How to Healthily Express Anger so it Doesn't Ruin Your Relationship

relationships Aug 30, 2021

Anger is an inevitable emotion that we all experience. And anger is bound to arise when we are healing from past trauma.

But managing anger in a healthy and efficient way can be challenging.

Especially when our anger interferes with our relationships.


I'll get into that.

But first, I want to tell you about my own personal experience with anger that I experienced in the past few months. 

When I was processing a traumatic event from my past earlier this year, I experienced a wide spectrum of emotions.

Grief, denial, and sadness came over me with a vengeance.

But the strongest of those emotions I was experiencing was anger. 

I woke up angry, went to sleep angry, and spent almost every waking moment of my day angry about my present situation. 

I was verbally lashing out at my partner.

He felt like he had to walk on eggshells around me.

I was unpredictable and hard to talk to without getting super overwhelmed and shutting down.

Sometimes I would leave his house just so I could make sure that my anger wasn't going to lead me to say something stupid or hurtful. 

But I slowly started to redirect my anger onto other things, in hopes that I would release some of it and desperate to not feel so on-edge all the time. 

It never occurred to me before how much anger I had carried around with me after years of trauma. 

And it certainly never occurred to me how important it was to release that anger in order for me to truly heal in the way I needed to--not only in my own life, but also in my love life. 

But in order to release our anger, we first need to understand why it's important.

Why is it important to express anger when we're healing from trauma?

Expressing anger is an incredibly important tool for healing trauma. 

Anger is one of those emotions many of us, including myself, have internalized and learned to keep to ourselves.

As children, we received countless messages from the world around us telling us which emotions are acceptable to express... and which ones aren't acceptable.

When we experienced traumatic experiences, abuse of any kind, or injustices, it's a normal human experience to have anger about it. 

But problems can arise when we stick to the status quo and repress that anger like we were always taught to do when we were younger. 

When we don't express our anger, it doesn't go anywhere. Instead, it get stored deep into the tissues of our body. 

So learning how release that anger helps us not only release those painful emotions, but it also helps give us a physical release.

Here are a few of the things (that I still use today) to help me release my anger stemming from my past trauma:

Move your body.

With all due respect, I don't care if you hate exercising... If you're feeling angry, you must find SOME way to move your body.

Take a fast-paced walk.

Hike up to the top of a mountain.

Dance to some fun music in your room.

Take a boxing class.

Swim in a pool or lake.

Just get your body moving. 

When we move our body, we are allowing the energy to move up and out of us.

And this is the most important key to releasing anger...

Getting it up and OUT. 

Start small if needed. Feel how good it feels to get your blood pumping.

Try to break a sweat if you can. 

And just let your body take control for awhile.

Scream into a pillow.

I would encourage you to wait until you are home alone for this technique.

Or, at the very least, let a supportive family member know what you're doing and why you are doing it.

Tell them that you have some frustrations that you want to release and ask for some privacy.

But screaming (especially for the first time) can feel out of control and scary.

Doing it in a pillow helps it feel more contained and under control while still allowing the expression of your emotions.

I found this technique particularly helpful when I was feeling irritable and short-tempered around my partner.

In those times I wanted to scream, I would make my way to my room and scream into my pillow.

I would just let all of it come out until I was done. 

Techniques like this one can keep us from lashing out at our partner in times of pain.

Scribble on a big piece of poster board.

Similarly to exercising, this tool is meant to help you get into your body and express yourself in a way that is safe and healthy. 

Take a blank piece of poster board and scribble onto it as hard as you can.

Make it a full-body experience.

Be dramatic with your body movements and use your full range of motion.

You can even use a cheap box of crayons so that you can scribble so hard that they break.

Choose colors that represent how you feel.

Imagine the anger flowing out of your body, down your arm, and onto the poster board.

And do not judge yourself for what comes up. 

For a fun bonus, blast your workout music in your headphones while you scribble.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Woman Relaxing in Yoga Mat
Photo taken by Ellen Fairytale on Pexels

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is often used in activities like yoga and meditation to reach a deeper state of relaxation. PMR works by tensing all of our body's major muscles before relaxing them, which helps me to lean into the tension in my body before providing a feeling of calm. It sends a message to the body that it's safe and ready to relax.

  1. Lay down in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a deep breath in.
  3. Hold your breath and squeeze the muscles in your face as hard as you can.  
    • Allow the tension to rise up until you shake and tremble.
    • As you tense up, imagine yourself squeezing all of the anger out of your body.
  4. Slowly relax the muscles of your face as you exhale.
    • As you do this, imagine the anger melting away.
  5. Repeat this process with each area of your body from head to toe
    • Chest and abdomen
    • Arms and Hands
    • Buttocks
    • Legs and Feet 
  6. Sit comfortably and notice how your body feels.
  7. Repeat as needed

Throw an "adult temper tantrum."

After I started treatment for Lyme disease, exercise was no longer an option for me.

With incredible frustration, I told my therapist about how I had no more outlets to release my anger since I couldn't do my usual hiking, yoga, or running routine.

My therapist recommended that I throw a temper tantrum on the floor of my bedroom. 

I looked at her with wide eyes and confusion.

If I ever threw a temper tantrum as a child, I would have been in HUGE trouble.

It felt taboo and weird to me to try doing it as an adult.

But at this point, I was desperate and willing to try anything.

Once I got past my ego telling me how weird and childish it was to throw a tantrum, I brought myself to do it. And I realized how much it actually helped me.

If you observe a child throwing a tantrum, he is simply using his entire body to communicate what's going on inside of him. And since children don't typically have the language to accurately describe how they feel, kicking and screaming and throwing their body to the ground is the only way they know how to cope.

  1. Find a safe room in your home where you have privacy and will not be disturbed.
  2. Lay on the ground (or bed) on your stomach or your back. 
  3. Think about what's making you feel so angry
  4. Feel the emotions building in your body
  5. Kick and punch the floor (or bed) until the anger has subsided.
  6. Repeat until you feel complete 
  7. Rest and breathe.
  8. Notice how your body feels after expressing your emotions using your entire body.

Take an ice-cold shower.

Have you ever heard of the Wim Hof method?

If you follow my blog, you know this is one of my favorite techniques for so many different types of emotional and physical release.

Wim Hof (also known as the Iceman) developed a 'cold exposure' technique that provides both physical and psychological health benefits. 

Cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system and releases "feel good" hormones (such as norepinephrine) to help you feel more 'up.'

Taking a cold shower when you're angry:

  • Helps you connect to the present moment by triggering a deep breathing response (deep breathing helps with emotional release)
  • Challenges your mindset by willingly putting yourself into a state of discomfort
  • Increases circulation, which helps move stagnant energy through (and out of) your body

So, turn on the cold water, think about whatever it is that you're angry about, BREATHE DEEP, and stay in the water as long as you can.

Black Shower Head Switched on

Write it out.

Journaling allows you to express whatever emotions you're feeling without causing harm to others.

Use journaling as a way to vent and say whatever it is that you want to say.

Write down whatever comes to mind about why you're feeling angry.

Maybe you don't even know why you're angry, and that's okay too.

But putting pen to paper can help us understand and release some of the anger we are carrying around with us.

Here are some prompts you can try:

"I am so angry about…"

"My body feels…"

"I hate…"

"I wish…"

"I know I'm feeling angry when…"

This is particularly helpful when you are angry with your partner or are having difficulties in your intimate relationship.

Rather than spewing off hateful things in the heat of the moment, writing it all down can help us process it before we talk about the situation with our significant other.

Allow yourself to write down however you feel without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or making it sound pretty.

In fact, I encourage you to make it sound as 'ugly' as you can.

And try not to judge yourself for whatever comes up during this exercise. 

Related Post: How to Journal for Better Mental Health

Rip up a piece of paper into small pieces.

Take a piece of paper, newspaper, phone book, or old magazine and rip it into shreds.

Better yet, rip up the journal entry that you wrote in step #6!

This ensures that nobody will ever read what you wrote, and it already represents all of the emotions you wish to release. 

Ripping up paper gives us a kinesthetic way to release emotions.

It can help provide emotional release by using our physical body to more deeply express the emotions we feel.

Think about whatever it is that's making you angry.

Imagine that situation, person, or emotion as the piece of paper in your hand.

And rip it up as fast as you can. 

Draw your anger.

Drawing emotions is a technique that therapists often use with clients to help them get more in touch with their bodies.

You don't have to be an artist to do this exercise.

In fact, I encourage you not to think at all about how your drawing will look when it is complete.

Maybe your page ends up with nothing but a big blob of scribbles and markings, and that is perfect.

You can also write any words that describe how you feel. 

Close your eyes, feel how the anger feels in your body (pain, tension, tingles, heat, coldness), and draw it.

Allow yourself to make this drawing a big purge of whatever you're holding inside. 

Check out my personal drawing below as an example!

Yell and loudly sing in your car.

This is another one of my personal favorites.

It's similar to tip #1, but instead of screaming into a pillow, you scream into open space.

This can make the expression of your emotions feel a little less contained, more forward, and more dramatic.

Sometimes screaming into a pillow just doesn't cut it.

So, if you need an extra boost, this tool is for you.

It's also useful for individuals who can't scream into a pillow at home because other people are present. And you can do it on-the-go.

Next time you're driving home from work after a stressful day, scream, yell what's on your mind, curse, and make any noises that help you release that anger.

Cry it out.

There's usually another emotion buried somewhere deep beneath the anger.

For me, whenever I'm feeling angry, I'm usually feeling grief as well.

This is particularly true for trauma. When I was processing my past anger, that anger would eventually turn into grief.

Grief for what I experienced, for what I lost, for what I wished for but never received...

Once I began to release some of my anger, I would sometimes burst into sobs and cry for hours.

It is normal to express anger when we are carrying around other painful emotions.

Expressing anger instead of sadness is our body's natural way of protecting us from the pain of being sad.

From a biological standpoint, feeling sad makes us more vulnerable to predators.

So it's natural that our body wants to protect us. 

But working through the anger to the core emotion of how you feel underneath may leave you in tears, and that's okay.

If you get to the point where you burst into tears after expressing your anger, take it as a sign that you are working through your emotions. 

Cry it out.

Let it move through you.

Then, do something kind for yourself.

And remember that any of the emotions that you experience in this process are valid. 

Accept and validate your anger.

One of the most important things we can do when we have any type of strong emotion is to validate those feelings.

When we are young, we learn to "not be angry" or "get over it." This teaches us to push the painful or scary emotions back down and never express them.

The problem is that these emotions don't go anywhere. And they don't feel like they are safe to be released.

Experiencing difficult emotions is part of the human experience, and when we reject an uncomfortable emotion, we reject a part of ourselves.

Remember that we don't always have to know exactly why we're feeling angry.

Sometimes anger comes up out of nowhere after hiding out in our body for a really long time.

To work through difficult emotions like anger, we have to accept that we feel angry.

And to fully express and work through anger, we must validate that feeling angry is part of the human experience.

Get support 

Now that we've talked about some ways to express anger, I want to remind you that working through difficult emotions is a process.

You won't be able to do one of these tasks and have it solve all of your difficult emotions.

This is especially true if we have been suppressing our emotions for many years. It takes time for our bodies to feel safe enough to release the anger that we have stored inside. 

Be gentle with yourself.

Continue to let your body do whatever it needs to move through the painful emotions.

When we learn how to express our emotions in a healthy way, we can move through life with more ease and we can have better relationships with our partners. 

Is your anger interfering with your intimate relationship?

In my Shifting Love program, I will help you navigate and work through painful emotions that hold you back so that you can have safer, healthier, & more loving intimate relationships.

It is my passion to help women like you navigate their past trauma so that you can have better relationships and create the love you've always craved. 

If this sounds like something you're interested in, book a free 30 min call with me and let's chat!

Want to create healthy, safe, & loving intimate relationships after trauma?

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