Depression and Anger

May 22, 2009

“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to WAKE YOU UP!   -Pema

I get many requests for information on the boundless anger which can arise out of midlife crisis.  Here I’ll try to explain further the connection between depression and the rage that often hides beneath it.

Underneath most sadness or depression is an inexhaustible fountain of rage stored up from decades of stuffing most of our feelings.  For women this usually comes from very early training which taught us that being pissed is not lady like.  Nice girls don’t feel and certainly don’t show rage.

For men the same is true, but it is definitely more acceptable for men to show righteous indignation than women.  When men get angry in our society, it is often seen as justified.  When women get angry they are just bitchy.

Most of us become extremely uncomfortable when we feel like our life situation requires some show of anger.  We fear that if we release any of our righteous rage at the circumstances of our life, it will all come roaring out and consume us and everyone around us.

When I was in training to learn how to release my anger in a healthy and controlled way, I would sometimes start hyperventilating at the very thought of really getting angry and expressing myself.  This may come from early learning where any show of anger was punished severely by our parents or others.

Even though most of us don’t have a very positive view of anger, it is actually our best measure of when or whether we are being abused.  Anger comes straight from our own body wisdom and warns us that the situation we face is contentious or perhaps unfair, and we need to react in order to protect ourselves.

Deciding how much anger is required and mediating its release is a method we must learn from carefully studying our own history with depression and anger.  I attended an excellent anger workshop back in the 1980s where I learned all about my own history with anger, and why I felt so uncomfortable accessing and expressing my own anger.  Depression and self-blame is so much more acceptable in our society, especially in women.

But to be healthy human beings we must have access to ALL OF OUR EMOTIONS.  When we are abused or treated unfairly, we must show a strong response to make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior.  Protecting ourselves and our right to be who we are is the beginning of true self-responsibility, self-empowerment and self-respect.

If we cannot access our anger, we also have no access to our joy.