Appropriately Experiencing & Letting Go of Anger (Free Podcast) | Borderline Personality Disorder

Anger. It’s one of those emotions that is usually judged as “bad” or “unacceptable.” According to the therapist in my IOP group yesterday, it’s actually a sign of mental health to experience a full range of emotions, including anger. 

Why does anger scare us so much?

In my personal experience, I did not have anyone model appropriate experiencing and expressing of anger when I was growing up.  My father would often become angry, and this would soon be followed by him acting out in violent ways.

I learned to suppress my anger very young.  I was afraid of becoming like him.  Anger seemed quite dangerous to me.  Because of that, all of those moments when my gut intuitively knew that anger would be the cleansing emotion for the situation — the emotion that would help me process through a situation and motivate me to make changes to help me through, I unconsciously suppressed it.  I bottled it all up inside.

That can only work for so long, as I’ve recently found out.

In my early to mid-twenties, anger showed up for me in many inappropriate ways.  My words to others could become very cruel and even abusive. I broke things. I drove recklessly. It was so important for me to be right that I would carelessly use words to hurt others, thinking that somehow, in being vicious and tearing others down,  I had “won.”  I eventually came to hate myself for behaving this way.  I would experience self-loathing that often led to suicidal thoughts, and I would choose behaviors that were self-destructing or sabotaging, justifying that I deserved it because of the terrible person I was.

I look back at that girl in her twenties with compassion now.  She didn’t know any better. She had been taught that anger was a dangerous emotion, so she suppressed it.  When she finally began allowing herself to express it, she had no model for appropriately doing so and was destructive, just as she had learned from the people closest to her when she was a child.

She then retreated in shame and suppressed her emotions again.  This past summer, now in my mid-thirties, I experienced a resurfacing of the emotion of Anger.  It peeked it’s head out once again, hoping to find safety.  It sensed that now might be a safe time to reappear.  It wanted to be noticed, validated, and processed.

Emotions give us information.  Anger is no exception.  According to Dr. Marsha Linehan in her book Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder, there are many reasons why anger may show up, including:

  • “Having an important goal blocked or prevented
  • Having an important or pleasurable activity interrupted, postponed, or stopped
  • You or someone you care about being attacked or physically or emotionally hurt by others
  • You or someone you care about being threatened with physical or emotional pain by someone or something
  • Losing power
  • Losing respect
  • Experiencing physical pain
  • Experiencing emotional pain”

Can you relate to experiencing anger due to any of the above examples?

Why do emotions, like anger, show up in the first place?

I am learning that the best way to deal with my anger is to take a break, calm down a bit, and then try to resolve the issue that is causing me to feel angry. If resolution is not possible (and even sometimes when it is), I practice Opposite Action by:

  • Gently avoiding the person I’m angry with, rather than attacking them in any way. During this time, I take a break and slow down my breathing
  • This one really gets me, but it is suggested by Dr. Linehan (and has actually worked): Do something a little bit nice. This can be something simple, such as using a calm, gentle tone of voice.

I’m finding that holding on to anger is like punishing myself. It’s not as if the other person is affected or the situation changes by me suffering and holding onto such an intense emotion.  I wanted to find a way to help calm and even release some of the anger appropriately.  In my search, I came across this free podcast on Anger and Forgiveness.

Click HERE to listen to it. I found it really calming and ended up falling asleep during the affirmations part last night. I look forward to your thoughts.

What are your experiences with anger?  Did you have good role models for experiencing and expressing this emotion?  How do you express your anger when it shows up?

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

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