Anger is one of those things I have repressed for a very long time. Before my spiritual journey began, I’d hardly been angry. I perceived it to be rude, impolite and embarrassing. People around me thought it was inappropriate for a woman to be angry or loud, and I did abide by those expectations. I went through life without speaking up (too much) and vented my anger through Thai-Boxing. I’ve become pretty okay with it, but one of the problems I noticed is that I was missing that frontal-all-go-forward aggression. I’ve been nice. Ladylike.

Then I started meditating, mindfulness, journaling and all of these things that are supposed to make one calmer – and I became furious. I did not understand it, and I felt overwhelmed. What on earth just happened? I did not sign up for this. I talked about my experiences with a shaman whose work is centred around healing distorted feminine energy. From her, I heard the term “sacred anger” for the very first time. And did that change my perception!

I suppressed my anger for such a long time. I’ve been freezing instead. No movement, no emotion. Just blank. It has hurt me in the long run, as instead of “throwing a tantrum”, I’ve been storing these emotions all within. Of course, they’ve been somewhere ‘in there’ and had to be released, eventually. Not allowing and accepting sadness, anger, or grief can cause trauma, and that changes everything.

Books like “It did not start with you”, “In an Unspoken Voice”, or “The body keeps the Score” explain how people store emotions and how they inherit trauma. The world is a pretty cruel place, and the chance is that we all have suppressed anger within us. Some may not even be ours, but inherited from past generations. Epigenetics suggests that our gene expression change with our experiences. Our DNA is not as static as for a long time thought to be. We change all the time. With the food we eat, the environment we live in, and the experiences we have.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a huge word. When I thought of trauma, I always thought of veterans. Experiencing war may be one of the most traumatic experiences to process. With that in mind, one who did not experience war, famine, or anything alike may feel they weren’t entitled to call their own experiences traumatic. But emotions and experiences aren’t a battle. I often hear people saying we’d be “too soft” in our society because our ancestors had endured much more challenging times. That is true. However, we are not our ancestors and shouldn’t measure our own suffering based on how hard others have or had it.

So the first thing: We need to allow ourselves to feel that something had an impactful, distressing effect on us. No downplaying, no undermining. If someone says they feel hurt, it is no one’s place to tell them how they ‘should’ feel. Our feelings are valid – and so are the feelings of others.

The author of “The Body keeps the Score” explains trauma

Trauma and the Brain

Trauma is the emotional shock that follows after a distressing event. It affects the Hippocampus, the prefrontal Cortex and the Amygdala in our Brain. It can impact emotional regulation, memory processing, and executive functions.

The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure in the brain’s temporal lobes. It processes emotions and plays a crucial role in the fight-or-flight response. In response to trauma, the amygdala becomes hyperactive and easily triggered, resulting in heightened anxiety, fear, and emotional reactivity.

The hippocampus is a seahorse-shaped structure located in the brain’s temporal lobes. It is responsible for forming and retrieving memories and is crucial in regulating the stress response. In response to trauma, the hippocampus may become damaged or weakened, leading to difficulty with memory processing and recall, as well as increased stress and anxiety.

The prefrontal cortex is located in the front part of the brain and is responsible for executive functions such as decision-making, planning, and impulse control. In response to trauma, the prefrontal cortex may become less active, leading to difficulties with decision-making, emotional regulation, and impulse control.

Trauma and the Body

Experiencing trauma also impacts the body’s stress response system. When a person undergoes trauma, their body perceives it as a threat and activates the “fight or flight” response, designed to help the body react quickly to a perceived danger.

The body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, into the bloodstream. These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration and redirect blood flow to the muscles in preparation for action.

In response to ongoing trauma or chronic stress, the body may become stuck in a state of hyperarousal, with the stress response system remaining activated for prolonged periods of time. This can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  1. Hypervigilance: Feeling constantly on edge, alert, or watchful.
  2. Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares, or waking up feeling exhausted.
  3. Muscle tension: Persistent muscle tension, headaches, or other physical pain.
  4. Digestive issues: Stomach pain, nausea, or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
  5. Weakened immune system: Increased susceptibility to illness and infections.
  6. Anxiety and depression: Feeling anxious or depressed, difficulty with mood regulation.
  7. Substance abuse: Increased use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

If you experience these symptoms, reach out for help from a licensed specialist.

Anger – and why we should allow it

Especially for women, anger and aggressive behaviour are considered “not ladylike”. Ladylike would be to suck it up until it becomes a problem for us. Instead of letting that happen, we want to consider how anger can help us:

  1. to regain control over a situation by taking and changing it (fight)
  2. to use this momentum we create by using that anger as fuel (activity)

Anger can be a powerful motivator. Think of it as follows: If something stresses us, we either go in fight, flight, or freeze. The fight response is the best resemblance of anger.

We want to be angry, experience it, release it from the body and find constructive ways to change the situation that angers us.

I am not suggesting that we let anger out on other people in a destructive manner. But to find healthy ways to deal with it. That is, by acknowledging and accepting anger. By screaming and beating a pillow, punching a bag and whatever else it is, we need to do to release it. And we then reflect on what it is, precisely, that makes us angry—and why it does – not the superficial reason, but the deep-seated wounding that causes us such distress. Only then should we turn to the situation that -or the person who- triggered us, and express, in a respectful manner, what we feel. And how we suggest changing the situation.

There is a lot of reflection and introspection needed when we release anger. But if we allow it to happen, it may be one of our most rewarding mental health strategies.

Anger can be sacred; it can be a great source of taking the lead. Allow yourself to experience it and notice how it changes your mindset and improves your outlook on life.

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