The True Cost of Bottling Up Your Anger

The True Cost of Bottling Up Your Anger

Getty/Olga Budrina

Anger itself is not an evil emotion, but when it’s bottled up, it can cause severe distress and disease. A holistic perspective on rage can help you balance your emotional scales.

As a woman, I have felt the pressure to ignore my anger, fold it neatly, and pack it away. Because good women don’t get angry. Sure, this ideology stems from the corrupt roots of patriarchy. But I have also seen men not express their feelings. Because good men don’t lose control. Anger is almost considered immoral in society.

Ayurveda and Anger: A New Perspective

Ayurveda teaches that one of the leading causes of any disease is suppression of natural urges. Anger is also a natural urge, just like the need to defecate, urinate, pass gas, vomit, or burp. (Ironically, when I was critically ill and in the emergency room, an ER nurse said to me that she also believed unexpressed emotions are the root cause of diseases.)

Instead of viewing anger as an emotion and attaching labels of good or bad, can we see it as a natural function or expression of our emotional being? A client once confessed to me that her uncle sexually assaulted her repeatedly when she was a little girl. But she decided to look past the trauma (without doing any real work) because “it was better for everyone.” The family wanted her to “move on,” so she decided to not be angry and leave her feelings unprocessed.

Let’s take a moment to understand my client’s nuanced situation: She is angry but has chosen not to feel her anger. Then there is the anger caused by being shamed by her extended family for expressing herself and exposing the family’s dirty secret. She is expected to see her uncle at family gatherings but not say a word. Yes, she’s furious. Just because she is suppressing her anger doesn’t mean it’s magically disappearing. Her trauma remains unhealed and unresolved. She has a drinking problem and a host of other illnesses for which she takes medications.

The Effects of Long-Term Anger

I am not a psychotherapist, and I am also not suggesting that the right choice is to stay angry. But not feeling righteous anger isn’t healthy either. Modern studies, as well as the 5,000-year-old ancient healing system of Ayurveda, will tell you that people who internalize their anger hold it captive in their mind and body. This can lead to chronic illnesses, as well as anxiety, depression, paranoia, and more. My client reacts strongly to masculine energy, puts men down (including her own husband), and brings aggression into her relationships with men.

According to this article in the Scientific American by Sarah Graham, “Women who hold back feelings of anger may end up more irate in the long run. Women experience a rebound effect when they suppress angry emotions, which can result in greater feelings of fury.”

A 2019 study from the International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research found that an ongoing reliance on concealing or suppressing emotion is a “barrier to good health.”

An earlier study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester showed that people who bottled up their emotions increased their chance of premature death from all causes by more than 30 percent, with their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increasing by 70 percent.

We can be angry about women and girls being assaulted. We can be angry about losing a loved one. We can be angry about food prices skyrocketing. We can be angry about our laptop dying on us without any backup on iCloud. Anger doesn’t have to be big or newsworthy for you to experience the emotion.

Using Anger as a Messenger

I felt angry when some of the older family members didn’t even bother to check in on me or my brother after my father died. They were so consumed by their own sorrow and what the loss meant to them that they couldn’t muster the courage to call us. I have felt angry about how insensitively certain family members on my husband’s side have behaved after he lost his father. I was angry when my friend was suddenly fired from her job. I was angry when a friend's stepmom wouldn't allow my friend to see her father, who has dementia.

We get angry when we care, both for ourselves and others. I am patient with my anger and unpack it with care. Anger tells me what actions or behaviors make me unhappy and how I am going to respond to my feelings and handle them. Eventually, it helps me move on.

Anger is a messenger for me. I am inherently a happy and optimistic person who is more focused on the good in life and on spending my time with those who show up and make me feel loved. But denying the sliver of anger within me would take me away from my authentic self.

Anger isn’t a negative emotion; it’s a natural expression of dissatisfaction.

Anger isn’t a negative emotion; it’s a natural expression of dissatisfaction.

9 Lessons From Anger

  • Anger doesn’t have to be destructive or violent.

  • Anger can work as our internal compass and help establish boundaries.

  • Anger can be used in healthy ways to express one’s needs.

  • Anger protects us when something feels like a threat.

  • Anger can remind us that something needs to change.

  • Anger can motivate us.

  • Anger doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive.

  • Anger works as a social and personal value indicator.

  • Anger can help you stay safe.

Feel your emotions and don’t suppress them. Anger can create problems if you don’t express it, and it can create problems (like heart attacks) if you don’t let go of it. Talk to a therapist if you are dealing with both extremes.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta here.

The True Cost of Bottling Up Your Anger

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