Although feelings of depression and anger appear opposite, these two emotional states often go hand in hand. There is a saying that depression is anger turned inward.
Unresolved anger very well may precede feeling depressed. There is evidence that, especially among women, a connection between depression and anger exists.
Sometimes this journey from unresolved or suppressed anger to feeling depressed can easily be traced. I remember the first time my L5-S1 disk ruptured causing and physical limitations. After two years of feeling angry at my medical team for advising me poorly, I resigned myself to a life of going to work and going home to bed. Angry feelings began spiraling into feeling depressed.
The link between depression and anger is marked by feelings of dis-empowered and being discounted. No positive changes seem to be occurring.
No matter how angry you might feel, the person you resent and want a better response from does not listen or care to meet your needs. Or no matter how you try, a situation does not improve or you have less control than you want.
Some people can trace the connection between their depression and anger, others cannot. They deny even feeling angry. Hurt yes, upset yes, betrayed yes, but not angry.
Note: We are talking about feeling depressed, not clinical depression which is a medical condition. If you are suffering with severe depression or intense anger, please consult a medical professional.
There are two ways to interpret this statement, and both apply. You either have suppressed anger that you hold inside, or you turn your unresolved anger on yourself.
When you turn anger in on yourself you might feel ashamed or guilty for doing something wrong. You chastise yourself, sometimes mercilessly and endlessly, for purposely or inadvertently making a mistake or committing a sin.
This combination of anger and shame is toxic.
Angry self attacks take different forms.
Perhaps you berate yourself for not being 'perfect' in some way. Or you made a decision that didn't turn out well and now you regret it. You wonder, "How could I have been so stupid as ____?"
Chances are you are internalizing negative messages from long ago. Only now you have your own inner critic beating you up with inner words better than any school yard bully could.
Your attacks may be more subversive as you tell yourself you don't deserve to be treated well or to have your needs met. These attacks may be so underground that you no longer consciously hear them. Your actions, however, reflected in how you care for your mental and physical health, speak volumes.
Is it any wonder that you feel depressed?
Although this anger, and its accompanying shame and guilt feel bad, they can actually serve a healthy purpose. Instead of using your anger to destroy your mental and physical well-being, use it to your advantage. Instead of believing the self-talk about what a horrible person you are, look for the real message behind the deed and the anger. Use what you learn to motivate yourself to make a positive change and release those patterns of negativity.
The second way you see anger turned inward is when you deny your feelings of anger.
For some people, women especially, venting anger is socially or culturally unacceptable. Not only is expressing anger prohibited, they are also denied the right to even feel angry. They learn to suppress anger or deny it. For them, it is more acceptable to display depression, which is more akin to powerlessness.
Children are often taught that they should not feel or act angry. They may be shamed, scolded and punished for expressing anger, even when they try to express it appropriately. They are taught to 'be nice'. They have to be polite and not hurt anyone's feelings.
When we accept the teaching that anger is bad, feel guilty for feeling it, and try to suppress it, we create an unhealthy, unnatural state. Expressing anger is natural, suppressed depression anger is not.
If you were taught to deny feelings of anger, or that they were 'bad', you may be unaware of the connection between your depression and anger. You might say, "Oh, I'm not angry, I'm hurt. I'm upset." That may be true, but it is also likely that you were angry first, even for just a moment before you could depress it and call it something else.
In The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent, by Esther and Jerry Hicks describe an Emotional Guidance Scale. The idea is that you move up the scale a few places at a time to a better feeling thought. If you try to reach too far at a time, those emotions will be out of your reach.
The lowest feelings on the scale is Fear/Grief/Depression/Despair/Powerlessness. Three levels up the scale is Hatred/Rage. This means it is actually a move in a positive direction to go from feeling depressed to feeling rage or hatred.
This emotional shift may feel counter-intuitive and unacceptable.
If you are not used to feeling these intensely powerful feelings it may be scary. The key is that you are giving yourself permission to feel your suppressed anger. You don't need to linger there for long. From there you would move up the scale to anger, which is less intense. and finally up to the more enjoyable emotions you seek.
Have you ever seen the reality show Finding Fergie? You may remember that she was so out of touch with her feelings that her trainers and guides had to teach and encourage her to find her suppressed unresolved anger and learn to express it. It felt very unnatural to her at first.
Part of this process was acknowledging the wounded parts of herself, the times she wasn't heard and her emotional needs weren't met. Then she was able to move up the scale from depression and anger to more positive feelings.
This is how we heal anger turned inward as depression.