How Unexpressed Anger is Poisoning You
Fairfax County, Virginia, has $300 million waiting for anybody who can find it.
How did all this money go unattended in the first place?
Well, let's take a time machine and go back to the year 1863.
We're in the United States, and it's the civil war.
Confederate ranger John Mosby and his bandits were looking to raid Union towns. And their first target was Fairfax County, Virginia.
A town ten miles deep into enemy territory.
Mosby and his band laid a surprise attack at a courthouse and captured 40 Union soldiers.
Leaving the town defenceless.
With this opportunity, Mosby and his men went searching for booty. They raided the homes of local plantation owners. And grabbed gold, silver, jewelry, candlesticks, and other family heirlooms. Altogether, the bandits gathered $350,000 worth of items.
On their way back home, Mosby realized there were Union soldiers close by. And the only way to speed up the retreat was to ditch the stolen goods.
But Mosby didn't want to lose his treasure.
So he buried them between two trees marked by his knife.
Once they got back to home territory, the coast was clear. Mosby sent seven of his men back to dig up the stolen horde. Yet, Union soldiers captured and executed those men.
For unknown reasons, Mosby never went back to the treasure.
That $350,000 is now valued at $300 million. Yet, it is still in Fairfax County, untouched and buried.
When it comes to anger, we nerds like to keep it buried and untouched in our unconscious. Just because this feels like the safest approach.
But is this the real reason we hide our anger?
Although this seems like the most apparent reason, there is a deeper reason why we repress our anger.
Anger is part of the dark side of human nature.
And living in the modern day, we don't like to touch this dark side at all. So we are taught to just put on a smile and act like things are good. No matter how much the dark side of human nature is activated. Allowing society to run as is, regardless of whether it's to the detriment of the humans they serve.
You know what I mean.
Like keeping your displeasure a secret to not rock the boat. Or not standing up for yourself when being used because you don't want to cause a scene. I'm sure you can think of personal examples.
As a result, people have created the nefarious habit of repressing anger (and other dark elements) for years. Yet, they do this, not realizing it hurts them in more ways than they can imagine.
How repressing your anger can harm you?
Let's get a little poetic here. William Blake wrote a poem about anger, and I want you to read it and ponder it for the next few days:
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,--
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
William Blake encapsulates how expressing anger is healthy and repressing it is harmful. For now, let's talk about the latter.
When you repress anger, you are just poisoning yourself. Instead of letting it out, you are letting it pile up to lethal levels.
How is it lethal?
Unexpressed anger will come out in disastrous ways. William Blake's poem was about unexpressed anger causing murder. For others, unexpressed anger can cause horrible decision-making, self-loathing, physical illnesses, or hurting others.
Anger, like every emotion, is a legit reflex to our environment. And needs to be expressed. Otherwise, it will come out uncontrollably. So it is our responsibility to figure out how to adequately express ourselves, regardless of whether it's human nature's bright or dark side.
Being human isn't easy.
And it's not rainbow and sunshine like how the media portrays it. We all have emotions, whether anger, sadness, joy, sexuality, compassion, etc. And it's on us to express all of them in healthy and appropriate ways.
How to express anger in a healthy way
Before I start giving suggestions, please remember this: You are unique and need to figure out what works for you.
Your existence is the first, and last time it will ever be shown in the universe's history. Your genetic makeup, experiences and all, makes you a uniquely different human being.
As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all in expressing anger. You need to experiment and find ways that allow you to express anger and all of your emotions.
With that disclaimer out of the way.
Here are some ways to express anger:
Writing it out in your journal.
Talking about it to a therapist.
Addressing the person causing your irritation.
This list is barely the tip of the iceberg.
But some of it may work for you, and others won't. However, one method I want to touch that will cause some anxiety is actually addressing the person driving your anger.
This can seem scary.
But it's one of the most important things you must learn to do, whether you like it or not. And you can go about it tactfully.
If you find someone is the cause of your anger, express your irrational anger elsewhere first. Especially if you feel your anger will be out of control.
You need to do this to be a little cooler when getting to the root of anger with the other person. Not to sound like a Stoic Internet Dweeb, but this is where you want to be rational.
And when your irrational anger is sufficiently expressed, you can still express your anger but with a little more control.
Like William Blake mentioned, when the anger was expressed to the friend, the anger was gone. The same will happen to you, feeling better in the process.
Yet, some of you will think expressing your anger will lead you to turn into the Hulk.
You won't be Hulk-like.
And your anger won't get out of control as much as you think it will. You have to start understanding the nuances of your emotions. And that requires allowing you to express them. Because the more you express them, the more you will understand them and their quirks.
Even with anger, you will know when it will be out of control and when it won't. Like I said earlier, for those irrational anger, you don't suppress it but express it another way before addressing the root of the bitterness.
You need to understand that humans (which means you) are incredibly complex figures. Each of us is our own little universe. And we need to explore ourselves as much as we explore the world.
So you won't go all Hulk-like and smash smash. In fact, you might even use your anger correctly and allow it to push you to reach your potential.
Just like it did for Hakeem Dawudu.
I'll forgive you if you don't know who Hakeem Dawudu is. He is a UFC fighter from my home province (Alberta). Hakeem grew up under challenging circumstances, and as a result, he let anger run his life.
He didn't know how to express it adequately. And this led him to get into a lot of trouble and fights. However, a youth worker noticed that Hakeem was an angry kid and that his anger would hurt him in the end.
Or turn him into something extraordinary.
So this youth worker put Hakeem into kickboxing classes. And Hakeem found a way to express all his anger in something productive. In fact, all that anger pushed him to want to be better at kickboxing, which eventually led to a kickboxing career and a UFC contract.
I know Hakeem has the opposite problem as us nerds. Where he had too much anger to express. But the root of the problem with anger is the same.
Hakeem needed a way to express anger healthily. Otherwise, it would poison him. Whether we express anger too much or too little, the root cause is the same.
There is a reason why William Blake called his poem about anger A Poison Tree. Anger not properly expressed is poison.
So take after Hakeem, and find a way to express anger that can push you to fulfil your potential. And just to ensure you that I am not making all this out of thin air, Jordan Peterson succinctly expresses my point about anger:
"Anger definitely is something that gives you force, and it can push you."
Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we need to be careful about the mistake we can make when expressing anger.
Thinking there is only one way to express anger
Remember where I was corny and said how we are like little universes? Well, a lot of people might not understand that. So they think the opposite and treat themselves as simple beings.
And provide themselves only one way to express anger.
This can lead to irrational anger piling up and leaking like the Hulk. How you deal with a little bit of anger differs from how you would deal with irrational anger.
Again, better understand yourself so you know what type of anger is taking hold. And then, you can deploy appropriate outlets.
When irrational anger gets a hold of me (The Angry Nerd), I write it out in my journal and go for a walk. Then when I cool off, I can express anger to whoever caused it.
Or if a little bit of anger has gotten me in its rein, I just go to a boxing class. Either way, I feel better, and my anger is expressed appropriately. And on another note, if you are scared of your anger. It's okay.
It's normal to feel this.
I was afraid of my rage for a decade. And therapy helped me understand my anger. So please consider therapy if you are scared of your anger. It will be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
And one of the best things I can do for you is to wrap this article up.
Anger is part of the dark side of human emotions. As a result, it feels safe to repress so that things don't go out of control or rock the boat.
Repressed anger will poison you somehow. Whether it be mental, physical, or social. Anger not properly expressed comes at a cost.
Anger can be expressed in numerous healthy and appropriate ways. You need to figure out what works for you.
A poor excuse to repress anger is the fear of it getting out of control when expressed. However, like other emotions, anger has its nuances. And you need to explore yourself with expressed anger to understand the differences and treat them appropriately.
Hakeem Dawudu didn't know how to express anger adequately and expressed it everywhere. However, when he found kickboxing a healthy way to express his rage, he was able to create an MMA career from it.
A simple mistake in learning to express anger is to think you only have one way to express it. Better understand yourself and the types of anger. And you will know that every kind of anger will have its own solution.
A part of me thinks I'm releasing a bunch of Hulks into the world. But I know my fellow nerds are more intelligent than that.
Because this article isn't all about anger.
But learning to explore ourselves even when it's scary. And the more you can do this, the easier it is to be courageous in the external world.
And who knows, this can lead to an enriching life far beyond your dreams. Which seems a lot more feasible to reach than the hidden treasure in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd
P.S. The book that inspired this article: Swamplands of Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysis) by James Hollis