What actually is anger?

Anger is one of our core emotions (the others are sadness, fear, joy, excitement, sexual excitement, and disgust). Core emotions are an intrinsic part of our neurobiology, causing largely physical sensations that inform us about our environment and our needs. Anger gives us the energy to stand up and say ‘I matter, and my needs are important’ - its role is to remind us of our inherent worth and protect us from abuse and harm. It is an inherently loving and protective energy. Anger always has your best interests at heart. Uninhibited, it can guide you back to the truth of your worth.

Is anger the same as rage?

No. Anger is a natural, necessary, and healthy emotion that occurs when we have been wronged, mistreated, or threatened. Anger seeks to protect us from harm, remind us of our inherent worth, and motivate us to make important decisions or changes. Anger is inherently loving and protective, with your best interests at heart.

Rage is compound anger; unfelt, suppressed, and unprocessed anger that has built up and ‘spilt over’ - taking the form of an uncontrolled expression outwards, that is often destructive or harmful. The experience of rage almost always feels uncontrollable. The origins of rage are found in unresolved trauma or compounded anger/stress. In short, anger seeks to protect and resolve, and rage seeks to fight and destroy.

With that being said, we can work with rage in a healthy way. For example, what I call Feminine Rage is an ancestral, embodied response to a history of patriarchy. Feminine Rage dissipates when we honour the Inner Wild Woman because she knows what to do with it.

What is healthy anger?

Healthy anger is just another way of saying anger. The term ‘healthy anger’ was developed to address societal stigma around anger and help people differentiate between anger and rage.

What is Anger Work and Shadow Work?

Repressed feelings contribute to our ‘shadow material' - the qualities, beliefs, and parts of ourselves that we have hidden or denied, tucked away out of shame. When we can identify repressed feelings, the opportunity arises to own our projections and integrate our shadow. The more we integrate our shadow, the more we stop calling in the conditions that cause us to repeat old maladaptive patterns.

Anger in the shadow presents itself through recurring patterns of feeling powerless and apathetic; a sense of no control, no power, and no protection. Anger Work and Shadow Work go hand-in-hand. Reclaiming your anger changes ‘why is this happening to me’ to ‘why is this happening for me,’ motivating you to use your voice, take up space, set healthy boundaries, and own your life.

If you want to radically renovate your mind structure and emotional patterns, you must be willing to dive into the dark, scary parts of the emotional body and embrace discomfort. The shadow is really just a part of ourselves who has been hurt, ignored, and denied. It's a part of ourselves that needs love and integration.

What is Embodiment?

Many of us have a body, but few of us actually live in it.

The aim of Embodiment is to get out of the thinking mind and into the feeling body, so that we can focus on felt sense: a deep awareness of emotions and sensations as they arise in the body, enabling us to shine a light on our inner experience, and navigate our way more skilfully through highly sensitive states. By learning to experience our larger-than-life emotions, we compost our body into a force for freedom; truth and love, death and rebirth, healing and transformation.

The long lasting impact of Embodiment is having a much more intimate relationship with self, a much greater capacity for discomfort, and a greater ability to bring the nervous system back into regulation. Embodiment practices often use sensory awareness, dance or movement, breathwork, visualisation, and more.

What is felt sense?

Felt sense is a deeper awareness of emotions, sensations, feelings, and beliefs as they arise in the body.

Philosopher Eugene Gendlin originally developed the concept of a felt sense, explaining the concept as a combination of emotion, awareness, intuitiveness, and embodiment. Felt sense is often a little unclear, but can feel like a 'knowing' - we cannot explicitly describe it, but we can experience it as a type of awareness of things ranging from old trauma responses to new forming ideas.

What is the difference between suppression, repression, and depression?

Suppression is a pressing against of emotion.

Anger suppression happens when we can sense and feel anger, but we do not allow it to flow, be expressed, or fully processed.

Repression is a pressing back of emotion.

Repressed anger refers to anger that has been unconsciously avoided, denied, or 'pressed back' into our unconscious, usually because of a subconscious programme developed to ignore or avoid it out of fear or shame.

Depression is a pressing down of emotion.

Anger, and all other emotions, that have been consistently 'pressed down' suppressed and repressed can contribute to an experience of depression, feeling a grave sense of apathy and low self-esteem.

“Depression is not this inherited brain disease. It’s a result of having to push down one’s emotions as a child.” — Dr. Gabor Maté

What is unfelt anger?

Unfelt anger is an umbrella term used to describe combination of anger suppression and repression. Often, when start working with suppressed anger, it opens the door for repressed anger to follow.

How is anger related to pleasure?

Because anger is directly linked to our sense of worth, it’s not uncommon for people with suppressed or repressed anger to also experience a lack of pleasure. The underlying belief sounds something like ‘my needs for pleasure are not as important’ or ‘it’s not safe for me receive pleasure,’ so we will block our own sensuality and pleasure. There are themes of people pleasing, shame, and unworthiness that fold into this experience, and it will be different for everyone.

What are some signs and symptoms of unfelt anger?

Some signs include:

  • Self-sabotaging strategies and low self-esteem

  • Difficultly setting personal boundaries

  • Quick to experience shame, guilt, or anxiety

  • Struggling to say no to the people and things you don't a want

  • Feeling victimised or powerless in areas of life

  • Lack of pleasure and/or sexual blocks

Some symptoms include:

  • Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea

The word 'eczema' means 'to boil over' which can indicate trapped heat boiling over and out into the skin. The word 'psoriasis' means 'the itch' which can indicate an unmet need or a boundary crossed. This can be a result of an inflammatory stress response induced by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system through compound and unprocessed anger. Studies by Stohl et al. have shown that sympathetic neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine can cause the release of inflammatory signalling molecules that activate inflammatory pathways in the skin.

  • Irritable conditions like IBS, SIBO, constipation, etc.

Unfelt anger plays a key role in the dysregulation of the brain-gut axis, contributing to experiences of IBS and other gut inflammatory responses. If we are highly sensitive and get 'triggered,' the autonomic nervous system output can override our enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is a large division of the peripheral nervous system that can control gastrointestinal behaviour. But why would someone be highly sensitive? Sensitive people are sensitised people, as a result of challenging life experiences that left them feeling a lack of emotional protection. Anger is the emotion that represents protection, so if we have disowned it, no wonder we feel powerless and highly sensitive.

  • Thyroid and vocal issues, inflammatory in the throat.

Anger is a natural response to threat linked with our ‘fight’ response in the sympathetic nervous system. The ‘fight’ response has a rich chemistry of stress hormones (cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine), which most of us know as adrenaline. Cortisol is the most important of these to thyroid function as it influences thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The burst of cortisol shouldn’t impact thyroid function under normal circumstances, because bursts of stress hormones are short-lived. However, if we continually suppress the flow of anger we block the ‘fight response,’ we perpetuate an activated nervous system, increasing cortisol. Chronic release of cortisol will contribute to thyroid and vocal issues.