Social anxiety II – Rediscovering anger

For years, my tendency for delayed anger reactions has puzzled me. For example, I can spend an evening with a friend who makes a mean comment to me, or pressures me into doing something I don’t want. I register this on some level, but I feel no reaction to it except for a certain coldness or sadness. The same thing can happen if for example my boss explodes for no reason and yells at me. I react very calmly. I don’t cry, don’t storm out, I stay completely rational and reasonable and I can still think logically.

Next morning, or next week I wake up shaking with anger, throwing things at the wall, trying to figure out what just happened. Alternatively, anger just comes over me at random times, like in the subway, and I feel the urge to hit people in the face, just because they are standing there.

Apparently I suppress anger so much that I don’t even get the chance to feel it before it is stored away, only to resurface later at unfitting times. I have never read about this phenomenon or heard from anyone else having it; but then I discovered this interesting post about delayed emotional reaction from another blogger with social anxiety. So it seems the problems are connected. It makes sense to me: We are controlling ourselves so much that we even don’t feel our feelings anymore.

People maybe think I am very nice, cool and mature if I don’t get angry about things. But the opposite is true. I can get extremely angry, maybe more angry than the average person, just later. And normally I never tell them, and so the thing can never be sorted out, and I never, ever forgive them. People probably wonder why I am suddenly so detached with them.

I only slowly start to understand how central feeling and expressing anger is to being a healthy person and how much it is related to my social anxiety. Without anger, we are prone to getting manipulated, mistreated and yelled at and we will forever wonder why people are so mean. Anger protects us, naturally signals us when our boundaries are breached, when we are manipulated and treated unfairly.

I tended to think that I am ‘just a naturally nice person’, nicer than most others, but but in truth, nobody is naturally nice. All three-year old children can scream with anger. Niceness, on the other hand, is a learned thing. And it is only necessary towards people that are nice to us themselves.

Realizing this is already helping me. I have recently actually managed to express anger with someone at work for the first time since I started working. Seriously: In seven years at work I have never one expressed anger with anyone, although I had plenty of reasons to do it on uncountable occasions. Doing it for once was a wonderful experience. There was some fighting, but the thing I wanted to get done finally got done. And everyone is still speaking to me. I feel happy and alive thinking about it. As if I finally have a little bit of my own space around me.

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8 Responses to Social anxiety II – Rediscovering anger

  1. I think I turn all my anger inward, which also isn’t healthy, because I’m afraid to express it. Also, sometimes it will come out at inopportune times as a reaction disproportionate to a situation, sort of because it’s the last straw, and all of the accumulated anger just pours out. Another thing is that I can’t get angry without being sad at the same time. When I’m angry, I cry. I tend to feel guilty for being angry, too, but I rationally know it’s a normal human reaction.

    • zinemin says:

      Yes, it is the same for me. It is like the anger center in my brain has somehow merged with the sadness center. But this mix-up only happens when someone attacks me personally, not when I am angry about things that are not directed at myself. Do you have that too?

      If people just behave like idiots in traffic, I can get really angry and there is no sadness component. But if some idiot walks up to me and criticizes me, even mildly, like: ‘why the serious face?’ I feel like I could start crying on the spot. Ha! I wish in those cases I could just get totally angry and explode. That would really surprise people. And I think it would feel amazing. 🙂 Of course, the even better reaction would be to just take it lightly, but I don’t know how to do that.

      • xykademiqz says:

        I am living in the American Midwest, populated by Catholics and Lutherans. I find that my colleagues from Midwest, and there are many, think I am freakin’ lunatic because I say what I think (usually what everyone is thinking) and if I am angry I speak up. This is considered to be extremely poor form in the Midwest and is really bothering me. I find this politeness at all times and all cost really artificial and draining.

      • zinemin says:

        I cannot get along with Americans at all, although I have tried. They think I am complaining too much, and I always have to fight against finding them fake and dishonest, especially women. I know it is a cultural difference and not their fault but I can’t get over my negative gut reaction if someone answers with their fake-nice, but ultimately aggressive “how niiiiice” if you tell them whatever, and their utter shock if you tell them something negative or complain. I would do very badly in the Midwest I think. 🙂 But while complaining is fine, anger is frowned upon to some degree where I live, especially for women, unlike in Holland and Northern Germany. It is weird how certain emotions are censored in certain cultures. But anyway, I really admire women who express anger openly and stand up for what they believe, especially because I am not very used to it. I am sure women around you admire you secretly too and very likely you are an inspiration to some of them.

  2. tennis45 says:

    I can completely relate to this. I’ve always thought of anger as a negative reaction, and it can be but I’ve also come to realize that sometimes it’s necessary in expressing how you feel and what you think. There definitely has to be some sort of balance I think: using anger in a constructive and healthy way but not letting it get the better of you. I’m trying to teach myself to express my feelings and speak up when something bugs me.

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