The Different Faces of Anger
When James Watt, who invented the first practical steam engine, was a young boy, he took a tea-kettle, filled it with water, plugged all the openings, and tied on the lid. Then he put it on the fire. Of course as it got hotter and hotter the steam pressure rose and the tea-kettle finally exploded. This is exactly what happened to me. I was the tea-kettle, meditating on my cushions with all my feelings stuffed down and corked up, and after a few months of bubbling away in blissful heightened states, my anger, hatred, and fear came to the surface and I finally exploded. I couldn’t keep down my toxins any longer.
In the field of anger management there are traditionally two models of how we as human beings contain anger. There are the bottlers, who do ‘in’ anger, and the volcanoes, who do ‘out’ anger. I was a bottler, pushing everything down and screwing the lid on tight, in the hope that even the strength of twenty elephants wouldn’t be able to unscrew it. I didn’t disclose my past to anybody until I was in my late twenties; in fact, people assumed I came from a privileged background. I was successful at presenting a front that I had nothing at all to be angry about.
Are you a bottler? You might be a bottler if you act out one or more of the following.
drink, smoke, use recreational drugs
not eat, overeat, eat compulsively, binge, or purge
often use antidepressants, sleeping pills, painkillers
fall asleep, get headaches or migraines
take it out on the wrong person
scratch, cut, or burn yourself
take it out on yourself
Bottlers are people who hold their anger in, travel with it, go to bed and wake up with it. Their anger has become a piece of rotten luggage in their hearts, weighing down on them, causing their shoulders to sag. Many people who bottle their anger will say, ‘I’m not angry. What are you talking about? I never get angry.’ Some of these people never actually pop the cork of their bottle; instead they become depressed, perhaps using food, alcohol, or work to help stuff back down the discomfort in their hearts. Eventually, some of these people become like the tea-kettle, exploding when the pressure finally becomes too much. Bottlers often see anger, when it finally pops out, as something separate from them. It is as if some living being has jumped inside them and made them angry.
‘I don’t know what came over me,’ ‘I can’t believe I got so angry. It’s just not like me,’ ‘I only get angry when I’ve been drinking,’ ‘I’m not angry, you’re the one with all the anger, it’s your issue, not mine.’ These are some of the statements bottlers will come out with.
Some bottlers are so expert at swallowing, repressing, and suppressing their feelings that they believe they never get angry. But they are always at risk of erupting into a fit of rage. Some bottlers put their anger on ice, and become completely detached from their feelings. They have convinced themselves that anger is something that is not part of their lives.
Bottled-up anger is highly toxic and can become depressive, as well as explosive, and eventually cause ill health. Ailments like boils, constipation, migraines, and tension that causes backache or slipped discs, can all be associated with the bottler.
Are you a walking volcano? You may be a volcano if you act out one or more of the following.
channel anger outside yourself
criticize, or put people down
deliberately wind others up
be aggressive, threaten, argue, shout
stamp your feet
pull your hair out
push and shove
get into fights
Volcanoes walk around with anger bubbling away in their stomachs. Their responses are like reflex emotions. Do you remember when we were children and the doctor tested our reflexes by tapping a hammer on our knees, and our legs would automatically fly up? This is what often happens to those of us who walk around like murmuring volcanoes: somebody says the wrong thing, and we fly off the handle.
These are the people we feel we have to tiptoe around, through fear we will provoke their anger. They always want their own way, but they don’t own their anger and, like the bottler, they claim they don’t have a problem; it’s everyone else who has a problem. Volcanoes walk out of meetings, slam doors, lash out, bang things about, smash things, use harsh language, and are often unable to listen to anyone else’s point of view. Alternatively, these people can be extremely cold in their communication whilst seething deep down inside.
These people are sometimes called exploders, because their angry responses to situations are immediate, as if they are vomiting all their anger out of their hearts. But the toxic residue of anger still swirls around inside them, lying dormant until the next thing comes along to trigger an explosion.
Ailments associated with this type of anger include insomnia, addiction, back ache, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Of course, we can oscillate between the two types of anger and have all the ailments too. What didn’t upset us yesterday upsets us today. Conventionally, women tend to be bottlers, and men volcanoes. Women are perceived to do ‘in’ anger, holding on to it, taking antidepressants, and becoming more depressed. Men are perceived to do ‘out’ anger, going down the pub, getting drunk, and causing criminal or physical damage. As children, young girls are often told not be angry, and boys are encouraged not to cry. But between both sexes you will find those who bottle their anger and those who erupt like a volcano.