Have you ever had someone tell you to write an angry letter? I have! And I’ve given the assignment to my clients as well. It might sound silly but expressive writing to release repressed anger (or hidden anger) and other emotions has been researched and proven to be affective to relieve stress, trauma responses, and even physical pain (Source) It’s so beneficial to deal with your repressed anger because of the physical and emotional symptoms it causes. The truth is you always bury anger alive. And burying something alive always has consequences- any scary movie can show you that!
If you are anything like me, you might not realize you have repressed anger because you have gotten good at avoiding it and stuffing it. I attended a domestic violence support group for nearly 2 years and one particularly insightful meeting had to do with hidden anger. I learned that night that we tend to recognize the obvious symptoms of hidden or repressed anger, but most of us have no idea what subtle behaviors indicate we are avoiding processing pain or difficult emotions. Here’s what to watch out for:
Signs of Hidden or Repressed Anger
- Procrastination in the completion of tasks,
- Sarcasm, cynicism, or flippancy in conversation,
- Over-politeness, constant cheerfulness, attitude of “grin and bear it.”
- Frequent sighing,
- Frequent disturbing or frightening dreams,
- Getting tired easier than usual,
- Becoming drowsy at inappropriate times,
- Chronically stiff or sore neck or shoulder muscles,
After we all took the quiz and realized we had LOTS of repressed anger, we needed a next step. How do we deal with repressed anger? Our advocate told us to journal through 2 questions if we were having a hard time releasing the anger:
I don’t want to release my anger because _____
I’m afraid to release my anger because ______
Here’s the cliff notes version of what I discovered about my Repressed Anger. I hope this helps you as you walk through the same process to know you are not alone!
Question 1: I don’t want to release my anger because:
- I know that when I do “let it go” I have to allow the release to happen. And release is slightly terrifying.
- I don’t like what the word release means at all. I would rather not give this person freedom. They should pay me back for all of the emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical wounds I experienced.
- Letting go of my anger means that every time this person angers me in the future, I must walk through the process all over again.
- Ugh. I don’t want to let go of my anger without an apology first. Is that so much to ask?
Release : “Free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; Let go. Relinquish. Surrender.”
Question 2: I am afraid to release my anger because…
- Anger is “normal” to me. I know what to do with anger. I’ve lived with anger a long, long time.
- Anger is like a protective wall for me because I don’t have to deal with the sadness and betrayal on the other side.
- Holding on to it means I somehow still have control of my life.
- I’m afraid I could be easily hurt again. Like the anger is making me “bullet-proof” or something. Surrendering it could make me vulnerable again.
- I spent decades avoiding anything that makes me vulnerable. Vulnerability was a weakness. Emotions were a weakness. Tenderness was a weakness. Anger was safe.
How I let Go of the Repressed Anger
After seeing it all on paper, I had a choice to make. Was I going to accept the process of letting this anger go? Or was I going to hold onto it? I had an internal dialogue that went something like this,
Raychel, do you do well to be angry? Is it helping? Does it make you feel good in your mind, body, and spirit to hold on to this? No. Nope. Not even a little bit.
What do you need to do next? I write the angry letter.
To be completely transparent this was not over and done with one angry letter. It took several. And even years latter I still find myself processing anger and resetting boundaries with certain people in my life. Resolving the anger doesn’t guarantee instant results. It’s a process.
“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”Wesley, The Princess Bride.
What Do I Write in an Angry Letter?
Good question. Think of an angry letter as a brain dump. Just start writing. Start by writing everything you would say about the person, the situation, the hurt, the aftermath, if you could. If you had one chance to say everything you wanted to say, what would you say? This gets easier once you start, the hardest part is starting. I once wrote an angry letter that was 6 pages long in a very short amount of time because the words just came out of me like vomit. That’s the point. No judgements. Don’t second guess what you wrote. And PC terms or nice words are not required. Dig deep and get it out once and for all. Nobody is going to see this angry letter so write it all! NEVER send the letter. THIS IS IMPORTANT. This letter is for you. Not them.
Expressing repressed anger through angry letters is an effective tool to deal with high levels of stress, trauma, and a whole host of emotional and physical symptoms. When you become aware of signs of hidden anger you have a choice. You can deal with it or continue to ignore it. I hope you choose to deal with it. Writing an angry letter helps you understand the reality of what happened to you and how your life changed because of it. With understanding you can begin to release the hidden anger. Baby steps. You got this.
with Grace & Grit,
Raychel Perman is a Certified Life & Business Coach, Speaker, Author, and Co-Founder of RAYMA Team, LLC. She is the Co-host of the She Who Overcomes™ Podcast and is funny, wise, and tells it like it is. Raychel shares her story of overcoming trauma and living with mental health challenges to inspire others to believe that the broken pieces of their past can lead to beauty, strength, and new beginnings. She is the author of UNBROKEN and co-author of She Cultivates Resilience.