There is no such thing as unexpressed anger. The question is whether anger is expressed constructively or destructively. When not expressed constructively, it doesn't disappear or evaporate.

Anger Buildup

Just as someone collects trading stamps and eventually cashes them in for free gifts, people save up angry feelings and later cash them in for "guilt-free angers." This is destructive because it's only the "last straw" that is reacted to and the targeted person has no way of knowing exactly what he/she did to anger you. It is better to release anger every time you feel angry rather than saving it up.

Passive-Agressive Behavior

When anger is denied, it tends to "leak out" in indirect ways. Even if one's aggression is passive, indirect or a bit sneaky, it is aggression nonetheless and can be destructive. Following are some typical results of unexpressed anger: "Motivated forgetting" remembering what we want to and forgetting what we want to forget. Being habitually late with a mere, "Oh, I'm sorry I'm late," frustrating others and causing them to wait and waste time. Hostile statements such as a compliment with a "hook" in it, or a hostile remark followed by, "I'm just kidding. Can't you take a joke?"


A well recognized, major cause of depression is anger expressed inwardly instead of outwardly, causing the person to "bloat up." Instead of being directed toward its original object, the anger is directed at life or oneself.

Anger Do's and Don'ts

Recognize when you're angry.

The taboos against feeling and expressing anger are so powerful that sometimes even knowing when we're angry is not easy. Healthy people are not people without anger; they're people who express anger constructively.

Do speak up when an issue is important to you.

We don't have to address every injustice and irritation that comes along, but it is a mistake to stay silent if the cost is to feel bitter or unhappy.

Purify your motives.

Is your main purpose for expressing anger to be helpful ot hurtful? Take time to think about the problem and clarify your position.

Don't use "below the belt" tactics.

These include blaming, interpreting, diagnosing, labeling, analyzing, preaching, moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing, and lecturing.

Do speak in "I" language.

A true "I" statement says something about the self without criticizing or blaming the other person and without holding the other person responsible for your feelings or reactions. Watch out for disguised "you" statements.

Don't make vague requests.

Let the person know specifically what you want. Don't expect others to anticipate your needs.

Do try to appreciate the fact that people are different.

Different perspectives don't necessarily mean I'm right and you're wrong, or that I don't value you.

Don't tell another what he/she thinks or feels or "should" think or feel.

Remember that one person's right to be angry does not mean that the other person is to blame.

Do recognize that each person is responsible for his/her own behavior.

Don't participate in intellectual arguments that go nowhere.

Do avoid speaking through a third party.

If you're angry about something, own your anger. Avoid sending a messenger with your anger, or putting your anger off on another person.

Don't expect change to come about from hit-and-run confrontations.

Change occurs slowly in relationships. Don't get discouraged if you falter several times as you try to put good anger management into practice.

from: The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.