By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.
Too often in today’s society we are asked to suppress or deny our anger. Concepts like the power of positive thinking andmanifesting our reality can work to steer us away from fully feeling and expressing our anger. Moreover, they may imply and impose upon us a dangerous level of guilt and shame for desiring to do so. The latter is something we likely already acquired in ample supply from our days in active addiction or dysfunction. Besides, where guilt and shame serve only to hurt us, anger can actually help us heal.
Anger is often a demonized emotion. Many people fear it, not knowing how to appropriately confront, express or release it. Some simply try to deny or dismiss it. However, the vast majority of people—in active addiction, recovering or not—simply believe it to be a state of victimization. Even some specialists within the addiction treatment field see anger as result of a lack of gratitude or an emotional expression of self-pity.
However, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to feel and express anger while simultaneously maintaining a sense of gratitude. But the awareness of lessons learned and ability to see a silver lining does not negate the justification for anger. Moreover, to deny ourselves or anyone else the right to feel and express it is to engage in oppressive recovery—the opposite of helping and a setup for relapse.
Truthfully, anger is indeed a gift. It is an internal alarm that loudly sounds when personal boundaries have been repeatedly crossed or disrespected. Anger amplifies our voice when we desperately need to speak and be heard and wakes us from a potentially holistically comatose state. Additionally, it is a normal, expected and necessary stage of grief, personal growth and healing.
As such, it is vital to successful recovery for individuals and helping professionals to learn to allow and accept the gift of anger within ourselves and others. After all, it is not anger that destroys us or causes us to relapse. But, in fact, the suppression of it can easily do both.