Coping with Anger–in the Midst of COVID-19
Alongside anxiety, one of the feeling reactions that many people are experiencing in the midst of COVID-19 is anger.
We experience this in quite a number of different forms. In fact, along with anxiety, fear and confusion, many of us may experience anger of more than one type, as we’re dealing with the unusual and difficult aspects of the COVID-19 experience.
It’s important to emphasize that anger is perfectly normal. In many cases, it’s a perfectly understandable and justified feeling. Many people feel anger or irritability at situations in their lives, and, usually those feelings are not a problem for us.
Before we look at the specifics of COVID-19 and anger, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the types of life situations where we experience anger. Generally speaking, anger occurs to let us know that something is wrong. Anger can occur: when things feel out of our control; when we feel frustrated or thwarted in reaching a goal or obtaining something that we feel we need or want; or when we, or someone we care about, gets really hurt, disrespected or violated.
Healthy anger has an important part to play in our lives. However, if it comes up for us in ways that are more intense than we might expect, or occurs so frequently that we can’t enjoy our lives anymore, or occurs in ways that injure our health or connections with people whom we love or care about, then we need to take steps to take care of ourselves, or to get the help that we need.
Accepting the Reality of Our Anger
As mentioned above, anger is the emotion that lets us know that something is wrong. Well, for many of us, the COVID-19 situation and related lockdown makes us feel like there is a whole lot wrong.
Many people find themselves confined to home, and unable to go to their workplace. They also find they can’t go to a restaurant, or to any kind of social gathering. Many find themselves with kids at home, whose school year is in jeopardy, or they have elderly relatives whose health they worry about. There’s a whole range of ways in which COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make us feel a very substantial lack of control. This combines with a deep sense of frustration at not being able to achieve desired outcomes or goals, and deep concern about the potential for harm to people whom we care about.
Can We Listen to Our Anger?
Some people are very in touch with this anger. However, there are many people who find the anger very hard to acknowledge. Yet, there may be some real importance in feeling and coming to terms with the anger associated with this COVID-19 time. A part of the messaging in our culture is that “nice people don’t get angry.” “After all,” many of us might tell ourselves, “what’s the use of talking about all this, and getting angry? It’s just getting upset for no good reason.”
Yet, there actually is a very good reason for acknowledging our anger around COVID-19 and related matters. It would be naive to think that, just because we don’t acknowledge our anger, it somehow goes away forever. As /a-midlife-transitions well know, if we repress something, which means pushing it out of our conscious mind, it keeps on going in our unconscious mind. From there, it can have a whole range of effects on us, many of them negative.
For instance, we can find that our anger “comes out sideways”, meaning that we find ourselves erupting into anger at other people or other situations, where the anger is completely unjustified. Or, we can find that unacknowledged anger leads us to be generally emotionally suppressed or “shut down”, and perhaps even depressed. In addition, anger that goes completely unacknowledged can have serious effects on our health, manifesting in terms of stress-related issues, and also having a strong negative effect on our bodies in areas like our cardiovascular system, or or digestive tract.
As we explore our anger, we may also find that other feelings, such as grief, sorrow, and even fear, hide within it. Acknowledging these feelings, dialoguing with them, and allowing ourselves to hear what they have to say to us may be a very important part of coming to terms with our lives as we move towards the post-COVID-19 period.
Anger and Soul Amidst COVID-19
Jungian /a-midlife-transitions use the terms “soul” and “soul-making” to refer to experiences that make us deeper, and that give us an enhanced awareness of who we are. In that sense, acknowledging and exploring our anger in the midst of this COVID-19 time can be an experience of “soul-making”. It can lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, and of where we can find meaning and direction in our lives.
In a time like the present, we are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and difficulty in determining our future direction, both personally and collectively. It can be a matter of great importance to acknowledge the anger that we are experiencing, and to do so in a self-compassionate way.
In coming to terms with anger, the support of a relationship with a /a-midlife-transition can be of great value. It can serve us by helping us to feel that we are not alone, that our feelings are legitimate, and that they are part of our overall journey towards wholeness.
Wishing you every good thing on the journey,