Spiritual Reflections

Dealing with Anger

How do we express our anger in healthy ways, and most importantly, how do we allow others to express their anger without feeling intimidated or personally attacked?

Working as a child therapist has given me the opportunity to learn what the inability or discouragement to express anger can do to our brain and body. 

The advantage that children have is the ability and openness to express their emotions freely but they lack the maturity to understand their emotions. They do not carry as much baggage as we adults do! 

Some emotions are easier to feel and express than others. Some are more socially acceptable and some are much more comfortable to express. Our emotions need to be expressed, released. Some of us have been taught that emotions such as anger need to be repressed. “Anger is not good,” some of us have heard since we were children. Anger is a good emotion like any other. The problem, it seems, is that we have not been taught to express it in healthy ways. I am not talking here about the myth “let it out and you will feel better.” Letting it out may provide a subjective sense of relief, yet frequent blowing up harms one’s physical health. Plus, it builds and reinforces neurological paths that make it harder to remain calm. Frequent displays of anger can also destroy relationships we have in the workplace, connections with our spouse or partner, our friends, and our children. Here I am in particular talking about repressed anger. Recent research shows that trying to repress, to keep our emotions “down” comes at a great cost. Persistent anger can lead to overload, marked by long periods of upset. The effects of anger include physical and emotional health problems, including a compromised immune system and depression. 

We have the tendency to talk about our feelings as either good or bad. We often list joy and happiness under good emotions and anger under bad emotions. According to author Miriam Greenspan, “We have less difficulty with the so-called positive emotions. People don’t mind feeling joy and happiness. The dark emotions are much harder. Fear, grief, and despair are uncomfortable and are seen as signs of personal failure.” 

So how do we express our anger in healthy ways, and most importantly, how do we allow others to express their anger without feeling intimidated or personally attacked? 

We need to understand what anger is first. It is an emotional response to an internal or external perceived threat, a violation or an injustice. Many in the clinical field theorize a response of fight or flight helps us protect ourselves from danger. 

We know that the experience of anger is learned and varies from person to person. For example, as a child I saw my mother isolate and become quiet when angry. She would give us the silent treatment for days! So, what did I do when I was angry? Exactly the same. Some people may cry when angry, while some may yell, while still someone else may become withdrawn—to name just a few. 

Neglecting our anger can be very harmful. Unresolved anger is damaging to our bodies, our interpersonal relationships and our own psychological wellbeing. Unresolved anger can leave us in a never-ending emotional arousal, or make us feel constantly helpless and hopeless. 

Having a tool box

So how do we manage or express our anger? Think of it as having a tool box. The more tools you have, the better you can choose the most effective tool when you need it. But remember, not all tools work for everybody all of the time. Here are some tools: 

  • Effective stress reduction and stress management 
  • Focusing on the areas in which one has control 
  • Standing up for oneself in a firm, but respectful way 
  • Setting appropriate limits and boundaries 
  • Meditation 
  • Humor 
  • Yoga 
  • Journaling 
  • Physical Exercise 
  • Noticing what you feel 
  • Accepting what you feel 
  • Having “me” days (no, it is not selfish; it is healthy!) 
  • Realistic expectations of ourselves and others 
  • Knowing when to let go 
  • Getting more emotionally literate 
  • Paying closer attention to what triggers you 

Don’t forget that all our emotions, the ones that we consider positive and the ones that we see as negative, are part of life. They are inevitable. They are part of our human experience. It serves as a reminder that we all experience the same emotions. It is up to each of us how we express them and how we understand them in each other. 

In flipping the tables, Jesus showed us how anger is part of the human experience. Jesus also showed us the importance of forgiveness in the face of hurt. 

Juana has served as a clinical social worker for the past 25 years. Today she is in private practice counseling youth and facilitates a support group for transgender youth. 


  1. Greenspan, Miriam. Healing through the Dark Emotions of Grief, Fear, and Despair. Shambhala (2004) 
  2. Altman, Louise. Emotional Mindfulness. Article. 2013. Intentional Communications Consultants. 
  3. Be Well at Work, health program. uhs. 
  4. Brown, Brene. Atlas of the Heart. Random House. November 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *