People get depressed for a variety of reasons. Some say it’s genetic, others behavioral, and some argue it’s related to your thinking style and perception of the world. Another perspective might be because a part of you has a hard time with expressing anger, feeling anger, and has an association with anger that is negative. The saying, “depression is anger turned inward” offers a clue to this idea. If you struggle with depression and think “but I don’t have a problem with anger”, that could be because something inside you squashes your anger before it has a chance to bloom.
Suppressing Your Feelings…
The problem that many people with depression have is that they experience anger but have trained themselves to stuff it down, deflect it, or avoid any and all expression of it. For a lot of individuals, anger is associated with being mean, aggressive, and violent. However, what people don’t realize is that meanness and aggression are forms of acting out of anger, not from it.
Anger is a really useful emotion that alerts us to when a boundary has been crossed or when we’ve been attacked in some way. If we act out of our anger, we end up hurting another person and that goes against the purpose of anger, which is to right a wrong.
For individuals who stuff their anger away and make rationalizations why they shouldn’t be angry, they unwittingly end up turning that anger back onto themselves and become punished by it.
Covering Your Feelings With Anxiety
Another thing a person dealing with depression might notice when they initially feel angry is the follow up emotion of anxiety. This anxiety comes as a response to the anger, usually because in that person’s mind anger is a dangerous emotion. It may have been that in an earlier part of this person’s life, like childhood, they had to adapt to their environment and stuff their anger away in order to stay safe from a person who was hurting them in some way. However, as they grew into adulthood, the response of stuffing away their anger stopped serving them so well and turned into depression.
For example, if I learned that expressing my anger lead to eruptions from my caregivers and physical attack, I would quickly adapt and sensor that feeling out of my awareness. However, once I grew into adulthood and I experienced an injustice or boundary crossing from a colleague, friend, or partner, and didn’t express my anger, I would be complicit in my own abuse
Learning to appropriately set a boundary with people and express your anger without suppressing or exploding it can offer you a much healthier and helpful way of approaching challenging situations. The process of re-learning how to contact your anger and channel it appropriately takes patience and consistency. It’s so important to be kind to yourself while you experience the turbulence that comes with change and rewiring your brain.
Anger can be used to do so many great things like make positive changes in your environment, maintain relationships, honor our needs, and transform our sense of empowerment. If we stuff it down, we lose our sense of self and personal rights. If we explode it, we hurt ourselves and other people in the process. Channeling it assertively, with respect to our wellbeing and the person we’re angry with, allows for space to open up where it may not have been before. This space is where change occurs.