Most people believe that anger is inherently toxic or harmful. And that is not true. Anger is our natural reaction to something that is not right. Our bodies instinctively respond to someone trespassing on our physical, emotional, or mental boundaries. It is situational, occurring when needed to fend off a threat and then subside.
Healthy anger can motivate us to fight injustice or protect our children like a mama bear. It can push us to leave unhealthy relationships.
It is not a performance or an excuse for revenge. It is not blind rage or resentment or spite. On the contrary, healthy anger is there to warn us what isn’t suitable for us.
However, if we were raised by emotionally unavailable parents like an alcoholic or gambler or had intimate relationships with those who used narcissistic rage to control us, we quickly learned to suppress our healthy anger to secure our attachments to survive. As a result, their explosive outbursts continue to terrify children and partners alike and do not resemble healthy anger at all.
Narcissistic rages include:
- Screaming and yelling to control others’ behavior
- Sudden fits of anger for no reason
- Inability to control rage
- Inflicting intentional harm on others, verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual
- Rage when not given the attention they feel they deserve
- Sarcasm to inflict pain
- Verbally cutting people off as a means to protect their self-esteem
And unfortunately, our society rewards partners and children who sacrifice their needs to keep their families’ peace.
For example, divorce is frowned upon in many communities, even when abuse is rampant, and people are punished for speaking out or expressing anger. As a result, many women toe the line, becoming self-sacrificing martyrs, victimized by the very religious beliefs that claim to support them. Their forgiveness gives their abusers a carte blanche to continue hurting them.
So what happens to people who repress their healthy anger?
- It hurts their ability to name and stop abuse or maintain self-protection.