How to Process Feelings of Anger

Nov 10, 2020

Aspects of the self can be paired with guilt messages, and certainly, anger is one of those. Some people feel guilty whenever they feel themselves getting angry. But there is another problem with anger.

Anger is a state of protest and fight. We are wired with this emotion inside of ourselves to be “against” something. We use anger to fight injustice, unrighteousness, evil, and other bad things. Anger is a problem-solving emotion designed to protect what is good and what is valuable.

But sometimes people have not expressed anger toward bad things that have happened to them because they have happened in a context in which expressing anger would have been dangerous. So these people deny their anger.

The problem is that anger is directional. It has to be aimed at something. It is supposed to be aimed at injustice or the person who is being unfair. But if this is not possible - for example, in cases of child abuse - people will aim the anger at themselves instead. Abused children feel, “I am bad if this is happening to me.” They turn the anger that should be aimed at the abuser toward themselves. Other instances of oppressive relationships, like hurtful parenting, cause the same dynamic.

So sometimes the cure for guilt has nothing to do with helping people feel ”forgiven”. It has to do with helping them resolve their anger, to feel it toward whomever or whatever deserves it. When they do that, the guilt is resolved because the guilt was only anger turned toward themselves, making them seem “bad” when they are not.

The big point to notice here is the misdiagnosis. Many people suffer for a long time at the hands of others trying to get them to “believe” they are forgiven when what they should be working on is the resolution of their anger.