ANGER is often a dominant emotion for adults who grew up experiencing adversity in their childhood home. Much of the work we’ve done has been to define that anger, understand where it comes from, and help people beat it. Here, I want to explore what the underlying essence of anger is, both physically and emotionally, for those who’ve experienced adversity in their home growing up. Then we’ll tackle how we can resolve it.
Anger comes from the amygdala, which is located deep inside the brain
Anger comes from the amygdala, which is located deep inside the brain. The amygdala detects danger and regulates emotional responses to threats, such as fear, anxiety, and anger. It’s also responsible for the “fight-or-flight” reaction we have when danger arises.
Children who’ve grown up in a home filled with adversity understand – or at least know – the feeling well. Psychologist Stephen Joseph describes it this way:
The pupils of the eyes dilate, the heart beats faster, the rate of breathing increases, blood flow increases and is redirected to the muscles for quick movement, the skin becomes cold and pale, fat is made available for energy, hormones surge throughout the body, muscles tense, the bladder empties.
Lighter on our feet and equipped with energy that has been diverted from ingestion and reproduction, we are now ready for action. We are ready to fight or take flight.
That threat could be to our physical body or to our inner selves – or even to our own concept of self
That threat could be to our physical body or to our inner selves – or even to our own concept of self. Whether perceived or actual, if someone makes you feel unloved, guilty, worthless, or weak, your sense of self is threatened and that part of your brain will kick in and work overtime to find ways to regain a sense of security. This can lead to ANGER and perhaps even ANGER expressed in the form of violence toward oneself or others in an effort to feel secure again.
Anger is truly our body’s way of regaining a sense of control or safety when danger is sensed. That’s why it’s understandable that adults who’ve grown up with domestic violence are “angry” or appear that way.
Luckily, when we are aware of this, we can choose to funnel this extra surge of energy away from ANGER and towards PASSION – towards pursuit of the things that most matter to you.
That’s why it’s also important to understand that you are not alone or unloved, and that your inability to stop what happened was because you were a child, not because you were weak or worthless. Once you understand this, you can begin to accept yourself and regain a sense of security and calm. With acceptance comes forgiveness and with forgiveness comes the release that will lead you away from ANGER.
Please share in the comments below whether you’ve ever consciously or unconsciously used ANGER to feel in control or safe in a situation? Did it work? How did you feel afterwards?
A detailed overview of the ANGER Lie can be found in CHAPTER 4 (“Angry to Passionate”) of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.