Childhood Anger and Relationships

Anger is one hell of an emotion. Our bodies may become tight, we may clench our fists, turn red, get hot, or begin to shake. We may find ourselves doing and saying things that under normal conditions, we would never consider. But what happens if you grew up in a household that did not allow you the right to be angry?

As a kid, Gayle was subconsciously taught to bottle her anger inside, a practice she then carried into adulthood.  She was not allowed to express herself or disagree with her parents on anything. By suppressing her anger, she essentially lost her voice and never learned how to control her anger when it eventually bubbled to the surface.

When emotions such as anger are suppressed, we don’t develop coping skills.  Instead, we keep whatever is bothering us inside until it builds and builds. All we need is one tiny event to occur that causes our anger to show up without restraint. Such is the case with Gayle.

As an adult, Gayle rarely talks to anyone about her problems. When life catches up with her and throws her a curve ball, she can react just like a can of soda that is shaken and then opened. Her emotions come pouring out of her uncontrollably. She explodes in anger or finds herself overwhelmed with tears.

Every single emotion serves a purpose, including anger. Growing up without it means that we will not have the opportunity to develop the coping skills that enable us to manage or handle our anger. And too often, anger is simply a mask for feeling unwanted, embarrassed, hurt, or humiliated.  If we have zero experience with anger, it is much more likely it will overwhelm us at every opportunity. We will live within the stage of anger, instead of using it as a signal for when we have begun to allow a person or an experience to overtake our sense of happiness.

As a kid, one of the most harmful things that our parents can do is to take away our right to feel. Just like everything else in this world, anger is normal in moderation. Not enough anger causes us to blur boundaries. We may not speak up when we have had too much, encouraging others to take advantage of us. Too much anger, on the other hand, may trigger an explosive temper or cause us to completely shut down.

Children should always be allowed to experience the emotion of anger. Suppressing our anger increases its power and the magnitude of the issue or circumstance that created it. As a parent or caring adult, our job is not to prevent anger but to teach children how to release their anger in healthy ways such as writing, talking, playing sports, exercise, art, or poetry. Otherwise, holding in our anger can lead to stress, illness, headaches, ulcers, and countless other emotional and physical issues that we take into adulthood and then pass on to others we encounter in our personal and professional lives.