Anger is Often Repressed Feelings of Sadness
What do you know about repressed emotions? How many times have you believed you were so angry that you cried? How many times have you actually cried and stated that you were so angry that you cried?
Have you ever stepped back to think that crying was not a typical “symptom” of anger? It is simply a repressed emotion of sadness when followed with crying.
Think about the “symptoms” of anger. The usual suspects are yelling, blood pressure rising, body tensing, feeling like you wanted to explode or hit something.
Those are some of the normal “symptoms” of anger. I’m not referring to this kind of anger. The kind of anger I am referring to is the anger that results in crying.
Why do we cry when we get really angry if crying isn’t a typical “symptom” of anger? Are you willing to consider that maybe your anger is really a repressed emotion of sadness?
We can blame society and many different cultural beliefs on this. Anger is often a secondary emotion that is preceded by sadness.
That is the reason I say anger is often stemming from a repressed emotion of sadness. Imagine being taught that sadness and crying were acceptable.
If so, then we wouldn’t have such an angry world. We would no longer see people’s defense mechanisms resulting in explosions of anger due to repressed sadness.
How Do We Handle Sadness When It’s a Repressed Emotion?
Consider this: When we know somebody is angry, what do we do? Usually, there are two different responses to an angry person.
We either try to calm them down. That is usually pretty ineffective because we are trying to calm the anger instead of the sadness.
The second response is to get away from the angry person isolate them. The reason this usually doesn’t work to actually decrease the anger is that we don’t understand the true repressed emotion is sadness.
Keep in mind that I keep saying anger is often repressed sadness. So, if we leave that sad person alone we are depriving them of the connection needed when they are sad.
Think about how many times you have been told you needed to calm down when you were angry?
If that actually made you “calm down” and your supposed anger truly went away never to return from that exact experience, then you are a unicorn.
It’s not possible for a unicorn to have anger from repressed sadness because unicorns are magical!
However, the more likely scenario, if you actually calmed down after being told to do so, is that you just suppressed your true emotion. I will continue to remind you of my belief about most anger being a repressed sadness.
That is the reason being told to calm down does not work. Again, the true and first emotion when anger typically arises, is usually sadness. If you struggle with connecting to yourself and your emotions, click here to read my post Connecting with Yourself (4 Easy Steps.)
Society and Expressions of Sadness
Our society today and many different cultures view sadness and crying as weaknesses. As a child, were you told to stop crying, wipe those tears up, I’ll give you something to cry about or anything similar?
Did you hear that you needed to be strong when something tough happened and you cried as a result? What did that do to you?
For many, the consequences of those comments may be subconscious. It took a lot of work on my healing journey to bring those subconscious thoughts to my conscious mind.
I didn’t realize that my behaviors when I was sad were a result of implicit messages from so many different voices from society and culture.
I’m sure that you are all very familiar with those behaviors and have done many of them also.
Until I started my own personal healing journey, I would hide when I was sad and cried.
I believed it was something in which I should be ashamed. That was because the messages I received were that I was weak if I was sad or crying.
Anger is a Secondary Emotion
Part of my healing journey was to journal about all of the things that made me sad that I wasn’t “allowed” to cry or be sad about at the time they occurred.
That allowed me to release those tears years later. Stuffing all of that sadness and the tears that came with it resulted in years of depression, which I also hid to the best of my ability.
The older I got the harder it was for me to keep the lid on my anger. I had no clue that my anger was a repressed emotion of sadness.
Does this sound familiar to you? Why do we learn these behaviors that are so damaging and fight ourselves to continue those behaviors?
Does it make sense to you now that depression often comes out in anger because of what is lying underneath the anger?
How To Help Someone Who Appears Angry and Is Crying
Allowing somebody to be sad without trying to fix them or “make them happy” is the exact opposite of what most of us are taught.
This is very damaging to the person who is sad. It sends the same message as I mentioned above. The message is, “Don’t be sad. Stop Crying.”
However, the true, underlying message is that we don’t know what to do with somebody who is sad, but we sure know what to do with somebody when they are mad.
We leave them alone until they “cool off” or tell them to calm down. That only causes more repressed sadness.
Think back to a time when you were sad and shared that with somebody. The typical response to somebody showing us their sadness is to do something to “pull them out of it.”
What does that look like? Some of the common responses to a loved one being sad are “Let’s get you out of the house,” “Let’s go shopping,” “Think about all of the things you have to be happy about, “Go exercise. That will help,” “You need to do something to take your mind off of it,” plus many others.
Parents often offer food as the solution to sadness, which we all know turns into emotional eating as adults. Say hello to an increase in the repressed emotion of sadness.
Now, has that EVER helped any of you to the degree that your sadness truly went away? Again, if so, then you are a unicorn and I want to meet you.
I’ve always loved unicorns and would love to see one in person. So, if those things don’t make your sadness go away, then what do they do?
They merely teach you to push it down because you shouldn’t be feeling that. Again, this creates more repressed sadness.
The Needs of Sadness
So, if it has never truly helped anybody, then why do we continue to do it time and time again when we know somebody is sad?
This is another cultural and societal conditioning response.
We are so uncomfortable with other people’s sadness and we don’t know what we are “supposed” to do when somebody is sad. So, our solution is to “make” them not be sad.
We don’t do this with malicious intent, but why do we do it at all?
Most people are never taught how to just “be” with somebody else’s emotions and even more so, we aren’t taught how to just “be” with our own emotions.
If we can’t allow ourselves to have sadness in the way we need, then we sure as hell can’t allow somebody else to do that. Our instant go to is to change somebody’s feeling when they are sad.
Again, this is not helpful. What is actually underlying in these behaviors is the uncomfortableness of somebody being sad.
We aren’t taught to just let somebody cry. Let them release what they need to release and simply be there by their side to show love and support without giving advice or telling them what they “should” do.
Holding Space for Another’s Sadness
Well, what does that even look like? If they want to be held, hold them. If they want to cry, let them cry and just sit there with them in their sadness.
Many people call that “holding space” for somebody. If they need to scream to release some emotions in the midst of crying, let them scream.
Scream with them! You both probably have a lot of repressed sadness that needs to be released.
The most important thing is to let them do whatever they need to do, baring self-harm or harm to others or property.
The absolute best thing that you could do for somebody who is sad and crying is to ask them what they need from you. Many times, the response will be, “nothing, just sit here with me.”
There have been many times that I have needed to physically move the sadness out of my body, which keeps it from turning into anger down the road.
I have a punching bag that I hit when I need to physically release my sadness. I’ve had a friend go outside with me while I safely throw things as a release.
I think a physical release is incredibly important. If we don’t do something to physically release the pain of sadness, that energy gets stuck in our bodies.
This comes right back to the reason I am writing this blog. The repressed emotion of sadness and the energy of that, results in anger.
Blowing Up Over Something Small
Have you ever just blown up at somebody and then later questioned why you got so mad about something because it was a small issue?
Every single person I know has done this, but why?
Think about it this way (you’ll have to pretend the bottle I mention is a magical bottle wherein the physics of the soft drink going flat don’t apply): If you took a mostly full bottle of a soft drink and somehow continued to add more fresh drops of the soft drink for several days without taking the top off, meanwhile carrying it in a bag all day, what would happen when you took the top off?
Duh! Of course, it would spew everywhere just like we do with a repressed emotion!
Now, does that make sense about what happens to us when we continually add sadness and tears to our bodies without ever releasing the top to let some of the pressure out?
Yes! We spew because one more “little” drop of a soft drink was added when there wasn’t room for it, but we still had to take the top off.
This is why anger is often the result of repressed sadness. We have no more room to add even one more tiny drop to our bottle of repressed sadness. So, like the soft drink bottle, we spew.
How To Handle the Repressed Emotion of Sadness
So, let yourself AND others be sad. It’s a normal and very healthy emotion. Don’t be ashamed of those feelings coming up.
The emotional danger of not doing so is quite dangerous. If you allow somebody “in” during your times of sadness, make sure they are able to “hold that space” for you as I mentioned earlier.
Next, state what your needs are to them. If they communicate that they aren’t able to meet those needs, it does not mean they don’t care or they are a bad person.
It’s just an invitation to let them be “where they are” to do their own healing work on sadness.
For you, it is also an invitation to find somebody who can give you what you need in those moments of sadness.
It may take a few times to find the person who can be there for you with your sadness and that is ok. Remember, most people are not taught how to do this!
Also remember, that if you keep holding in that sadness, the anger will only grow. That, my friends, is a tough life that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
Continuing to carry repressed sadness does serious damage to the mind, body and soul.
We all deserve to live in a world without misplaced anger and more love and compassion for ourselves and one another.
“What brings us to tears, will lead us to grace. Our pain is never wasted.” Bob Goff
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.
Bingo. You’re so right about the sadness and anger being a secondary emotion. Thank you.
Thank you for reading. I hope this post was helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you’re able to continue your healing journey and are creating the life you deserve to live!