These days, more and more people are taking a stance against their people-pleasing tendencies. There’s no more room for internalizing the need for others’ approval or letting boundaries get trampled over.

Sometimes, people-pleasing can look like bypassing your true emotions to protect the comfort of others. This can lead to repressed anger, which more of us suffer from than you may realize. Let’s deep dive into the symptoms of repressed anger and some methods of expressing your anger healthily.

What Is Repressed Anger?

Repressed anger refers to anger that is unconsciously avoided, denied or pushed down. When something makes you feel hurt or mad, expressing that rage looks like some level of confrontation. However, if you choose not to speak on it, that anger becomes swallowed and internalized, and thus, repressed.

Once that anger is held within, it will make a home within the body and psyche. You may begin to divert that anger towards yourself, leading to a myriad of emotional symptoms or somatization, the act of emotions turning into bodily pain or physical ailments.

Childhood trauma or social conditioning may have fed a narrative that anger was an emotion to be ashamed of. In actuality, it’s an incredibly natural one that indicates a healthy awareness of triggers and boundaries, as well as an active sense of passion. As long as it’s expressed in a way that’s constructive rather than destructive, anger can do us more harm when it’s repressed rather than expressed. 

Signs You Have Repressed Anger

Repressed anger can lead to a wide variety of secondary symptoms, including depression, paranoia and passive-aggressive behavior. Here are some additional signs you may be suffering from repressed anger:

  • Feeling uncomfortable with conflict or confrontation
  • People-pleasing tendencies
  • Sudden outbursts and self-sabotaging
  • The inability to stand up for oneself
  • Never feeling angry, but often feeling sad
  • Codependent tendencies 
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty setting boundaries
  • Holding grudges and ruminating on old situations
  • Shutting down, avoiding people, or isolating when upset
  • Having a harsh inner critic or judging others harshly
  • Lack of satisfaction in relationships 
  • Overuse of sarcasm
  • Muscle tension, headaches or body aches

How To Express Your Repressed Anger

Awareness of repressed anger is a big step, but it’s important to take the initiative to start getting the stagnant energy out. Here are some methods of expressing repressed anger:

Journaling

Repressed anger differs from suppressed anger, which refers to the feelings people purposely avoid. Those who struggle with repressed anger often say, “I never get angry!” because they are unaware of their anger. Get to know your true emotions by beginning a journaling practice and letting your true sentiments flood the pages with no inhibition. 

Talk Therapy

We can all benefit from therapy, but those suffering from repressed anger will especially reap the benefits. Having an unbiased third party to witness the structure of your life can point out where that repressed anger may be showing up, as well as prompt certain reflective questions that would allow you to discover it yourself.

Exercise

Because anger is a high-energy emotion that can take physical form when repressed, methods of exercise like kickboxing, martial arts, sports and weight training are all healthy outlets. Being physically active can help release stress hormones and balance the chemistry in your brain.

Meditation

Actively meditating allows you to witness your thoughts, even the ones you’ve been unconsciously avoiding. Not only will meditation provide you with the opportunity to hear yourself, but it will also strengthen your ability to self-regulate and transmute your anger.

Feel Your Feelings

The most important method for expressing repressed anger is letting yourself feel your feelings. Many people who repress their emotions may numb themselves using alcohol, food, shopping or any other distraction. Commit to experiencing all of your feelings, and cutting back on distractions and escape methods. While some emotions are uncomfortable, being willing to feel them can provide numerous benefits.