It is my opinion, formed on the basis of my experience, that anger is more often a healthy emotion than society permits belief in. I have felt useless anger, such as when I stub my toe on something (bad pain) and the only person I have to blame is myself, so I start yelling at an inanimate object. I have felt a crippling kind of anger, such as when I have been silenced by a lover or family member and did not have the language set to begin expressing what was so upsetting about that experience. I have felt an isolating kind of anger from having my voice and autonomy gradually stripped away from me as an adult, by harmful relationships with other adults, that leave me in resentment of myself for not taking a stand against what hurts me. And I have felt a deep-rooted, fully-formed, righteous anger against the construction of mainstream society and the systemic (often institutionalized) oppressions that operate within it in order to hold up the privileges of the relatively few.
These faces of anger often intersect with one another as well, such as when I experience silencing from someone I thought was my ally, as a result of expressing anger against systemic oppression. Or when someone I thought was my friend says “Holding onto a grudge is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die” or “You’re difficult to deal with even at a distance” when I’ve vocalized my hurt over a dysfunctional relationship.
The fact is that my anger is a very powerful defence mechanism. My anger has kept me alive through some of the most dangerous situations I’ve ever been immersed in. My anger has guided me through the process of working through all of that emotion, while I avoid being in the same vulnerable position again. My anger tells me when I am hurt. It is an indicator of when I have been deeply wronged. It helps me navigate away from toxic relationships and self-endangering situations that, on account of my ongoing struggle with mental illness, I would otherwise be helpless to avoid. It makes a warrior out of me when, without it, I would otherwise just be a victim. My anger is my armour. It helps me learn, very quickly, who I ought to trust and who I ought to avoid putting any further trust in. It fuels my passion for justice, and it amplifies my voice as I express a need to see justice served. It directs me towards allies. My anger helps me heal. It is just as critical an emotion as all the others I feel — of which, I feel just as passionately.
My anger demonstrates to me that I am emotionally present. This is of critical importance, due to my lengthy and horrendous history of trauma, my history as a masochist, and my history of struggling with dissociative identity disorder. Getting angry gave me the strength I needed to walk away for the last time from my primary perpetrators: my biological family. My ability to get and stay angry about how those relationships have impacted me (and programmed me cognitively for future relationships) gives me a voice to advocate for myself in psychotherapy. It’s also given me a voice I never had, prior to the first time I left them all behind: my writing.
When someone actively tries to discourage me from feeling my anger, they are trying to take away my voice, my strength, and my emotional integrity as a person. If you are reading this and are fully able to comprehend what these three things mean to me, you should expect that I react to these threats like a rabid animal at the end of a loaded shotgun. That’s how it feels, and I am fully justified in my experience, given what it has historically cost me to react with any less power. But sometimes (and more often as time goes on), I simply disengage (immediately and permanently) and deal with the impact at a later time. It’s what worked with my parents, my sisters, and my other biological relatives and their respective spouses. And if it worked with them, it’ll work with anyone.
My silence is not a trophy. And it’s not permanent, either.