Anger Turned Inwards


In last night’s session I told T that I had noticed from reading through some of my old blogs that when I have my “bad days”, I tend to be extremely harsh about my weight and my looks. I told her that I always feel “hideous”. I told her that reading through the posts written on days where I was in that dark place, there was a very familiar theme where I pulled myself apart and called myself lots of horrible names.

T said she could tell I was really quite taken aback about this and I told her that I have NEVER been someone who has liked her appearance, particularly my weight but other things too, but that this was shocking because of how extreme the self-hatred was in some of those blogs.

I told her that last Monday’s post (written in the rupture) was particularly awful. I told her that it was the most severe I have felt with regards to the self-hatred. I was trying to get her to understand that it was the closest I have ever come to self-harm. I have never self-harmed in the conventional sense of the word but that day last week I guess the image I had was VERY vivid and the thought did cross my mind. I know I shouldn’t really admit that but I feel it is important at the moment.

I didn’t actually tell T this and I’m not sure that she quite understood what I was trying to say (why would she when I wasn’t actually saying the words).. I was too embarrassed to tell her and thought perhaps I would send her that blog after the session so she could see for herself (but I didn’t/haven’t).

I said to T “I am wondering if on the days where I am really down and crying a lot that I am actually angry?” and she kind of nodded and said “you mean the anger comes out as tears?”. I said to her perhaps yes, but I was thinking more that the anger is turned onto myself in a “I hate my body, I am thick, I am useless” kind of way.

I have thought about this a lot since my session and this is what I’ve come up with.

Many people say that depression is anger turned inwards. My T said this to me years ago and I remember always finding that immensely interesting. I didn’t think it applied to me (I wasn’t depressed OR angry apparently) but here we are. Now, why would you turn your anger onto yourself? For me the reasons are clear: Trying to save others from being on the receiving end of my anger.  Preventing myself from pushing people away and causing them to abandon me.  Being the good girl. Having been taught that I am not allowed to show my anger else I will be punished.. there are probably more reasons than that even.

If I have been too scared of my own anger for all of the reasons above, it makes sense that any angry feelings I had wouldn’t have just miraculously disappeared, so where did it go? Onto myself.

Forms of turning anger inwards for me include the self-hatred as discussed above, reckless spending or perhaps drinking too much, different food habits perhaps not eating enough (starving myself and punishing myself for being “fat) or perhaps eating too much to try to feel better. Withdrawing socially, sleeping too much or not enough and various other things.. which lead me to my next thought:-

On my “bad days” I stay home because I can’t face the world/work/people. I stay home, I draw the curtains and lock the doors, I cry on and off all day, I might sleep a lot or I might not.. it depends but the thing I am focussing on here is that I lock myself away.  Now, when I was young, about 4 probably, my mother and her friend locked me in a room because I was being “a little brat” I was locked in there for a long time, at least a few hours and the memory of it still makes me feel weird.  I banged the door in with a hairbrush over and over again until I fell into a heap on the floor from exhaustion. Nobody came, nobody helped me and it was horrible.  It is a memory I talk about a lot and clearly a memory which has had an impact on me because a few years ago me and my fiancé were having an argument and he left the bedroom in a huff, slamming the door behind him. I FREAKED out at that. I couldn’t bare that door being closed and me being left in it like that. Clearly I now see it was a trigger for me of that horrible memory.

Today I feel I may have joined some dots up..

When I am depressed (read ANGRY), I lock myself away in my room (house). I punish myself for having angry feelings. JUST LIKE SHE DID.

I could be onto something here or I could be way off and being a bit dramatic, but it feels like I might have really understood something that I unconsciously do.

The problem with locking myself away like that is that I become stuck in my depressed, crying state. I am left to almost marinate in my own sadness. The feelings are usually hopelessness, powerlessness and other similar things which would make sense if you think about it because if you are angry with someone else (let’s say my mother in my case) but I am too scared to feel that anger towards her, I decide that I will blame myself for my disappointments and frustrations. I decide that it is all because of me, my shortcomings, my failures, my inabilities…. Because unconsciously I’ve decided, or perhaps learnt, that the alternative is to express my anger outwardly and to lose the love, care and affection of those I depend on. I guess the primitive fear goes back to the fact that without my mother, I would have literally died and so I couldn’t possibly feel the amount of anger I must have had in me to her.

So moving on now that I’ve had this idea, I guess the next step is to try to be honest with myself when I get those feelings and figure out what I am truly angry about. I imagine that won’t be easy giving that I’ve been able to block that out for my entire life to date. If I can pinpoint the real source of that anger and find a way of expressing it more appropriately (not in hurtful ways), perhaps I will disperse the anger quicker and in the process perhaps I won’t hate myself quite as much.

Doing my usual Google search, the suggestions for getting in touch with repressed anger/anger turned inwards are figuring out the following:

  • How often do you feel that way?
  • What type of feelings do you get?
  • What are the warning signs?
  • What triggers it? (i.e. is it a lack of self-control, self-discipline, forgetting something or being selfish or not having the ability to do something you wish you could).

Now I don’t know what to do with my anger, clearly so I need to make it my job to find out how to appropriately do that. Time for more Googling and to buy lots of new books I think!

“The first image that comes up is stripping my clothes off and then slicing the fat off my body.”

“I’ve noticed that my fiancé is the one triggering my angry feelings. Whenever he comes close to me to try and touch me or make a joke it makes me mad. Why?” 

“I feel so stupid.” 

15 thoughts on “Anger Turned Inwards

  1. I got sent to my room but not locked inside. That is just awful. It means you have nowhere to go with the feelings, so of course you turn them in. I beileve suicidal ideation is that kind of pain turned inward (and yes anger), In Jonice Webb’s book on emotional neglect she tells the story of a person who became suicidal after spending a night with friends when she appeared to be happy. Once she got home she started comparing herself with others, but told no one.

    I really relate to this. I have been just horrible to myself, too in the past and I do agree we turn anger inward because we fear the impact on others and this often comes from the fact anger was not allowed to be expressed.

    Thank you for sharing all this. I would like to reblog this post.

    Love Deborah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for your comment and sorry I’ve only just seen it.

      I think you are right, being locked in a room because I was angry clearly taught me that anger was not to be tolerated at all. I guess as a child it taught me that I needed to hold anger inside and like you say, of course you then turn it onto yourself.

      I may order that book, is it helpful?

      Are you getting better at being kinder to yourself now that you understand this?

      Thank you for the re-blog I appreciate that xx


  2. There is a very good book on honouring anger I read a few years ago. Its by Beverly Engel and goes into anger styles. It may be of some help. Another good one is by John Lee and is called The Anger Solution which helps us to do a process when we get angry or sad to see what is being triggered. From what you wrote though you are starting to get a good idea about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Growing up in a household where children’s anger is punished but the parent is allowed to be as angry as they like (often with a side serve of gaslighting denial that they are actually angry) can make anger feel like a big scary all-or-nothing thing that has the potential to destroy everything in its path. I think part of it is that the belief that anger toward others will be met with retaliation of an even higher degree ends up being internalised, so you pre-emptively punish yourself any time you feel anger – and I think this is subtly different from saying that it is anger turned inward. Probably both things are going on at the same time.

    It takes a lot of self-reflection, modelling by other people including your therapist of better ways to deal with anger, and practice, before you can express it in a more constructive way (or at all). Part of that is learning that it is okay to be angry with people who have harmed you and – despite what many people will tell you – to hold onto that anger and not just “let it go” if they refuse to acknowledge, aplogise and make reparation for their actions. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me when I was dealing with some people who criticised me about posts/comments I’d made on blogs and I was worried that my anger and the way I expressed it were inappropriate. And omg is it scary getting angry at your therapist!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes exactly that DV!! My mother used to fly into fits of narcissistic rage whenever she felt like it. She would be like a hurricane with her anger and yet I was not allowed to be angry, ever. I would be sent to my room (or locked in as I was as a young child) or possibly hit etc. You are right, the additional gaslighting tops it all off and makes you mistrust yourself and your feelings and memories.

      When I last got very angry at my mother, some family members said I was like “a loose cannon” and that’s how I see myself I guess.

      My T is convinced I am scared of her retaliating. I’ve actually drafted another blog on that. My fiancé 100% agrees that I am, yet I can’t quite piece them bits together to be able to say, I am scared of retaliation.

      My t said what you just said. That I punish myself before anyone else has/had to…. this is what I’m curious about and wondering if this is why on those days I stay home from work crying is actually because I’m scared what I will do/say if I don’t hide myself away?

      I certainly need to understand and accept deeply that anger is allowed. I need to give myself permission to have angry feelings and to find ways to healthily express anger because clearly I don’t know how! I’m hoping I can learn this from books or T.

      YES! Being angry with T was horrendous for me. I genuinely felt like I would never trust anyone ever again! X

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I grew up in an environment where it was never okay to be angry or show much emotion because both parents were so volatile especially with anger. In my teens I began to self harm as a way to control my anger, then as a way to control my sadness and then it just became a coping mechanism I used to control most all “bad feelings or experiences.” That went on for 15 years. Some positive ways I’ve found to cope are: blogging out my feelings, talking to a trusted friend (or texting them), letting myself cry, baking, watching something funny on netflix, or going for a walk. It takes a while to break habits but it’s totally possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, thanks for your comment.

      I’m sad to read your experience growing up. I can totally understand what lead you to self harm, it’s truly so sad that you had to do that to cope because of your parent’s failure to tolerate your anger appropriately. I hope that you are getting the help you need now to find better coping strategies that don’t hurt you?

      I also find blogging my feelings helps, a lot! And walking or exercise and baths and baking. I also let myself cry sometimes in the hope I “get it out of my system” but what I want to try and change is the days where I shut myself away and cry all day long, I need those days to get better x


  5. I can relate to this so much. I know I have so much internalized anger…it is so very deep. I even try to provoke myself just to get something moving but when it’s self loathing it does the opposite effect I think. I am my biggest critic. And I hate that. My anger was never allowed to come out. I was immediately shut down and told my words had no place. It was awful. It’s awful too when you do express righteous anger and are told you are overreacting or your anger is completely ignored or ridiculed and shamed. It leaves you feeling so empty and dead. I need to read about anger as well. I’m so sorry you struggle with this too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow really? Well the fact you can even acknowledge that you have the anger is a great starting point right? I am my own biggest critic too, it’s natural to me! I’ve just downloaded a book called “honour your anger” it talks about people like us who repress our anger and talks about why and how to deal with our anger more effectively. Perhaps give that a read? Xx

      Liked by 1 person

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