Anger is a protective emotion. Anger helps us to set strong and healthy boundaries. We need the fierceness of anger to protect ourselves especially if we have been violated, disrespected or abused.
Anger is considered a secondary emotion because we resort to anger to protect ourselves from feeling other vulnerable feelings. A primary feeling is what is felt immediately before we feel anger.
Prior to feeling anger, we might first feel violated, manipulated, ridiculed, tricked, taken from, invaded, insulted, denigrated, attacked, disrespected, controlled, forced, trapped, pressured or abused.
Our psyches are made up of different parts, sometimes called sub-personalities. Each sub-personality has its own perspectives, feelings, memories, goals and motivations.
Some aspects of our personality act as "protectors". All of us have a variety of protector selves that guard us against being in hurt like we were in the past.
Let's explore two ways that our "protectors" can relate to anger.
- Over-expression of Anger: We have to feel hurt in order to heal it. You might have a protective part of self that is quick to express anger as a way to deflect old hurt that you do not want to feel.
- Under-expression of Anger: We have to voice our boundaries in order to keep ourselves safe. You might have a protective part of self that suppresses your anger and dictates that you should be "nice" at all times. Anger, however, needs to be expressed in order to stand up to mistreatment.
Over-Expression of Anger
The protector that over-expresses anger is trying to protect us from feeling unresolved emotional pain from our younger years.
Appreciating anger as a mechanism that protects us from being flooded with overwhelming pain builds compassion for the psychological safety that we needed when we were younger.
The key to working with the "angry protector" is to build a relationship with it from the witnessing part of your mind, which you could call your Self in Presence.
Self in Presence can ask the protector to explain what kind of original hurt it is protecting you from so that you can begin the emotional healing process.
Sometimes our anger gets suppressed by a different kind of protector.
If anger was not allowed when you were growing up, you will develop a "you-should-be-nice" protector to suppress your anger.
If an "overly nice" protector is suppressing your anger, you will feel pressured to be nice to the detriment of having healthy boundaries.
We need to access the power of anger to speak up and stand up for ourselves. The suppression of anger is weakening to body, mind and soul. If your protector enforces undue "niceness" it is helpful to find a way to express your suppressed anger.
It is possible to express anger in a private place without being a danger to anyone else. Suppressed anger can be exerted in a safe way by punching or yelling into a pillow. When you do structured anger work, you will find the power to protect the younger aspects of yourself that you could not speak up for in the past.
It has taken me a long time to get in right relationship with my anger about the injustices I have experienced. Safely and privately expressing my disowned rage has helped me find the power to leave abusive relationships and to know with certainty that I deserve respect.
Prior to owning my anger, I felt depressed, repressed, socially timid, and overly careful about speaking my truth with others. Keeping a ferociously honest anger journal has helped me to reclaim the power of my self-worth.
1. Witnessing the Hurt Below Anger - Your over-expressive "angry protector" serves a purpose and needs to be listened to. Touching the roots of hurt that the anger is protecting invites deep healing. If you often feel angry, it is helpful to ask your protector to soften and calm its anger so that you can access, witness and heal the hurt below.
2. Expressing Suppressed Anger - Your under-expressive "nice protector" serves a purpose and needs opportunities to express angry opposition to injustice, disrespect and abuse. When anger has been suppressed for a long time, it is helpful to ask your protector to allow the full expression of your anger in a safe environment.