Is it Hard for You to Feel & Express Your Anger? Here's Why...
For some people, anger comes easily, perhaps too easily. These kinds of people are quick to erupt with anger, frustration, an explosive remark, or a lashing text message.
I call these people Anger Erupters.
For others, it is incredibly challenging to feel and express their anger.
For these kinds of people, daring to feel their anger is one of the scariest things they can do. When faced with a challenge or conflict, these people might suddenly feel numb, frozen, sad, or overly accommodating.
I call these people Anger Stuffers.
To better understand why Anger Erupters and Anger Stuffers respond so differently, we need to look at the brain:
When Anger Erupters are faced with something they perceive as a threat, their brains are likely to trigger the “fight response.” Anger Erupters come across as aggressive, combative, assertive, or even threatening in these situations.
Whereas, when Anger Stuffers are faced with a threat, their brains are more likely to trigger anything except the Fight Response (like the Freeze, Flight, or Fawn Response). Anger Stuffers come across as mild-mannered, spacey, complacent, easy-going, sad, or dissociated in a conflict. This is because, to the Anger Stuffer’s brain, the fight response AND anger, are perceived to be the Biggest-Badest-Scariest-Threat of all—even bigger than the “threat” in front of them.
For Anger Stuffers, their aversion to anger lives in their bodies (it is not necessarily fully conscious). Because of past traumas and experiences, their nervous systems and brains are hardwired to short-circuit the anger impulse and redirect this energy into sadness, collapse, depression, freeze, complacency, people-pleasing, or going numb.
If any of this sounds familiar, be compassionate with yourself. You are not alone.
This hardwired coping strategy probably supported you during really challenging times in your past. For many of us, when faced with conflict, this internal process happens instantaneously and on autopilot.
It feels like we have no choice in the matter.
It might feel ironic, but the first and most crucial step is to appreciate and acknowledge this coping strategy. This strategy was born from an inner protector that was doing the only thing it knew to do TO KEEP YOU SAFE.
And if you, like me, have also felt frustrated with this strategy, it is because now, as an adult, you recognize you need to grow a healthier relationship with your anger, boundaries, and your innate fight response. If you don’t, people will take advantage of your porous boundaries, and they will WALK ALL OVER YOU.
As a recovering people pleaser and Anger Stuffer, I’ve worked hard to rewire my brain and body’s aversion to anger and the fight response. It has been a long and challenging journey.
My first positive encounter with my fight response happened while attending the Somatic Experiencing Institute (Peter Levine’s trauma therapy school). I was in a session with a SE practitioner and something profound happened…
In the session, I started to feel that my teeth were growing longer and that I had fangs. At first, the sensations in my mouth scared the sh*t out of me, and I wanted them to go away. But the practitioner gently invited me to sit with the feeling. As I sat with it and got curious, the fangs started to grow longer, my eyes narrowed, and I suddenly had claws on my fingers.
To my astonishment, I was transforming into a lion. A wild, fierce, and all-powerful lion.
My formerly castrated fight response was now coming online for the first time in my life.
I roared in the session and felt an electric surge of heat and aliveness coursing through my veins.
Here I am! ROAR!
I needed that practitioner's encouragement, skill, and love in order to feel safe enough to tease out my innate Fight Response—my healthy anger.
That first session was a portal for me—opening me to a rich and life-changing journey of deepening with my healthy anger and boundaries (aka. my attuned fight response). I still have an inner people pleaser, but I can also ROAR, say “No”, or hold a firm boundary when the situation calls for it.
I truly wish this for all Anger Stuffers.
If you (or someone you know) could benefit from support with your anger or boundaries, check out my upcoming 6-Week Course that is specifically designed for people pleasers and anger stuffers, The People Pleaser’s Guide to Anger.
It begins in March and I’d love to have you join!