Anger and Silence: You're Probably More Angry Than You Think

Anger is often camouflaged behind kindness. In fact, it's frequently the most welcoming personalities who also have the most problems managing their energy and certain messages that carry emotions. This often ends up doing them a lot of damage. However, action can be taken.
Anger and Silence: You're Probably More Angry Than You Think
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

You often meet sweet, kind, and considerate people. However, hard though it may be to believe, some of them are frustrated and angry inside. As a matter of fact, the friendliest people are often those who don’t know how to manage certain emotions, such as anger. They accumulate their energy and insist on ignoring certain messages, thus preventing them from having any effect.

This psycho-emotional reality in which they choose to swallow and hide their difficult feelings is more common than you probably think. That’s because we all tend to be lacking in education in these matters. It’s almost as if there’s a tacit agreement to deny anger or hide it behind silence.

Messages like “Don’t get angry, you’re being ridiculous” have made us integrate these kinds of narratives into our lives since we were children. It means not getting angry openly, letting things go, and not reacting when we’re hurt by injustice. Nevertheless, silence in the face of what hurts and is unworthy has a cost. Especially if the bad habit continues for years.

Anger is the emotion that generates the greatest physiological activation and that implies changes in our thought processes. Repressing anger and pretending it isn’t there has a considerable cost.

Boy thinking about anger and silence
Training ourselves in the management of negative valence emotions can improve our quality of life.

Anger and silence: the substrate of many psychological discomforts

What do you usually do when you get angry? What strategy do you apply when someone crosses your boundaries and harms or offends you? Do you confront them? Some of us do. In fact, some of us are able to employ adequate coping tools, and a safe, direct, and assertive dialogue.

Others might choose to vent their anger on social media. They write messages on Facebook or Instagram, sharing their experiences and venting their outrage. Others might seek a friend, partner, or family member with whom they can talk about their bad experience.

On the other hand, there are those who choose to stay silent. Not only do they not react to the person who’s hurt them, but for a few hours or even days, they go over what happened, repeatedly turning it over in their mind. In fact, they imagine what they could’ve said or done, but, in reality, do nothing.

For a long time, we’ve been led to believe that some emotions are inappropriate. Anger is one of them. 

Complicated emotions: are they really dangerous?

When we think of emotional states such as anger or rage, we instantly visualize a red emoticon with clenched teeth and smoke coming out of its ears. Our education and culture have given us the idea that emotions with a negative valence are dangerous. Not only do we believe that we shouldn’t express them, but we think we should also move them to the background and completely silence them.

We tend to associate anger with screaming and aggression. Also, with violent behavior. When, in reality, all emotions, including those with a negative valence, fulfill an essential role. In fact, only their mishandling causes problems.  A 2004 study conducted by Berkowitz and Harmon-Jones claimed that nothing is as common as getting angry (at least mildly) several times a week.

What will the consequences be if we choose to permanently swallow every annoyance, indignation, and action that makes us angry? Mazandaran Medical University (Iran) conducted a study that found primary hypertension in a significant number of patients was caused by them continually silencing their anger.

Hypertension is a really common psychosomatic effect among those who show poor emotional regulation.

Anger and silence in women: a cost to their health

If there’s one sector of the population that understands anger and silence, it’s women. Especially if we look back to the generations of our mothers and grandmothers. Because, in those days, if a woman dared to show her frustration and anger at any injustice, she was branded as crazy. Therefore, it was better not to protest, and just to give in and shut up.

Consequently, women have traditionally felt fear of disapproval, ridicule, and rejection for expressing anger. So much so, that we can’t really imagine how angry our grandmothers must’ve been with many of the injustices they experienced on a daily basis. That said, while their insides were seething with indignation, on the outside they were the kindest and most affectionate figures in the world.

As we now know, this type of behavior has a cost to our health. Everything that’s silenced for months and years ends up translating into a loss of physical and mental well-being.

girl suffering anger and silence
Opting for silence and not giving importance to harmful or violent attitudes goes against us.

Training in anger management

Feeling anger doesn’t mean starting a fire. It’s actually the fire alarm, the signal that warns you that something is wrong. It warns you that someone has violated your rights or values and you may end up being hurt.

Anger and silence don’t make a good partnership. That’s because not addressing the signal that your emotion is sending you means you’re acting against yourself.

So what should you do when you feel angry?

1. Understand what your anger wants from you

Anger is the only emotion that invites action and change. This explains the physical tension and the tremendous impact it has on your body. It wants you to act in order to defend yourself or to deal with what’s taking away your well-being. This doesn’t mean that you should be aggressive. Getting carried away by violence in any of its forms is the result of poor management of emotions.

The most appropriate thing is to give yourself some time before acting. Then, you’ll be able to do it in a measured and reasoned way. You might want to write down how you feel. Or, you could take a walk or do some exercise to help release the tension you feel. The goal lies in not acting impulsively but calmly, and when you’ve had time to reflect.

Accumulated anger that isn’t faced ends up changing your character. Direct and assertive communication is your best friend in reducing a negative burden you’ve dragged around for years.

2. Act assertively and confidently

You must act in the face of what snatches away your dignity. You mustn’t hide behind silence and inaction. In fact, you should apply an approach based on assertiveness, negotiation, and setting boundaries. Your feelings of helplessness will be reduced when you respond firmly, making it clear what has hurt you and what you don’t want to happen again.

Finally, it’s true that anger is an intense emotion, but the truth is that it can be controlled. When you do this, when you regulate it and make good use of it, your life will improve.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    • Berkowitz, L., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2004). Toward an understanding of the determinants of anger. Emotion, 4(2), 107.
    • Carver, C. S., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2009). Anger is an approach-related affect: evidence and implications. Psychological bulletin, 135(2), 183.
    • ​Fives, C. J., Kong, G., Fuller, J. R., & DiGiuseppe, R. (2011). Anger, aggression, and irrational beliefs in adolescents. Cognitive therapy and research, 35(3), 199-208.
    • Thomas, S., Smucker, C., & Droppleman, P. (1998). It hurts most around the heart: A phenomenological exploration of women’s anger. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 28(2), 311-322

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.