Why do I cry when I am angry?

When I feel angry I cry and struggle to control it. I can’t remember if I’ve always done this from being a child but certainly from a young adult I have. I find it frustrating especially when I’m in a professional setting, but even in my personal life if I get angry, I cry, which confuses my partner. I grew up with an alcoholic dad (has passed away) and narcissistic mum (no contact).
Asked by L

Thank you for reaching out and asking this question via the BetterHelp Platform. 

Why do we cry when we are angry?

Crying, I think, is our body's way of managing and processing our emotions. When I was younger, I angry cried as a child, and I still angry cry as an adult, because it was one of the only 'acceptable' ways of dealing with anger in the household I grew up in. Sometimes if we weren't allowed to shout, or lash out, or break anything or even communicate why we were angry, the only way we could release some of that energy would be by crying or sobbing. 

You could unpack this and process it with a therapist through the lens of racket feelings (a feeling we are allowed to express in place of a feeling that we aren't allowed to express - example, if we were angry as children but we were only allowed to communicate this as 'I'm tired'). Or you could look at what's going on physically as well as psychologically when you feel angry and the tears start to come froward.

I would probably want to explore your family history to see how your parents reacted to your emotions, and how you were allowed to express them, and how much of your past coping strategies have carried forward into the here and now. It's not a simple question, or piece of work, and it can be really intimidating and emotionally draining to face these questions.

Expressing, understanding and managing our emotions in different settings

It is really interesting that you've mentioned this occurs in a professional and personal setting. I would be curious as to how you would prefer to react, behave or express yourself when you are angry in the personal and professional environments. Crying isn't solely reserved for when we're sad. We can also cry when we're happy, in pain, grieving, angry and frustrated. It's, to me, an outlet of emotions.

I would take the approach of exploring what 'acceptable' or 'desirable' expressions of anger would look like, and what would happen if you expressed your anger in those ways and what it might feel like.

What now?

Well, it's up to you how you decide to proceed. I would recommend looking for a therapist who you feel you would be comfortable having these conversations with. We're not all one size fits all, and not every client is going to like the first therapist that they are matched with. The great thing about BetterHelp is that you can switch until you feel comfortable with your therapist.

Whatever path you decide to take next, I wish you all the best and just want to reiterate and validate that crying when you're angry is OK if that's what you need to soothe yourself and be OK!

Best wishes, 

(Diploma, Psychotherapeutic, Counsellor, Pass)