May 3, 2021

Understanding How To Use Anger As A Trauma Survivor

In this episode, I talk about how to deal with anger as an adult survivor of CPTSD and Trauma.
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In this episode, I talk about how to deal with anger as an adult survivor of CPTSD and Trauma.

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Read my book Think Unbroken for FREE at traumahealingbook.com

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Transcript

Hey, what's up, my friends. I’m Michael Anthony, author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma. You're listening to or watching the Michael Unbroken Podcast. 

Today, I'm going to discuss how to deal with anger about your past.

I probably understand anger better than most people. But here’s what's fascinating about it. We have been told for far too long that it's not okay to be angry. Well, here's the problem with that, if you can't understand the anger, how could you ever understand the full scope of your emotions? 

People get so stuck with anger because it feels unfamiliar, which is fair because we've always been told, “Don't cry. if you cry, I'll hit you harder.” or “Don't get upset, figure it out.”

You can think of a million instances in your life when you've been angry or upset, and then somebody came along and said, “Hey, you're not allowed to be that way.”, “You're not allowed to be angry.” or “You're not allowed to ever show your emotions.”  

Now that's paid tremendous dividends in your ability not to process or be an emotional human being. Thus, leading to a place where you're questioning whether it's even okay to be angry about the things that have happened to you in your life. The answer is yes. It is okay. In fact, I would argue that you should be. You should be incredibly fucking mad about the fact that really dark and ugly things have happened. 

If you're listening to this podcast, for now, you're listening to me. If you're on the part of the think unbroken nation, I'm sorry. The truth is you probably been through some dark shit, and it's fucking unfair. 

When dealing with and talking about that anger, look, I think realistically, you need to understand a couple of things. One, anger can be super destructive. I've talked about anger on this podcast before, but I promised someone I would record this episode. And so I'm going to, kind of, keep this general. But at the same time, if you want a deeper dive into it. 

I've talked about anger before. The reality is you should be angry. I'm angry all the fucking time. I really am, but not in a destructive way. It’s not like tearing down the world kind of way, but yeah, I'm pretty pissed off. I'm upset. I’m mad that all these things have happened. 

And you deserve to be mad. You deserve it. You deserve to be pissed off. You deserve to be upset. You deserve to be angry. But more importantly, you deserve to use that anger to bring something good into your life because it's really easy to get caught up in anger and let it be this destructive thing that destroys everything about your life, right? 

We see this happen all the time in volatile relationships. You get fired from your job because of your attitude. You flipped the guy the finger at this traffic light. 

Let me ask you a question. When have you ever flipped off someone who just cut you off as you're walking next to them on the street? You've never done that, yet we find that in a car. And maybe that might be a social construct that we've created. But to be angry in a death machine? Like, you really need to think about what's happening in your life. Like, it's not that big of a deal. 

So, what are you using with anger? Like, what is its stimulus? Where does anger play a role in your life for its betterment? Because for me, I look at anger, and it's just a great point of measurement for whether or not I'm going to keep going. 

When it's seven o'clock at night on a Monday and I've been working since 6:30 a.m., but I still need to record a podcast, and I still need to do more work, and I still need to keep going. I get in this place where it's not about taking a break or anything like that because my day is structured. So, I’m good. But at some point, when I'm tired, when it's nine o'clock at night, and I just want to go chill and watch TV, and I ask myself, why? Why can't I use that anger in me to fire me up enough to push me into what's next—to the next threshold? 

If you're not fucking angry enough to create change, which is the point in what I'm trying to make. I do this because I'm trying to create change. You know my ultimate goal is getting to the point that we can end generational trauma. I have to use and leverage that anger that I have in me to push me through as a catapult and a catalyst to launch me into what's next in these times where I want to quit. 

Now that's very different from self-care, when I'm tired and need a break. Like I did the other day, I just fucking chilled for, like, 4 hours and watched a documentary. That is what I'm talking about. In those moments, you need to take a break. Take a break. I'll never argue that with anyone ever. But if you're procrastinating, use anger. 

Now, I want to get back on topic here. Sorry. I can get really swayed when I'm talking about anger because I think it's an important tool. But how do you really deal with anger when it comes to understanding the experiences and the events of your past? 

The answer is simple. Allow it to exist.

Now, again—look, let's be very clear—if you're just stepping into this journey, if you are trying to find solutions for your past in books and podcasts, it's not going to be enough. Nothing that I wrote in Think Unbroken and nothing in this podcast will get you over the hurdle of the emotional work you're going to need to do. 

You may need to go speak with a therapist. You may need to go to group therapy. You may need to go to a retreat. So, you may need a coach like me. You know, I talk to my clients all the time in our one-on-one coaching about anger because it's a part of life. And what we do with it and why—more so—we deserve to be angry. Truth be told, you should be angry. You should be angry, and you deserve to be angry. And more importantly, it's okay to be angry. 

Now, that doesn't mean you lash out at your family. That doesn’t mean you lash out at your partners, or your children, or the guy on the street. That's problematic, right? So, many of us now—look, there's learned behavior and anger too because many of us come from traumatic backgrounds in which anger and violence is the form of communication. Thus, we learn and understand that that is how we communicate in the world, and in turn, that's how we communicate in the world. That's not productive. 

In fact, it's counterproductive because—I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever accomplished—actually, I know I've never accomplished anything in my entire life yelling at someone. That’s never happened. It doesn't work because we're human beings who want to be treated kind and with kindness, right? 

So now, you're starting to move through, evaluate, understand the role that anger plays in your life. Like what is it that you want anger to do in your life?—No, I'm serious—ask yourself a question. What is the role that you want anger to play in your life? Where does anger make your life better? Do you want to be angry in a healthy way or want to be angry in the self-destructive-standing-in-front-of-your-own-house-with-a-can-of-gas-and-a-lighter kind of way? Because it's really easy to get to that place. That's why we say therapy is such a must when working through the emotional impact of traumatic experiences and because you do have the ability. 

Look, if you're struggling with trying to figure out the role that anger plays in your life, then that means you are very likely struggling with all the other emotions of your life—happiness, sadness, grief, love, all of the whole list. I mean, they go on, and on, and on, right? How can you possibly be jubilant about life if you are so swollen all the time because you're angry about shit that happens, or worse—here's the harder part—where you just don't feel any of the range of emotions at all. While you can—and this was my experience, like realistically, it was a period of time in my life where I thought I was a sociopath. 

When I was in my early 20s, I thought that I was a sociopath. I had zero—like zero—emotional capacity. I did not recognize any of the emotional impact that I was having on other people, or the emotional impact other people should have been having on me because I learned to turn off my emotions. So many people—so many trauma survivors—do. I learned to turn off my emotions, became a survival mechanism, and then that became a hindrance. 

So here's the thing. Here's a question I would ask you about what I think is really important. Like are you really feeling anger or are you contextualizing it in a way that you think you understand what anger is? Because it's a very big difference. 

You know, I used to get angry to the point where I would go, and I would sit in my journal after some of these therapy sessions, and I would just write with tears—like, I could just feel my fist clenched up, and just. like, all of this stuff wants to get out of me, right? And then, I would end up feeling those same emotions for joy and happiness. 

I'll never forget the first time I happy cried—you know what I mean?—Because I gave myself permission to feel the entirety of the human experience. 

Look, ultimately, there is a place for anger in this. The way that you use it is going to determine a lot about what's next in your life though. And if you're in this place where anger is a catalyst for destruction, you really need to hit the pause button, and go and speak to the people who can help you navigate that. I mean, as a coach, I have exercises that I put my clients through. But realistically, those exercises don't matter if you have an established emotional connection to the emotion. And that comes from my experience—that's only come through therapy. That's what I needed. I needed that place where I could go in, and within a safe structure, talk about and feel the emotional experiences that I had. 

So what? It's really easy to be dismissive of anger, and say, “Oh you're just mad. Get over it.”. To be honest, to be totally fucking frank with you, I'm never gonna get over it. I'm never getting over the fact that we're sitting here right now, having this conversation because the people who are supposed to take care of us didn't. But I'm also not going to use that as a scapegoat for why my life cannot be amazing. 

We have to understand, we still have immense potential. If you're listening to this right now, everything in your life can be different as soon as you make a choice for it. 

Now, don't let anger be the deciding factor in whether or not you find success in your life. Use it, learn it, understand it, embrace it, let it guide you. Learn it because when you do, the other emotions, they will take shape too. You will become closer to you, to who it is that you are, to your emotional capacity. And ultimately, you will form who you are in a greater way because now, you've put yourself in a position to the depths of who you are. 

Many of us try to remove anger from the equation. I don't get mad. I'm robotic. That shit doesn't work. If you're not getting mad, if you're listening to this, you know, like, “I never get mad.” You’re the first person who needs to go to therapy—because that was me. Like, I'm laughing, but it's so true.

If you're the person who's listening right now, and you're like, “I don't need therapy, I don't need to go. My anger is fine.” No. You're probably the dude flipping the bird driving your car up on the sidewalk being a psychopath. Right? That was me for a long time—just not even close to having an emotional connection capacity to feel that thing for a very long time. 

So, look, here's the thing, at the end of the day, the number one thing you can do is identify these emotions, the role that they play in your life, how you can leverage them instead of them leveraging you because emotions are going to come. Can you step into happiness? Can you step into the sadness? Can you step into the fear? Can you step into the guilt, the love, the joy, the lust? Whatever that emotion is, can you step into it in a healthy way so that you understand it, so that you feel it, and so you can be present with it. 

Don't shy from anger. That's probably one of the worst things that you can do. One of the worst things you can do, from my personal experience, is hiding from anger because eventually, it will find you. 

My friend, thank you so much for hanging out with me and listening. I hope that you found a ton of value here today. If you did, please do me a favor—like, comment, subscribe, leave a review.

Until next time my friend...

Be Unbroken,

-Michael

 

Michael Unbroken

Coach

Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.