Do You Feel Guilty About Being Angry With Your Parents?

I grew up in a family where emotions weren't expressed cleanly; especially challenging emotions like anger. Everyone feels angry from time to time, but growing up I got the sense that there was something wrong with this basic human emotion because nobody talked about it. My parents never seemed to say directly that they felt angry; but it was obvious when they were and their anger came out in ways that I found very frightening and destructive. [caption id="attachment_2943" align="alignright" width="300"]It's OK To Be Angry With Your Parents It's OK To Be Angry With Your Parents[/caption]

Everyone around me seemed ashamed of their anger. Over time, I learned to feel ashamed of my anger too. I denied, suppressed and internalized it as though I was doing something righteous and noble. But the repressed rage built up inside me until eventually as an adult I developed overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even a physical illness.

This forced me to wise up and realize that there was nothing noble about denying my anger. But with poor role models for expressing anger constructively in my family of origin and in society at large, who was I to turn to for help?

My answer came in the form of enlightened therapists who understood that anger is a perfectly normal emotion whose purpose is to motivate us when our needs aren't getting met. A powerful energy that needs to be channeled and expressed constructively; not internalized, denied, suppressed or misdirected.


By Graham Stoney, ago

How To Turn Your Anger Into Assertiveness

I've noticed a consistent pattern among myself and my coaching clients: we all have a history of not standing up for ourselves when other people behave in ways that we don't feel good to us. Most of us had parents who weren't willing or able to teach us how to deal with our emotions, to self-soothe our nervous system when we were in distress, or to stand up for ourselves when our emotional or physical boundaries were being violated. Often the person we most needed to stand up to was one or both of our parents themselves, and that rarely goes well when you're a distressed child trying to stand up to an adult who is being unreasonable because their wounded inner child is running the show. [caption id="attachment_2812" align="alignright" width="300"]Turn Your Anger Into Assertiveness Turn Your Anger Into Assertiveness[/caption] All of this is a recipe for ever-increasing anger, resentment and frustration. We end up overcompensating in a desperate attempt to get our needs met. Internalise that toxic cocktail and it's no wonder we end up anxious, depressed and lacking self-confidence. Behavior patterns learned as a child tend to stick even if they never really worked well, and coping strategies learned as a child rarely work well in the adult world. If nobody shows us a better way, we tend to continue behaving in ways that increase our internal store of resentment and frustration long into adulthood with no way of releasing the emotional pressure cooker. After a while we end up bitter and resentful towards a hostile world that just won't seem to give us what we need or want. (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago

How To Recover From Childhood Bullying

I was bullied mercilessly at my all boys high school. Turning up to Year 8 English class was a routine nightmare: Often one boy in the class would stake out the door waiting for the teacher while another group would hoist me up on top of a high cupboard against my will. As the teacher arrived, the scout at the door would give the signal for everyone to return to their desks so that at the precise moment that the teacher walked into the room everything looked normal in the class; except that Graham was up on top of the cupboard. The teacher was too stupid to work out what was going on, and I'd end up getting sent to the principal for more even punishment. Childhood bullying is insidious because it can leave long-lasting scars on your mental psyche. This is a critical time of development of our brains, and if your experience of childhood or adolescence is one of powerlessness and victimization, it can program deep unconscious patterns into our minds that set us up for debilitating anxiety and depression later in life. [caption id="attachment_2793" align="alignnone" width="640"]Childhood bullying can affect you long into your adult life. Childhood bullying can leave mental scars that affect you long into your adult life.[/caption] Fortunately though we can recover. There's enough neural plasticity in our brains to undo the damage that bullying does, provided we're willing to face the emotions that we were forced to suppress when the bullying occurred. Here's how to recover from childhood bullying: (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago

How To Overcome The Fear Of Conflict

I developed an intense fear of conflict when I was young, and it has hung around with me for a long time. The fear evolved as a series of things led to each other: I used to find the fights between my parents very frightening as a kid, and never experienced any of their conflicts actually being resolved. Conflict was scary, and never seemed to have a positive outcome. My parent's anger during conflict always felt out of control and destructive to me, so I decided that anger was a bad emotion to be suppressed at all costs. Plus my religion taught me to “turn the other cheek” rather than to stand up for myself when I was being treated in ways that I didn't like. As an awkward, sensitive boy I was bullied mercilessly at my sport-oriented all-boys high school. [caption id="attachment_2767" align="alignright" width="300"]When we are afraid of conflict, other people can treat us like this. When we are afraid of conflict, other people can treat us like this.[/caption] So the message I internalised was that conflict was scary and often led to me getting hurt. I developed an intense fear of conflict: Any time I was under threat or being criticised, I would collapse into sadness or be overwhelmed with fear. I didn't know how to utilise my anger to stand up for myself in times of conflict, nor had I been taught the communication skills to resolve conflict in a win/win manner that left me feeling empowered. Once we've internalised negative experiences of conflict in our nervous systems, our default programming around conflict can be to run away from it, and it can be a challenge to reprogram our brain and nervous system to step up in the face of conflict, instead of fleeing from it. Standing up for ourselves in the face of conflict is how we overcome the fear of it. (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago

How To Deal With Angry Women

I get my fair share of hate mail on the Internet, which I find unpleasant but not entirely surprising. Many people aren't good at expressing their anger cleanly, and some of them choose to channel it into hate mail directed at me. Being on the receiving end of somebody else's hostility can be stressful, so it's important to be assertive with these people to stop their stress from entering our emotional boundary. [caption id="attachment_2716" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Use assertiveness to stop other people's anger entering your emotional boundary. Use assertiveness to stop other people's anger entering your emotional boundary.[/caption] He's an example from a few weeks ago: I got an email from a female ex-friend who I initially met through a blog I run, which began: (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago

Getting Angry With My Father

I've spent the last few years working hard on connecting more deeply with my father, motivated by a few reasons: For one, I felt I was missing something in my own sense of self; a connection to my own masculinity that would normally comes from a boy's father. I also found myself feeling a profound sense of grief and loss towards my father, which seemed particularly odd given that he's still very much alive and kicking. And then other men I've talked to whose father's had died have often told me how much they regret not connecting on a deeper level and getting the chance to ask questions they'd long for an answer to, while he was still alive.

Being Angry With Our Father Can Be Challenging

Frankly, it hasn't been an easy process. My experience of my father is that he talks about his experiences in excruciating detail that is totally devoid of emotional content. This often leaves me switching off and ending up feeling isolated, lonely and depressed in his presence. He says things that just aren't very interesting and appears to show no regard for whether his listener finds the conversation engaging or not. When he tells me about visiting a relative or going to a concert, I'm likely to hear more about the parking and travel arrangements than whether he enjoyed the actual event itself.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago