A post about anger

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 14.49.39I am not an angry person, I am a repressed person. My tendency is to get down and turn inward rather than angry and lash out. If something p*sses me off I’ll tie myself up in knots thinking of the ways that the situation could have been my fault or how actually, I’m over-reacting.

I’ll try to think of reasons why the other person has behaved in that way. These days I’ll try to apply some psychobabble logic about how their childhood has made them behave this way.

I think this makes me a bigger person but, actually, it doesn’t. Not really. It’s patronising and a massive cop out. It’s just another way of denying reality, of not really feeling what you’re feeling or thinking that I don’t have a right to feel the way I feel. It’s not honest.

But this last couple of weeks I’ve realised that you can understand why people behave in a certain way and you can feel empathy for what they’ve gone through but you can also feel F**KING FURIOUS with the mess they’ve made.

And far from being a bad thing – you actually you HAVE to go through that feeling of rage if you want to move on.

I think I’ve mentioned a guy called Jeff Brown before. He was a corporate lawyer who had some form of existential, ‘what’s it all about?’ crisis – I guess like I’m doing now. He now writes books and I think he explains complex emotions really well.

Last week he put up these these two status updates on FB:

‘Anger is a river. It wants to be released into the vaster ocean. It wants to move naturally. When we repress it with premature forgiveness, block it with false positivity, repress it in the name of pseudo-peace, we just dam(n) our natural flow. The river then turns inward, against the self, or explodes outwardly, against innocents. Better we express it when it is in our awareness- not in a way that is destructive to humanity- but in a way that is authentic and that restores the integrity of our being. Anger isn’t the enemy. Misplaced anger is. Let the river flow…’

‘Forgiveness is one of the primary mantras preached by the ungrounded spirituality movement. This is not to say that forgiveness is a bad thing, but it is not the first place to go after an abusive relationship or traumatic experience. Healing is. Putting our focus on forgiving a wrongdoer before we have actually worked through our anger and our pain is another way the new age movement sidesteps their own unresolved shadow and the principles of accountability. I knew someone who had been stabbed by a lunatic and while they were bleeding, they were doing a forgiveness mantra for the stabber. Good thing someone else called an ambulance, or they would have died. When it comes down to it, healing and forgiving ourselves is the important step. If forgiveness of other arises organically, so be it. If it doesn’t, it’s not important. We are not responsible for those who wound us.’

These updates made so much sense to me. I’ve always tried to skip straight to forgiveness, I’ve tried to wrap things up in a nice bow but the result is a load of repressed feelings that are coming out in ways that I’m sure I won’t understand until I look back years from now.

When I did the Hoffman Process there was an exercise where we had to bash a big cushion with a baseball bat while screaming and shouting. The idea was to get out all the bad thoughts you have in your head towards yourself and towards the people in your life.

It was one of those moments when I felt sure there was a hidden camera in the corner of the room getting footage for some Ruby Wax style documentary. I felt mortified that somehow my life had come to this. I mean, bloody hell, I thought I was better than that.

Anyway, I’m not and it was brilliant.

When we started, some people could get straight into it. They shouted and roared at the top of their voices. I was embarrassed and self-conscious. I found it hard to raise my voice at all. It occurred to me that I have never ever – and I don’t think this is an exaggeration – expressed anger and yelled in public. I told you I was repressed.

To do it – even when it wasn’t being directed anywhere except a cushion – felt frightening. It felt ugly. It’s not something nice girls do.

They told us to keep going, even if we felt awkward and thought it was silly. They yelled at us to yell louder. We did. Three or more hours later I was the last person in the room, yelling, swearing and battering that blue velvet cushion into oblivion. Everyone else had gone to dinner without me even noticing.

I could have gone on all night, a full week actually. It was liberating and exhilarating but it was also quite shocking to think about all the rage that was in there. All those years of biting my tongue, of being nice, of never raising my voice, of people pleasing, of wanting to do anything to calm things down… well, it all stayed in my body.

In the real world it’s hard to know how to express anger in a ‘healthy way’.  Until now I have relied on passive aggression, self-loathing and snapping at poor telesales people.

But in the last couple of weeks my anger has been off the scale – way beyond being sh*tty to cold callers. I haven’t known what to do with it.

So what I’ve done is try to take up angry running. Ha! No really I have. The theory at least is that I pound my anger away on the road and listen to really loud rage-y music.

Last week I tried to take my aggression for a run around Hampstead Heath. The weather was crap – there was a dull drizzle and the sky was grey. It suited my mood. I pictured myself in some sort of movie scene, you know the one where the lead character says enough is enough, things are going to change… a Rocky moment.

There’s just one problem – I AM SO UNFIT. I can channel my rage into a minute and a half of pathetic semi jogging before having to take it back to a walk. Oh well. It’s better than nothing.

I think there’s quite a lot of theory around how important physical movement is in helping to let things go – especially if you live, like me, in your head and on a laptop. My friend does something called Five Rhythms dance and she says it’s amazing what comes out when you do it – anger, sadness, ecstasy – the whole shebang. It’s on my list of things to try.

My other thought about anger is that it’s important to accept that you actually are angry – don’t try to wiggle out of it. In our house we were brought up to believe that anything short of death didn’t really warrant a reaction, to always think of how lucky we are and how much worse it could be.

This is healthy but only to a point. We are all human beings who are allowed feelings. The trick is how to express them without hurting others.

Does anyone have any ideas on that?



20 thoughts on “A post about anger

  1. Emily


    Try this for anger. I was so raged up last week my husband came home when I was doing it and asked if he should call the men in white coats. He also thought I was shouting C!@* (I wasn’t!).


    I’m developing a life coaching and yoga programme to heal relationship with anger. For me, it’s been great to tap into the clear energy of anger and to direct that energy to improve the areas of my life that aren’t 100% (or even at 50%). Expressing it healthily – am still developing that side of things…it’s less straightforward.

    The image of you whacking the blue cushion is brilliant and funny and evocative. Thanks again for your honesty.


  2. Arthur

    One way to express anger creatively, or so I have been told, is to write down what makes you angry and why, how you feel, all your thoughts about it. To make sure nobody is hurt and you do not need to constantly censor and repress, a private journal for your eyes only is probably best suited for this purpose. When you surface, and if you feel better, you can share your insight with the world. Some things are best kept to ourselves, I guess, or reserved for when we are dying anyway. and no longer care about other people’s feelings.

  3. Linda

    I do understand how you feel and its ok you are just like the rest of us.
    When my marriage was breaking I was angry with myself for never actually admitting there was anything wrong between us. I asked him several times if we were OK and he always said we were fine and I accepted it. I turned my anger about not trusting my own judgement in on myself and ended up keeping my muscles so tense that I had a bad tremor and problems walking. I was afraid to let the anger out and that if I let him know how angry I was he would leave me.
    In the end I left him. It took a while but now I’m much happier and all the health problems are gone.

  4. Hoffman

    Anger = A sign of hope. Someone who gets angry has hope that things can be different. The expression of anger is a means to an end but first you have to move through expression, forgiveness and letting go – for you, your parents, and any others you feel have hurt and negatively impacted your life. But do it safely! Running is a good one as you know Marianne and swimming/ kick boxing/ dancing to loud music. Just let it out. But don’t get arrested…

  5. Sarah

    Marianne…this is why your blog is one of the only ones I follow religiously. It’s because I identify with so much of what you say. I’ve always envied people able to express their anger, and then move on. Mine probably surfaces most when I’m driving. It’s like a running commentary about how bad the other drivers are, which I guess is easy because they’re mostly faceless & can’t hear me. If I ever argue with my partner, which is rarely, I can’t ‘do’ healthy anger, and usually end up in tears, feeling like it’s the end of the world & sorry for myself. Earliest memory is of my parents arguing, their marriage ended in divorce & my Dad decided to walk away from not only my Mum, but me & my sister too. I like Arthur’s comment about writing stuff down, so am gonna try that one, plus we do happen to have a baseball bat somewhere. Now where did I put that old cushion….
    MWAH xxx

  6. Rhian

    Hi Marianne…I can’t offer any tips on anger but I did just want to say that running has done more for my state of mind over the last 14 years than any self help programme could ever come close to. I couldn’t run a bath when I was 20, let alone run round the block. I started like you – a minute max, then stop for breath. I was completely unfit and two stone overweight. Once I’d got over the fear that everyone was looking at me and laughing (it took a year or so but trust me no-one gives a sh*t) I started to set myself little goals and ran my first 5km in 2003. I ran the London Marathon in 2012 and I can’t overstate how much that has done for my self esteem. I RAN A BLOODY MARATHON! As someone with no kids, it rates as my all time best achievement and I honestly feel these days I could do anything and cope with anything that life throws at me. You don’t have to train for a marathon or run a marathon to get that from running though. Even a 10 minute gentle jog will lift you. Stick with it. Find a Park Run near you if you can. Running is cheap, you can do it on your own, you can do it virtually anywhere and it’s guaranteed to lift you. Then you will forget what you were angry about anyway! xx

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Rhian YOU RAN A BLOODY MARATHON!! You’re right, it’s a MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT. FANTASTIC!! I’ll stick with it. Thank you.

  7. Michelle Bunt

    Hi Marianne,

    I relate to this so much. If I were to do the Hoffman Process I doubt I would be able to make myself scream. I too turn anger inward and get low and mad at myself and then I get tired (fatigue is a major issue for me). I’ve tried sometimes to bash a pillow and I hit it so lightly and pathetically…a baby would be able to do better than me. It’s something I want to work on…let me know if you have any tips. I think movement/exercise is a good way to do it, but like you I am also unfit. I have done a bit of kickboxing and that was a good relief.

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Michelle, yes, fatigue is all part of the same turning inwards package isn’t it? I’d have thought kickboxing is a good start – might try it myself. Good idea. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to comment.

  8. Kara

    Punch things. In a disciplined fashion, not random things or people!

    Boxercise, boxing, any martial art that involves punching, buy pads and gloves and do it with a pal.

    The other thing is time. Face up to your anger, talk about it with trusted people in safe settings. Acknowledge it’s anger. Acknowledge it’s part of healing. And acknowledge that like that river, in time it will calm down.

    Awesome blog. Most honest writing on anger I’ve ever seen.

  9. Kathryn Cassidy

    Well there’s yet another synchronicity between us M – I have been reading a book called Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh! Highly , highly, highly recommend it – and you can read it for free online in a PDF – but as a fellow Hoffman cushion-basher I was a little discombobulated by the section ‘Danger of Venting’ in which he talks about beating your anger out on pillows etc and says “.. hitting a pillow, or venting, is not helpful at all. It is dangerous…Venting your anger is a practice based on ignorance”.
    Given the wisdom in the rest of the book, it made me angry ( ha ha joking) that there are two such disparate views about how to relieve anger out there!

    1. JohnC

      Venting your anger is a loss of control, it’s an emotional response to something & may be the start of an action response to stimulae that upset you. I’ve seen people explode at work & then been walked off the premises with their personal effects.


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