Therapist in an interview:

by Mareike Dudwiesus
02/17/2022, 00:00

Anger is a basic emotion, and yet some people don’t even recognize it when they’re angry. Then the anger can find its own way.

When it comes to anger, many people picture a small figure that simmers, rages, and eventually hits the ceiling, red-faced—just like we were taught to do in the days of the HB male. With his outbursts of anger, he drew everyone’s attention, advertising mission accomplished. In fact, such a notion creates a general sense of shame for some of us now, who reveals their feelings so intensely these days? Very few – and we would almost suspect even fewer of them are female in nature. Rather, today a veil of smiles has draped over our society, under which people diligently oppress and reconcile. The public dissemination of negative feelings, especially anger, is therefore completely foreign to many people. It is one of the basic feelings of each of us, it is put into our cradle, as one can regularly observe with defiantly screaming children in the supermarket.

To this day, there is a gendered education that teaches girls to be nice and quiet

Is it a coincidence that the angry advertising character from back then is male? And what happens when you hide anger until you can barely feel it yourself? We spoke to Andrea vorm Walde about this. She is a psychological consultant in Hamburg and describes herself as an “advocate of the heart”. And she knows that anger can also sit on our hearts and negatively affect our lives if we ignore it consistently. As women, however, we inherited this behavior from the cradle: “To this day, there is a gendered education that teaches girls to be nice and quiet – as opposed to boys, who are allowed to do something completely different will,” she says and adds: “The problem I see specifically with women and anger is that they swallow it too often.”

Men, on the other hand, are often better able to vent their anger, but then they often become more aggressive. So does the solution lie in the HB male? No, reassures Andrea, contrary to popular belief, it’s not about the anger necessarily having to go outside: “It is much more important to know for yourself what actually makes you angry and why you react so strongly emotionally.”

Then anger can also be a very positive emotion – by showing us where our limits are and when they are crossed. Those who swallow anger often ignore their own needs. According to the therapist, this often does not happen consciously: “The less we dare to live feelings, the more we ignore them and they remain hidden”, explains Andrew. In this case, hidden means not only from the outside world, but also from yourself. If you keep learning to suppress emotions, you will eventually forget how you feel them.

When anger speaks to us through the body

When anger is permanently denied, it doesn’t go away just because we don’t know how to interpret it ourselves. Rather, feelings are smarter than you think: “If we suppress emotions for too long, they will always find their way and show themselves physically”, warns the expert. This can be shown, for example, by headaches, neck pain and tension. But also about the classic abdominal pain that can come from the “anger in the stomach”: “This is to be understood as an alarm call from the soul and applies to all sorts of feelings, including anger, of course.”

We don’t have to break free or continue simmering inside to get closer to the feeling – but instead hike up to the volcano to take a closer look at what’s inside. Then nobody need be afraid of anger, Andrea encourages: “Whether you swallow them or ‘yell at them’ doesn’t determine our inner calm and our mental health, but rather the processing of the background.”