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The Top 5 Symptoms of Repressed Anger

What are the top 5 symptoms of repressed anger? Knowing these will help you uncover your own repressed anger and begin to heal it.

Anger is one of the most commonly suppressed emotions because it’s usually not socially acceptable to express it. Suppressing this emotion has nefarious effects on your wellbeing and behaviour, and can even lead to depression. I think it’s particularly dangerous in men, since we naturally tend to have greater levels of the emotion.

On the flip side, re-owning your anger can be a source of great strength and relief. For one thing, you’re able to skillfully direct your anger, rather than being unconsciously dominated by it.

Let’s get to the symptoms of repressed anger.

Symptoms of Repressed Anger 1: Can’t Stand Angry People

It’s always the case that when we repress an emotion in ourselves, we can’t stand people who openly express it. We find it repulsive in ourselves, so we find it repulsive in others.

Ken Wilber likens suppressed emotions, or shadow material, to a Geiger Counter: as we go through life, people who express our repressed traits annoy us, and we feel repulsion towards them. They activate our shadow material, and we feel hatred or annoyance inside.

What’s more, we also project suppressed emotions on to others. This means, for example, that if we suppress anger, it appears other people are angry. When others really are angry, we experience double the anger: their anger and our repressed anger. Those people seem extra-repulsive to us.

So, if we have repressed anger, we’ll be very intolerant of those who can freely express it.

2: Dreams of Being Chased

Dreams have been a huge source of wisdom for me, and I’m sure that by decoding my dreams I was able to uncover a heap of my own repressed anger.

Before we go further, let me say that dreams aren’t random or meaningless. They’re not just random neural activity, or our brain chaotically processing our day.

Dreams are highly intelligent, highly ordered allegories that point us to the repressed parts of our character, and there are signature dream patterns that point us to repressed anger.

In my case, I went through a period of dreaming about being chased by big animals. I’m talking lions, bulls, rhinos. Huge, ferocious animals capable of killing you in 10 seconds.

I had already studied the shadow and done shadow work, so soon I realised what was happening: these dream animals were embodying the very traits I couldn’t embody myself. The big animals were not big animals – they were me!

And here’s the kicker. The emotions I experienced are exactly what you feel when such animals chase after you: fear, smallness, rapid heartbeat, sweating. When I woke up, I could feel all that stuff in the body. I didn’t feel the strength, power and bullishness of those animals, but the effects of being their prey.

So I soon began doing shadow work with my anger. After a while, the animals started becoming smaller. Instead of being chased by giant lions and bears, I’d be annoyed by buzzing wasps keen to sting me, or little birds that would try to peck me. Still not pleasant, but nowhere as fearsome as those giant animals.

In fact, I’ll be frank and say that angry, fearsome dream characters indicate a high level of repression. This means you project your anger outside even in your dreams. You won’t allow yourself to express it, even when your psychological filter is more porous and there are no repercussions for acting on anger, unlike in polite society.

George… dreams that a monster is attacking him… The more he feels the monster, the more he feels his own aggression, the anger and aggression will no longer be able to be denied, dis-owned, repressed, and projected.

Ken Wilber

On the other hand, if you find yourself very angry in your dreams, more than normal, you still have repressed anger, but it’s not so repressed. At least you can own it when you’re asleep!

This is the tragedy of repressed anger: not only do you become unable to fully embody anger, which is a powerful emotion when wisely directed, but you experience the symptoms of your own projected anger pointed back at you: sadness, fear, smallness. Speaking of which…

Symptoms of Repressed Anger 3: Depression, Sadness, Melancholy

With my explanation of dreams, I think you’ll now understand why depression, sadness and melancholy are symptoms of repressed anger.

To be clear:

  • when we repress our anger, we project it on to the world; it seems others are angry at us.
  • in reaction to this, we experience the usual symptoms of others being angry at us – fear, sadness, melancholy – even though the source is our own repressed anger.

To quote Luis Muiño from the Entiende Tu Mente podcast, “sadness is internalised anger”: it’s anger directed against yourself.

Strong repressed anger is akin to phantom limb. You can’t see or feel it, but it causes you no end of pain. You essentially have an angry person following you around all the time!

This may be one reason that we feel sad during difficult times in life. Part of our sadness is simply repressed anger: we feel angry, but we don’t or can’t express it, so we store it up and direct it against ourselves, which makes us sad. It’d be much better to shout, swear and punch pillows than to sit there with all our aggressive energy bottled up in the subconscious.

The tragedy is that our culture makes victims of depressed people. “Poor you, you’re depressed, what terrible luck”, and this completely disempowers the person with repressed anger. Sure, they’re the victim, but they’re also the perpetrator! And the root cause is rarely found, unless you do psychoanalysis specifically designed to help you unearth and re-own shadow material. This leaves the person stuck in that persistent sense of hollowness and melancholy.

Symptoms of Repressed Anger 4: Touchy or Too Nice

Our next common symptom of repressed anger is that you’re touchy, or too nice. Though they’re different traits, they have a similar root: the inability to feel and deliberately direct our anger.

If we’re touchy, it’s because we perceive others’ anger to be stronger than it really is. Unsurprisingly, this makes us reactive, more than the situation really calls for. Since we are aren’t really in touch with our own anger, we lack control over it and can’t channel it. We’re liable to start shouting at the smallest annoyances. This is why we talk about anger being bottled up: it’s repressed, blocked off at high pressure, ready to uncontrollably explode.

We might also be unable to wield it when we need to. We’re too nice, or become a doormat, or are unable to stand up for ourselves, because we aren’t tapping into the inner power that anger gives us. Repressing and projecting our own inner power, we see others as more powerful than they are, which only further hinders us.

Symptom 5: Disempowered and Fearful

Anger isn’t just about being vexed at a person or the world. It’s the energy that has us move towards, move through, fend off. We direct it towards a target of some kind.

When we split off that energy from ourselves, we become less able to take action, to alter the world, to stand up and be counted. What’s worse, because suppressing this emotion creates melancholy and fear, the disempowering effect is twofold.

If you recognise any of these symptoms of repressed anger in yourself, it’s important you don’t guilt yourself. Our shadow is a survival mechanism. Anger isn’t socially acceptable, and very early in life we’re taught to repress it. Know that it’s possible to re-own it, and recognising the symptoms is the first step.

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