Anger as an Antidote to Anxiety

The greatest causes of anxiety are our unwillingness to accept what we feel , express it, and release it.    

I often ask people, “What would you be feeling if you weren’t anxious in this moment?” The most common responses are: disappointment, loneliness, sadness, hurt, terrified, disgusted, and powerless.

The hardest one for most of us to identify and accept is anger. I have vivid memories of my mother telling me, “It takes too much energy to be angry. Just let it go!” Years later I understood what it cost me to not allow myself the right to express my full range of emotions.          

We were taught by example that anger is bad. We made it our goal to avoid it because we saw that when our role models were angry they were out of control, emotionally hurtful, and/or abusive/violent.

We didn’t learn that anger is a normal, healthy emotion. The choice not to express it is self limiting. The choice not to feel it is debilitating and progressively toxic to body, mind, and spirit.

We find ourselves being pessimistic, cynical, or jaded. We tell ourselves that it’s simply a case of being justifiably guarded.

We find ourselves with acid reflux, ulcers, and upper G.I. problems and wonder what could possibly be causing such agony?

We find ourselves moving away from and losing faith in God/the Universe and good people/society and wonder why injustices occur and why bad things happen to good people. We’re outraged on others behalf but not our own.

For too many of us, there is a pressure building from within and there is a part of us that very much wants to lash out. We fear this part of ourselves and so we hide it, deny it, and thus it becomes something we carry.

Anger turned inward causes depression, perpetuates shame, and leads to self loathing. It’s like being bullied and hating yourself for it. This redirection of negative emotion & negative energy doesn’t evaporate over time. It’s ingrained. It warps our perception of self and others. It impacts what we believe.

If we have survived injustice in any form and are not angry then we tend to remain stuck. Violence, abuse and other forms of mistreatment result in a powerful mix of emotions. We cannot simply allow ourselves to accept and express the emotions we’re comfortable with. We must accept every part of the convoluted mess. Only in this way can we fractionate and overcome that which overwhelms us.

Letting go only happens in small, manageable pieces and it hinges upon our willingness to be completely genuine and expressive.

Just as I encourage people to cry when releasing pain, I encourage them to curse when releasing anger.  The whole concept of “curse words” is the intention to direct anger at those who wronged us. There is something deeply satisfying about acknowledging that they were bastards, assholes, or (guilty pleasure alert) motherf@ckers (sorry, BDN hates it when I use that word).  

We must find safe places and safe people with whom to express what we fear releasing. Whether it be a canvas (Jackson Pollock that shit!), a firing range (blast the shit out of things mindfully), screaming at the top of our lungs in an empty field, or smashing glass with a dear friend.

Our true freedom depends upon our willingness to accept every part of ourselves (including thoughts, feelings, memories, and other naturally occurring things). Feelings aren’t black and white or right or wrong. They just are.

If we can experience and express our full range of emotions, we become less anxious, more confident, less inhibited and more passionate. This is the quintessential difference between surviving and living.

I love living. Surviving sucks.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.