As weird as it may sound, depression is often an act of love for people whom we care about. When we get angry with people who we love, it can be common to repress our anger in an attempt to protect the people we love from our anger. Of course, this is not something that we do on purpose, but rather something that seems to happen automatically and is out of our control.
The problem with this, though, is that our anger does not simply go away when we suppress it—instead it turns back around and attacks us, leading to our depression.
A mentor of mine had a great analogy for this: Think of your anger as water in a pipe. When the pipe is straight, the water can be directed in to appropriate direction and go where it belongs. When, however, we attempt to protect someone from getting wet, we end up bending that pipe to be redirected onto our head, simultaneously protecting the person we care about but also drowning ourselves in the process.
There is another problem with this, which is that our anger is simply an emotion which is not capable of harming another person. So why is it that we fear that our emotion of anger will cause harm to another person? If we have seen anger expressed through violent action, such as verbal or physical outbursts, we internally equate the emotion of anger with a violent action.
Of course, none of us want to hurt someone whom we love and so when we get angry and fear that this anger will lead to violent action towards someone we love then we attempt to protect them from this by turning that pipe back on ourselves. Thus, the more we love someone and the more we attempt to protect them from our anger, the more depressed we become. If turning our anger back in on ourselves is something that happens out of our control, is this a hopeless situation? Absolutely not!
The solution to this problem is learning to have a different relationship with our anger. Anger is an emotion that provides us with important information and aids in our ability to protect ourselves both physically and emotionally. When we can learn to experience our anger without becoming depressed or lashing out we can learn to express that anger in healthy ways such as setting boundaries and advocating for ourselves. We can have a new found confidence in ourselves and improved connection with those around us.
Developing a new relationship with our anger is often easier said than done. If we were not taught how to healthily hold our anger then we will often need some support when learning to do this. This is where therapy can be helpful so that we can have a supportive person there to help provide a safe place to experience our emotions in a different way.
Through my work with patients who have learned new ways of relating to their emotions, I have seen some miraculous shifts in people’s ability to connect to their inner strength. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, please reach out to our team at Bold. I or any of our wonderful team here at Bold would be happy to help.
by Scott Phillips, LMFT