Resolving the Carried Anger That Fuels Your Bleep (Part I)

“Honest to God.” His pause was filled with palpable jovial-mocking angst as he blurted, “I never knew every cell in my body was oozing carried anger!”

His wife laughed and challenged him: “Oozing?! You DO mean exploding with carried anger, right?!”

We all laughed because we were on the other side of the valley of carried anger!

“I see now why you told my wife that anger management was not the solution to my problem. How on earth can anyone manage their exploding carried anger that’s pouring out of every cell in your body?” my client asked.

Although I knew it was a rhetorical question, I answered anyway.

“You can’t,” I proclaimed with a smile. “Neither can anyone else.”

What is carried anger? It’s anger that does not belong to you.

That comes from 1, 2, or 3 of the following things/places/people.

  • A parent or significant caregiver who was out of control with their anger.
  • A parent or significant caregiver who was in denial of their anger.
  • A home environment saturated in anger.

Most people (trust me please…you’re not alone and we can fix this) have a difficult time owning their anger and the impact it has.

Not because they’re bad people, but usually for one of these reasons.

  • They think their anger is normal and everyone else is too sensitive. 
  • They know their anger hurts others, and they don’t know how to stop it, so it’s easier to deny it.
  • Their definition of anger is different than everyone else’s, and of course there’s only one correct definition … their own!
  • Their self-esteem/self-confidence is so low, that they can’t bear any shame that they believe would drown them if they owned it.
  • They’re too prideful to see the truth about themselves.
  • They don’t believe it can ever change, and they simply cannot bear to be a failure if they owned it as a problem (in their minds, it’s just too hard).
  • They grew up immersed in anger and believe it’s ‘normal’.

Carried anger is a problem because it is not a gift.

Anger was meant to be a gift. The gifts of anger are power, strength, and motivation. But when one has the curse instead of the gift, it pops out wherever, whenever, on whoever. It never builds. It never bounds. It never bothers to understand. Only to be understood which means (as my friend in AA shares) …

“When you’re pissed off you have the attention span of a herd of cats….so press pause…always press pause…and let acceptance and gratefulness take hold…the perfect formula that’ll shut your *’ing mouth.”

What are some of the symptoms of people with carried anger?

  • They appear angry, even when they say positive things.
  • Their anger is often out of proportion to the event or stimulus.
  • They feel misunderstood.
  • They believe no one “gets” them.
  • They are poor listeners.
  • They are very reactive.
  • They have a difficult time receiving any feedback unless it’s positive.
  • They’ll defend their anger and call it anything but anger (which is why I refer to it as BLEEP, it appears to be more palatable).
  • They’ve tried anger management without success.
  • They continually sigh and moan.
  • They swear and/or use many explicative words. 
  • They’re often unpleasant to be around.
  • They’re forceful with their opinions.
  • They’ll argue themselves to be “right,” even if it doesn’t matter.
  • They often take the inventory of other people and are blind to their own inventory (that often desperately needs to be noted by them).

Commonly, if someone has 5 or more of these, they’re struggling with carried anger. 

When I began working with my client on his carried anger, his first response was… “So, it’s not even my fault!? It’s something I carry from someone else, or from my childhood home? And I’m the one who must do the work?”

He was exactly right. It wasn’t his fault. However, after I affirmed him, he did not care for the next statement: “But now that you know…it’s your responsibility from here on out!”

He nodded and walked through all of the following 3 steps with me to drain the tank of the carried anger living in every cell in his body.  

I hope you’ll jump in and join us to do the same in your life.

There are just 3 parts to this.

  • Be vulnerable enough to examine your carried anger. Do a thorough inventory. Identify what it looks like. Own it. How it’s impacted others you love.
  • Make a decision to give it back, then deliver it back … COD and make some powerful new decisions.
  • Fill every cell in your body with grace, love, and the good things of your choice.

This is such an important thing to do that we will take the first point this week, and the other two in the next two weeks.

Doing so will drain your fuel tank for your BLEEP.

You deserve it my friend.

As do those who love you! 

1. Be vulnerable enough to examine your carried anger.

After explaining to my client what carried anger was and having him take the assessment (which, at first he had only checked one). But after a little talk and a bit of vulnerability and honesty on his part … he checked all!

“It’s just so hard to have to look at all of this,” He moaned aloud as I chimed right in!

“I’m with you on that my friend! But together, we can do this. Vulnerability is not an easy thing, particularly for those who have struggled with shame.”

I shared with him what my dear friend and colleague, Clay Arnold, master life coach and brain health coach says:

“In God’s economy vulnerability is strength. People never clear their issues unless they’re willing to be vulnerable and own their stuff. In relationships to be vulnerable … and own what THEY are doing to contribute to the issues.”

“Ouch!” My client responded. “Isn’t vulnerability an estrogen thing?”

I’m sure my expression made him wonder if he was about to be voted off the island.

But calmly, I pulled a book from my shelf, and said, “Let’s see what the expert researcher on vulnerability, Dr. Brene’ Brown has to say about it.

“Vulnerability is not weakness. And the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

He responded carefully: “So are you saying that I am afraid and disconnected … and that I lack the courage to do this?”

I held eye contact with him in silence for a moment before responding, “It sounds like you have made your conclusions. Are they accurate?”

He nodded affirmatively.

I leaned in and asked softly, “What are you afraid of?”

He glanced at his wife, then back at me … “I guess that when I say it, she will see me and my ‘stuff’ even more clearly, and leave me. Or see me as a weak specimen of a man…”

I looked back down at Brene’s book and continued reading:

“Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And, yes, we’re taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there’s no equation where there’s taking risks, braving uncertainty, and that opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness.”

After a pregnant pause, that felt longer than 9 months, he finally looked up, with a bit of a quiver in his chin, looked at me, then at his wife, and whispered from deep within.

“I carry anger. Lots of it! It comes out everywhere. Unpredictably! It has almost destroyed our marriage. And it’s destroying me.”

That, my friend, was one of the most vulnerable admissions I’ve heard in the course of my practice working with carried anger. 

What about you?

  • Are you able to be vulnerable enough?
  • To make your statement?
  • To someone you know who cares about you?
  • And will support you on your journey?

My client looked totally relieved once he was vulnerable enough to admit his carried anger. You will be too!

2. Do a thorough inventory.

Identify what your carried anger looks like.

And own it.

Why is this important?

It’s important for your health. Not to mention, the damage and destruction to relationships.

What does research show about your carried anger and your health?

  • After even a small display of anger, you are at double the normal risk of a heart attack for at least 2 hours.
  • You are at twice the risk of heart disease as time goes on.
  • After having or experiencing a bout of anger, your immune system takes a serious 6-hour dip.
  • After having or experiencing a bout of anger, research finds it seriously exacerbates depression and/or anxiety
  • Reduces lung capacity and increases risk of respiratory problems
  • Can significantly reduce life span
  • Significantly increases risk of addiction

“I know you don’t want that for you, your wife, or your family!” I said to my client.

“No, I really don’t,” he said in sincerity. Then paused …

“But this could take years,” my client moaned. “And she’ll be gone by then. I know that for sure!”

I assured him, “You don’t have to look at every moment of your life. But when you can answer the following questions. And own them to be true. You’ll feel a real shift in how you feel about your carried anger. It will no longer be something you can or are willing to deny, defend, or accept. Because? It’s not congruent with who you were created to be.”

We began with the questions. (I hope you’ll pause and answer each question as well).

  • How does your family know when your carried anger is erupting?

He had appropriate shame in the tone of his voice, as well as on his face. “I’m sure because I get louder. Harsher. My tone is threatening. I say mean things. I’m sure they’re all scared to death…I’m unpredictable.”

  • How do they respond?

“They freeze, they comply, they shrink, and wait for a moment to escape.”

  • How do you feel when you have conquered them with your anger?

“I guess like I ‘won’ at first. Then I remember their expressions, their body language, their tears.” He took a long pause then said, “I feel like sh*t! I tell myself I will NEVER do that again…and I mean/meant it. But it never…never happens,” he said dropping his head.

  • In your conquest of their minds, their hearts, their thoughts, their desires, what do you gain?

I waited during an even longer pause. “Nothing! Other than putting them in their place and showing them who’s in charge. How sick is that?” he asked with a look of despair.

  • Lastly, what do they gain?

His expression and the contraction of his shoulders moving downward looked as if he had been hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. Without a single sound, with his head hung low, his shoulders and back began to heave in silent sobs. Finally… “Not a thing. Not a d*mn thing.”

I knew enough to know what it looked like.

I knew he was ready to own it.

I hope you’ll take the time to journal your answers to all 5 questions. If you live alone, perhaps you’ll answer about coworkers, extended family, or neighbors. Whoever’s been exposed to your carried anger.  

You can do this! And it’ll set you up for a home run in step 2 next week!

Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Understand and empathize about how it’s impacted others you love.

Rarely is anyone able to do good carried feeling resolution work until they’re aware just how it’s impacted those they love.

I asked him. “How do you think your carried anger has impacted your wife?”

Preparing himself for the guillotine, he suggested that I ask his wife.

I responded: “I’m sure she would love to participate in this exercise. But this is for you, my friend.”

Disappointed, he began the list.

  • She walks on eggshells 
  • When I’m angry, she tiptoes through the house, hoping I won’t attack.
  • She never knows what to expect.
  • I say devastating things to her, taking her inventory, when I can’t even manage my own stuff.
  • Some nights I can tell she’s crying herself to sleep.
  • She’s afraid to talk to me about some things.
  • She’s lost her self-confidence.
  • She told me recently that she was a shell of the person she was when she met me.

With that, he dropped his face into his hands, and I could see from the silent sobs that his heart was broken. 

Although, I would’ve liked to have given him mercy and stopped there after validating him and appreciating his vulnerability, I asked him to continue.

“What about your kids?”

As if he’d just seen a horror movie he gasped.

“No! Please, no! Do I really…have to go there?” 

I nodded, leaned toward him within an assuring presence and waited.

  • “Well, they don’t come to me when they have problems. They cut their visits short when they see I’m angry.
  • Sometimes I drink to calm myself down, but then they’re embarrassed about that.
  • They say I am unpredictable, so they don’t really know when to come around.
  • They check with my wife to see what mood I’m in before coming by.”

The tears told me that he was deeply troubled by the result of his carried anger.

I leaned toward him and said to him, “This can all change you know? 

He looked at me wistfully and said, “I’d like to believe that, but I’ve already tried everything I know and nothing changes.”

“But you haven’t tried this, you haven’t tried to dump the carried anger, have you?” I asked. “We will get this done!”

What about you, my friend, how has your carried anger affected the people you love? Your spouse, your kids, your colleagues, your extended family, your neighbors?

I’m often asked, “How will I know when I’ve made note of enough of my anger’s impact?”

My response is always the same. “When a herd of elephants could not hold down your remorse. When a team of wild horses could not keep you from working through your carried anger. When the swampish quicksand of shame could not keep you from making it right!”

Make note of your impact on the people you love and those who love you my friend.

For a moment, you might feel like a zero. But in their eyes, you’ll be a hero!

When you complete this exercise, you will know the true meaning of vulnerability. Or the true power of vulnerability. It’s the only means of true and deep connection to others.

Is it difficult? If you did these steps whole heartedly and vulnerably…it is indeed difficult. It may’ve even felt brutal at moments.

Dr. Brene Brown felt this way when her research to deny the importance of vulnerability led her to the power and gift of vulnerability.

“When I first realized and resented the importance of embracing vulnerability and living a wholehearted life, I would tell people that I was hijacked by my own data. Now, I know that I was rescued by it.”

Don’t allow your BLEEP, fueled by carried anger, to hijack your life for one more second…let it rescue you!

The reward of deep connection will be the sunshine that will bring true life to you.

Abundant life!