Expat Psychologist Amsterdam / PsyBlog  / HOW SUPPRESSED ANGER & AFFECTS US


How suppressed anger & resentment affect us. Emotions can either be expressed or suppressed. When you express them constructively, they tend to lose their power over you, even if it’s just talking about it, writing about it, or even banging a pillow on your bed and shouting about it! You are releasing the feelings, but without causing harm to anybody. When you suppress your emotions, one of two things can happen: They can turn towards or inside of you building up till they burst out like the steam from a pressure cooker. Or they can turn on your body and show up as disease and illness.

I know many people have a big issue with the word forgiveness, but I see forgiveness as the same thing as letting it go. Some people see forgiving as ‘giving’, giving something to the person who has wronged them so ‘letting go’ instead may be a different thing for them entirely. You don’t have to ‘give’ anything to anyone then – unless it’s to yourself. I have a favorite quote: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies”

So it appears that by holding onto resentment and anger – and if they’re suppressed, you really are holding onto them – you quite literally are poisoning yourselves, because these negative emotions release cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol and Adrenalin are hormones, or chemical messengers, which, in excess, can lead to all sorts of illnesses and potentially damaging changes in your body, like a depressed immune system: Have you noticed how certain conditions flare up in you when you’re stressed, or run down, and you get a cold, or your psoriasis, eczema, irritable bowel, or back pain flares up?

Is it ok to feel angry? Of course anger is a useful emotion, we all need it to give us feedback that something has happened that has crossed our boundaries, or that our rights have been violated in some way. If you get angry, you are more likely to do something about it. The trick is to step back from the anger and make a rational decision about what you’re going to do, because when you’re in a state of emotional arousal, you don’t make the best decisions: The primitive brain, (the subconscious mind) is in control, the fight/ flight response has kicked in, and the reasoning conscious mind has to take a back seat! Sometimes this is very useful, particularly if you’re in real danger and your instincts for survival and safety have to take over.

Having an argument with your boss for example, or going to the dentist isn’t life threatening in the same way however, that being confronted by an animal that wants to eat you is! To the primitive brain, however, the threat is the same, which is why we get those same feelings of rage (fight) or fear (flight). There aren’t any woolly mammoths around now, but we are still exposed to life threatening events; we have war zones; people who mug other people etc., but in most day to day situations at work and at home, you can step back, calm yourself down – and then make a better decision.