hurt you.

Lastly, I’ve learned that regardless of who hurt you or how they respond, you are still responsible for your own emotions. Your anger is yours to understand, to cope with, and to heal. While this might be your responsibility, you don’t have to go through it by yourself, having companionship to distract you or remind your other emotions is just as important.

Using anger can be really useful. It can give you the push you need to tell others what you need, what bothers or hurts you, and in some cases end relationships.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Once you’ve sat with your anger and you know the root causes and the changes you want, you can keep riding that wave until you’ve done what you needed to do. They key part here is to be in a calmer state of anger, not the explosive kind, but a mature version. This will allow you to talk about it, accept your own faults, and reach an agreement where possible.

I’m the kind of person that can still very easily get lost in anger, so it’s helpful for me to make a list of what I want or need out of confrontation or conversation. That way I can stick to my goals and not regress back into the original state of hurt. Moreover, doing this allows you to not forget what you need to talk about.

The most important part about using your anger in a healthy way, is time to feel it and know it before doing something about the situation that triggered it. Space, I think is the most important part.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Anger keeps us safe and reminds us that we deserve more than what we get sometimes. While it might often be misconstrued as bad or toxic, when whittled down to it’s essence, anger is healing. It helps you acknowledge your needs and wants.

Don’t let other people tell you that your anger is wrong. It’s not. Feel it. It’s important.

I’m a Brown student pursing a BA in literary arts and on my way to an MFA in creative writing. I write and read about love, identity, and womanhood.

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