The Consumption of Anger

We shame it into a problem.


Peter Middleton

3 years ago | 5 min read

Anger is a tricky conversation. It’s an emotion. It has value. Yet, we’re rightly afraid of it, for the death and destruction that has dominated human history.

The recent world wars that are only just fading into history beyond memory — leaders consumed with personal legacy and vendetta. We must not live in fantasy to this truth, or it will happen again. A personal slight consumed Hitler from the time he was a homeless artist. He developed a lot of his hatred of the Jewish in this time. They were in positions of power in money in Europe at that time. Jewish culture has always been savvy around work and money.

He wasn’t alone in this resentment, as history proved. He wanted to prove his worth by restoring Germany to its former glory, the myth of the Führer was rampant in this time, the hero who restores pride and morality to the kingdom — corrupted by the rage and racism that existed within the Nazi party. When we understand the long arc of history, we understand the melting pot that created this situation; the demise of the German empire, the Versailles Agreement after WWI, massive inflation and rampant poverty.

The truth is that clean anger is useful as it communicates a violation in a boundary or value. It lasts no longer than 90 seconds and then dissipates.
Anything longer than that illuminates a tie to an unintegrated unconscious shadow — an excellent opportunity for some self-reflection and healing. If I’m not calming down after 90 seconds, I usually take myself away from the situation to calm, then I resolve to do some inner work at the next available opportunity, or flag it for my next therapy session.

So many of us are cultured to shame anger. Suppressing or repressing it. An agreement I made with a friend was that either one would intercept each other if we got angry. Initially, I found this to be an empowering agreement. In time, I realised that intercepting anger was another way to communicate cutting off and neutralising anger. Another use of the word intercepting is blocking.

Of course, the rage that I’ve experienced in my life, from being abused is different. My family became overcareful and, I believe, scared of me. Treading on egg shells, it’s tough to witness that as a son and a brother, especially not knowing how to change it.

They were intercepting me whenever possible — neutralising my anger so that they didn’t have to feel the effects of it. I misdirected at them, in many ways. The boy journeys to be a man. Other times I was legitimately angry for something they did, and they wouldn’t hear me because I didn’t know how to communicate respectfully.

I can understand all of this. It’s sad because it kept the anger suppressed within my body. I held the weight of it for years. My jaw was inflamed, my gut bloated. I gave all I had to be a part of the family, and finally, I had to admit that I didn’t know how to exist there. In a way, the required action from them was to sit me down and say: “What is going on with you? It can’t go on like this.”

I suppose that never happened because of how intimidating the rage I felt was, both to myself and them. Many times, it’s not possible for families to settle these disputes; it takes community and professional support. Halfway through the therapy process, I learned that opening up these feelings felt like I would die. I was fearing being consumed and lost in the overwhelming fire.

Photo by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash

That’s what I needed, in fact, to be burned and reborn from the ashes.
Curiously, a paradox exists with anger. It’s the only emotion celebrated in young men. The western working culture celebrates the go-getter; aggressive, ruthless, mean. There’s still an imbalance in the workplace between men and women. Could this be because we nurture men in these ways?

There have always been conflictive parts of me around anger. Celebrated, yet shamed. Allowed and encouraged in work and young friendships, shamed and suppressed in family and intimate relationship.

Suppressed anger will build and build tension in the body. Eventually, you will explode. Could this be behind so many violent crimes, the story around abuse of women and children, prevalent in our societies? Honestly, have you ever stopped to process how many of us have experienced violating abuses? It’s a lot.

Suppressed rage seeps out in control, manipulation, victimising, micro, and macro, aggressions.

During men’s work ceremonies, taking influence from indigenous initiations, a man is given a chance to be fully expressed in his boy-like rage. In safe circumstances, often with other men holding him down to contain him. Fully present with his rage, voicing it, and understanding it, it leaves him. Transmuted in sacred space. So much of our anger is tainted by these childhood wounds, festering and forlorn.

How do we get in right relationship with our anger?

If it’s not clean, then it’s not useful. That’s not easy. Every time anger consumed me, I would take myself out of the situation and journal immediately about it. It was easier for me because I run my own business. However, this took a lot of time and energy initially. Emotionally draining, and demanding courage of me to look transparently at my life.

I asked myself what was true and what I was projecting. I allowed my thoughts to guide me with the Imago Dialogue technique. I sought out many mentors and guides to gain perspective and provide me with a mirror. Call me forward and reflect my wounds to me.

I still get consumed by rage and anger. Somehow, I can hold it more easily in my body. It doesn’t stick around as long. I can understand the messages it is here to bring me.

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

I have begun to experience pure anger too, most commonly, this comes with an opportunity to say no to someone or something. In the ‘Not doing: The art of effortless action’ book, co-authored by Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza, Steven states:

I learned that not saying no is giving myself permission ‘not to do’ as well as simultaneously being a deeper yes to what I value more — my health, relationships and wellbeing.

Learning to say no and set boundaries means that your life becomes more aligned with your purpose and values. You stop needing to be so angry because you don’t choose situations that misalign to you. You can flag them much quicker as they’re developing too, choose to remove yourself.

Our relationship with anger needs healing. How we consume, process and express around it matters. Many of the world leaders are still boy hero figures filled with resentment and suppressed rage.

How has anger been present for you in your life?


Created by

Peter Middleton

Peter is a creative coach working to unblock people's authentic creative essence and expression. Using transformational life coaching, meditation and embodiment techniques. He is passionate about mental health, trauma informed practice, spirituality and how to create sustainable cultures that empower in equity.







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