Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion

Anger is one of those emotions that’s got a bad rep. Because we associate the feeling as coupled with conflict or raised voices, we tend to avoid and suppress it, masking it instead with more acceptable, positive emotions.

This approach to anger is exacerbated when dealing with an eating disorder. In fact, eating disorders evolve partially due to an inability to sit with negativity; its main objective is to prevent us from having to go through those feelings, and instead, trick us into obsessing over other, more tangible things.

Eating disorders are so good at this that we eventually become unaware of the masking, and instead continue to mislabel emotions, such as anger, as something related to body-image (such as “I feel fat”).

Believe it or not, anger is a really helpful emotion to welcome into your life. It helps you to:

  • Acknowledge that something in the environment isn’t quite right
  • Recognise that something may be missing, that your needs might not be met in some way
  • Assess whether there are issues with boundaries in a relationship. For instance, what is it about that person that makes me feel angry?
  • Release whatever emotions might be stirring inside you. By expressing anger constructively, you can express what you need from someone/a situation
  • …In this way, it helps to resolve tensions within a relationship; by discussing what you’re feeling, issues can be resolved and can bring people closer by giving them an opportunity to respond

A crucial and continuous part of the recovery process is learning to recognize unpleasant emotions and process them. This is why when things get tough, it’s actually the best time to prove your strength and plough on through. People are often surprised at how pleasant it can be to actually feel “negative” emotions (and especially anger – it’s really good to cry, punch a pillow, scream!).

It’s worth getting familiar with the different types of anger in order to help you identify what might be going on for you in a given situation:

  • Chronic anger: an ongoing, ‘underlying’ form of anger, usually in the form of resentment
  • Passive anger: anger that’s hidden and expressed in covert ways, making it difficult to identify and control
  • Overwhelmed anger: when circumstances because too intense for someone to deal with
  • Self-inflicted anger: anger that’s directed towards the self, usually extremely critical
  • Judgmental anger: caused by judgements made about other people or situations, again, usually in a form of resentment
  • Volatile anger: a type of anger that is very unpredictable, sudden, and intense
  • Constructive anger: anger that is motivated towards a positive solution (this one is really healthy!)

Remember, waking up on the wrong side of the bed is an entirely human thing. Just because an emotion doesn’t seem positive, doesn’t mean that it’s not there to tell you something useful. Go forth and make friends with your feelings!

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