If you’re asking yourself “why am I always angry for no reason” you’re probably worried that there’s something wrong with you. But if you’re frequently angry and you don’t know why you might be relieved to know that there is a very good reason why you’re angry and it tends to be buried in your past.
Angry and frustrated most of the time
Many of you will have been shamed for your anger when you were little, and you’ve learnt to repress it or ignore it. When this happens, you find it frightening to speak or stand up for yourself.
It’s almost impossible to have and maintain boundaries in relationships with others. You’ll often feel victimised and intimidated and can’t say no.
But some of you find that you’re angry and frustrated most of the time. You just want to rage at everyone and everything, and you don’t know why.
Your anger protects you
The reasons for your anger and frustration could be biological or psychological or both. At a biological level, anger can fire up the brain and motivate you to focus and take action.
At a subconscious level, anger can become a fantastic protection mechanism. Not only does it protect you from the outside world but it also protects you from feeling your own deeper, more painful feelings: the feelings that lay hidden in the abyss of your unconscious.
The good news is once you start to feel the deeper more painful feelings that drive your anger, you become less angry. The underlying pain that fuels the anger and frustration are eliminated and in some cases disappears.
Alan’s Story: An angry life lived in a pool of pain fuelled rage
Alan had felt angry at the world since he was a young boy. He loved going to the Saturday afternoon football matches. It gave him an avenue to scream and rage at the game, the players and other fans.
As an adult, Alan carried a constant scowl. Most people seemed to avoid him as he avoided them. Alan had no relationships or friendships or even a car when he first started therapy. He found it difficult to hold a conversation, maintain eye contact or function in society.
Talking didn’t help, and medication wasn’t an option
Alan had seen other counsellors and psychiatrists, but he found no relief or improvements. Talking did not help or improve any of his symptoms, and he did not want to be medicated as a way to survive life.
Alan was raised by a strict Catholic mother whom in his view, loved God more than she loved or cared for him or any of her children. She was a dutiful mother but not affectionate or warm.
Allan believed his mother had immigrated to Australia to escape shame after her alleged rape by a Nigerian man in England. The rape resulted in Alan’s half-brother.
The anguish of not being cared for and protected
His mother married again when he was a young boy, and he suffered at the hands of an elder step-brother in many ways including sexually.
At times, his step-father and step-brother both ganged up on him, physically attacking him. His mother saw and heard this but did nothing.
Alan felt bullied in his home, at school and in the world. He believed there was no one he could turn to with his problems. Instead, he kept them to himself and silently raged at life, at God, at everyone around him.
Raging with pent up anger and frustration from neglect and abuse
When Alan started therapy, he raged in nearly every session. All the years of pent up anger, neglect and ill-treatment came tumbling out. As part of his treatment, he did a week long live-in intensive which was a prerequisite to gaining access to the 24/7 feeling room.
And there in that room together with his weekly sessions, Alan felt his rage almost non-stop for two years.
Gradually in his sessions, Alan began to get in touch with his more vulnerable feelings. The realisation that his parents who in his words ‘didn’t give a shit’ were never going to care.
I don’t want to want or need you
He felt the abandonment, hurt, powerlessness and need for his mother. He hated these feelings. They were excruciating.
He hated feeling the helplessness he had felt as a little boy. He hated feeling the constant unmet needs to be held and comforted by his mother; feelings he’d denied most of his life.
These were the needs that his mother never met or would meet. It was unbearable to him. He’d spent a lifetime hating his mother. He didn’t want to feel any need for her now.
Reaching the deeper pain
Alan was connecting to the emptiness and nothingness that he’d felt as a child and these feelings were intolerable. So intolerable that in therapy sessions, he’d often go into the angry feelings instead.
Recently in a group session when his sense of need and vulnerability began to surface Alan consciously choose to become angry and express his angry feelings instead. He did not feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of the other group members.
The breakthrough of being able to feel the pain that the anger hides
At the end of the group, Alan spoke about his difficulty in expressing these feelings in front of other group members. He told them how he’d gone into his anger during the session as a way to avoid the need for his mother.
That was a big step for Alan. It was the first time he’d spoken about his vulnerable feelings to anyone other than his therapist. Being able to talk about his difficulties in being vulnerable with the group while maintaining eye contact, was a breakthrough for him.
Alan was also able to acknowledge why he preferred his anger. His anger he said made him feel powerful and strong instead of weak, helpless and needy. One of the other group members who’d been in a group with Alan two years earlier said that he wasn’t nearly as loud as he used to be. That was positive feedback.
The pool of pain fuelled anger and frustration slowly diminished
As Alan gave himself the complete freedom to be angry and full of rage and spite in his sessions, he noticed that the intensity of anger in his daily life began to diminish.
He found he could interact with other people in the world without always being triggered into a rage.
Alan’s commitment to his therapy resulted in the pool of pain fuelled rage slowly decreasing over time. By allowing himself to re-experience and express many of the feelings he had as a little boy in the safety of his sessions and the feeling room Alan slowly worked his way through his anger.
Taking control and having personal power
Through his dedicated regular feeling work, Alan mostly stopped rebelling against the world and life. He bought himself a car and was able to move into a flat by himself and live independently for the first time in years.
His personal hygiene improved, and he was able to maintain good eye contact during conversations. Alan’s general demeanour was more affable, and when interacting with others, a look of interest and curiosity often replaced his scowl.
Alan is still finding it a challenge to connect to the feelings of need for his mother but the more he does this, the less he rages at the world.
His story shows the importance of working with your anger to process the deeper feelings that the anger is helping you avoid. You heal the wounds of childhood instead of being at its mercy.