Repressed Anger and Its Impact

In recent times, there has been an alarming surge in school violence, raising profound concerns about the emotional health of our young generation. This escalating suppressed aggression among youths has spotlighted a topic many of us may prefer to avoid – repressed anger.

The numbers themselves paint a compelling picture:

  • During the 2017–18 school year, an estimated 962,300 violent incidents occurred in U.S. public schools, of which an estimated 3,600 incidents involved the possession of a firearm or explosive device at school. (U.S. National Center for Education Statistics)
  • 246 million girls and boys worldwide are subject to school-related violence every year. (UNESCO)

Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.
Sigmund Freud

Repressed Anger Meaning

In this blog, we will tackle this topic, exploring how analytical psychology can contribute to addressing the issue of Repressed anger and its implications.

Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, pushed us to look at our ‘shadow self’ – those unseen corners of our personality where suppressed anger urges hibernate. When we ignore these urges, they swell up, ready to explode into harmful actions.

Jung advised psychotherapy should help us channel anger away from damage and towards self-growth. For example, children might harbor repressed anger due to high parental expectations, leading to anxiety and dangerous thoughts. If not managed, these thoughts could mutate into destructive behaviors.

Both children and adults have difficulty managing their repressed anger. Jung’s theories could be beneficial in helping people to use creativity to move away from unhealthy behaviors.

Unfortunately, modern lifestyles don’t offer the same ways that earlier generations had, such as sports activities and children playing outside in nature, to express their suppressed anger positively and constructively.

Nowadays, children can be exposed to (violent) online content without having a proper outlet for their repressed aggression, causing it to become bottled up and repressed.

It’s important to understand that when we repress anger, it doesn’t vanish. It lies low, silently shaping our behaviors, twisting our worldview, damaging our relationships, and diminishing our self-esteem.

What Makes The Repressed Anger?

Various factors and reasons can influence repressed anger. One is that families often have unique emotional dynamics where certain emotions are considered off-limits or exclusive to specific family members.

This leads to the suppression of those emotions, causing the underlying energy to be pushed into the unconscious. Consequently, these emotions find indirect outlets through various harmful mechanisms since they cannot express themselves directly.

Aggression is one such emotion that frequently falls victim to this pattern, resulting in its unconscious and destructive manifestation in unexpected situations.

Reflecting on our childhood, we may discover forbidden or reserved emotions for certain family members, leaving us unable to experience them. It’s precisely these emotions that we should strive to acknowledge and express healthily.

By working on accepting and understanding these suppressed emotions, we can foster personal growth and emotional health.

For example, a man was raised in a family where only his mother could express her anger. He, his sister, and his father were expected to be polite and to step away when she became aggressive. As a result, he adopted this same attitude outside of the family. He kept his own anger inside, which led to stomach issues that couldn’t be diagnosed medically.

During psychotherapy, he finally realized that the cause of his stomach problems was all the repressed anger that he had kept in for so long. His stomach ailments disappeared after understanding and expressing his anger, especially towards his mother.

So, when children can’t manage their aggressive feelings, they bury them, resulting in a toxic cocktail of frustration, resentment, and anger. Sometimes, this can explode into school violence, self-harm, or psycho-somatic problems, as in the case mentioned above.

How Does Repressed Anger Reveal Itself?

Hidden anger often reveals itself subtly through behavior, emotion, dreams, and physical signs. Spotting these signs is vital to tackle suppressed anger before it causes tragedy. Some of the key signals to watch out for are:

Behavioral: Sarcasm, procrastination, stubbornness, avoiding social interaction, constant criticism, and an obsession with perfection.

Emotional: Impulsivity, prone to mood swings, signs of depression, anxiety, or chronic feelings of resentment.

Physical: Unexplained physical issues and discomfort, difficulty sleeping, having nightmares with violent content, or relying heavily on drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Thus, spotting the subtle signs of repressed anger is the first step to preventing harm. Remember, anger isn’t all bad. It’s a primal human response meant to protect us. But when mishandled or stifled, it can lead to disastrous outcomes.

From a Jungian perspective, it’s essential to assist young people in understanding and managing their anger healthily rather than avoiding and repressing it.

Educational and mental health programs should focus on emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and anger management. We should create safe spaces for open communication, encourage emotional awareness, and teach healthy coping mechanisms.

In the words of Jung, If people can be educated to see the deprived side of their own natures, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to love their fellow men better.

Following Jung’s advice, we should investigate the roots of aggressive behavior instead of only addressing its external expressions. This can help us to recognize, understand, and healthily manage anger.

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