In prior blogs I have discussed two of the faces of anger. Today I will cover the third one, passive anger. People who express their anger passively usually direct it toward themselves. They tend to blame themselves when things don’t go right or when they are in conflict with others. They think very poorly of themselves and have almost no ability to see their positive attributes. Hence if there is any kind of breakdown, they have no confidence in their ability to impact the situation. Feeling helpless, incompetent and frustrated, they take their anger out on themselves in various ways. They may intentionally hit themselves, punch a wall, or destroy something that is important to them. On a more subtle level, they may bite their nails to the point of bleeding, overeat to the point of obesity or abuse drugs and alcohol.
Individuals who express their anger this way were most likely born rather emotionally fragile. They needed a lot of support and encouragement when they were young and most likely were very hurt by their parents’ disapproval and criticism. Unable to fend for themselves, they internalized those criticisms and grew up reinforcing this pattern in their lives. Consequently they are still operating with that level of fragility and deference.
If you recognize yourself as someone who operates from this anger style or has some of its features, it is critical that you build your self esteem so that you can begin to take care of yourself. The only way to diminish the anger you have toward yourself is to recognize that you are stronger and more capable than you think you are. That is very hard for you to do because you have been operating from a sense of powerlessness and inadequacy. It would be best for you to seek either professional help or help from someone you feel close to and trust.
In the meantime, I would suggest that you get in touch with all the things you can do well. Take the time to write down all of your positive attributes and your strengths. For example, you may be a good listener and people may come to you for advice. You may be a generous and compassionate person and find yourself helping people or working with charities. If you can’t come up with several things then ask people around you to tell you what they think you excel in.
Then I would ask you to begin to speak up when in a discussion or an argument, and get a feel for how you can and do make an impact. Start with minor issues like giving your opinion about a movie you liked that someone else didn’t, or some other benign issue. Let yourself hear your voice and see that nothing terrible happens. On the contrary, you will begin to see that you are smarter and stronger than you think.
You may want to take on a task that you have been meaning to do forever, like organizing your paperwork or exercising. Start small and slow so that you can succeed. If you stick to something you commit yourself to doing, you will definitely succeed.
Building on these behaviors, and slowly changing your perception about yourself will help you redirect your internal anger toward something positive and constructive. In time you will rewire yourself to be less angry and more confident and creative.
Please start soon, the world needs your gifts.