Did you know spring is “anger season?”
Yep. Apparently according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the Spring is associated with the liver and the liver is associated with the emotion of anger. Does that mean we feel more angry in the spring? Well, kind of! I mean, what did we just witness at the Academy Awards? But I think it more means that this is a time to “take care” of your anger and heal it more than in other seasons. Just like the organ systems: I mean your liver isn’t necessarily more “liver-y” in the spring but it’s a time to focus on cleansing and taking care of that very vital organ.
I just did a talk on anger last week for my “cleanse group.”
If you know me at all, you know I am passionate about cleansing! By cleansing I mean cutting out all the crap from my diet (caffeine, processed food, dairy, grain, sugar, you know, all the fun stuff) and allowing my body to have a rest from anything unhealthy. We also focus on self care at a deep level and spend time really resetting our nervous systems.
This “Spring cleanse” was focused on the liver and in the process of cleansing the liver, we also focused on cleansing our anger, resentment and frustration. So many of the women told me they benefitted from what I shared that I wanted to recap it for you!
“I’m not angry!”
Of all the emotions I deal with in my work as a therapist (which is ALL of them…I am a “feeling doctor” after all), anger is the one that women in particular are most likely to deny. If I had a dollar for every time a woman said “I’m not angry about such and such” I’d be a very wealthy woman!
From a very young age, we get the message that we should be “good girls” and not rock the boat too much. We learn that our job is to care for others, not challenge the status quo. These are generalizations of course, but they are rampant in our society and can effect us on an unconscious level.
When we do try to express our anger even in healthy, appropriate ways, we are often labeled as “bitchy” or a “nasty woman.” Because of this, many women are completely out of touch with what makes them angry. I am no better! Society does a terrible job of teaching us appropriate ways to manage our strong emotions, especially anger.
Because of this, we often see anger either under-expressed (oh I’m not angry!) or grossly over-expressed (which we witnessed at the Oscars last Sunday!)
Both of these tendencies lead to real problems in our bodies and our lives.
The term “Type A personality” originally came out of research correlating hostility or over-expressed anger with heart disease and high blood pressure.
Other research also found a Type C personality that was correlated with high cancer risk. Type C personalities generally under-express anger and put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.
Now this doesn’t mean that everyone who’s angry and stressed is going to develop heart disease or that everyone you know who has ever had cancer has under-expressed anger, but there is enough of a correlation that it’s worth considering for greater awareness.
Anger can come out of the blue in our perimenopausal years
As we move into midlife and particularly perimenopause, we can find ourselves suddenly unable to stuff our anger anymore. It can start to come out in ways that really surprise us and make us even feel crazy. Part of that is hormonal changes, but I also think for women, midlife is a time to get more in touch with our own needs and let go of some of our tendency to put all our efforts in to nurturing others. This anger and resentment that surfaces can emerge from years of stuffing our needs for the good of our family.
However, this anger can be our friend! It can alert us to boundaries that need to be set and priorities that are due for a shift. It can awaken us to greater levels of joy and fulfillment in our lives when we can tap into it in a healthy way.
Believe it or not when we stuff our difficult emotions such as anger and grief, it actually decreases our ability to feel positive emotions too.
Our emotions are on a volume dial. When we lower the bass we also lower the treble. So if we are not in touch with or in denial of our anger, we will also be unable to feel higher levels of joy. We become more numb and flat, which is what it means to be depressed. This is why depression has also been referred to as “anger turned inward.” Anxiety can also sometimes be covering up a deeper anger issue.
Can you see how If we get at the heart of our anger, a lot of things in our lives can improve?
Healthy vs. unhealthy ways to express anger
Here’s a few tips to get you thinking about how you might shift your relationship with anger so that you are neither over expressing or under expressing your rage.
Unhealthy Anger Expression:
Healthy Anger Expression:
What about you? What would you add to these lists? Did this make you more aware of any anger you might have been under or over-expressing in your own life?
We all over and under express our anger from time to time. It’s tough to make changes in our relationship to anger. In fact, right after I gave the talk on anger to my group, I found myself totally going off on my poor boyfriend. Luckily he thinks I’m cute when I’m angry, but it was definitely NOT what I would consider a healthy expression of anger! I’m not trying to say you need to be perfect at anger, believe me! It just helps to raise your awareness as we move through this “anger season” that we’re in.
Would love to hear if you have more thoughts about anger. Is there another anger-related topic you’d like to read a blog about?
Blessings to your angry self!