There is an idea, prevalent in some aspects of Western psychology, both mainstream and ‘pop’ psychology, that it is unhealthy to internalize and hold in strong reactions or emotions such as anger. They counsel letting it out and thereby saving oneself from the psychological and physical effects of suppressed anger and other strong emotions. There are even groups that support the idea of “scream-therapy” as a way to express one’s inner rage.

Clearly there is an issue if one is bottling up such strong feelings and suppressing them, as this can, indeed, have negative impacts mentally, emotionally and physically. The question, however, is whether such an unleashed expression as is recommended actually does anything to defuse or resolve the underlying cause, or, in fact, if such expressions simply make the repeated experience much more likely.

When we understand the impact of where we focus attention on what forces arise within us, and as we learn more about the ‘holes’ that can be created in our protective vital sheath or energetic ‘envelope’, it becomes clear that giving vent to the anger or other strong feelings simply creates and reinforces a pathway for that force to establish itself in the being on an ongoing basis.

Sri Aurobindo goes to the root of the issue in his treatment of anger. The goal is not to accept the anger within oneself and suppress it, but to understand the pathway of entry and find ways to deny it access to one’s being. This can be done with a systematic and disciplined approach to one’s inner psychological viewpoint and response.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “I think you have always had an idea that to give expression to an impulse or a movement is the best way or even the only way to get rid of it. But that is a mistaken idea. If you give expression to anger, you prolong or confirm the habit of the recurrence of anger; you do not diminish or get rid of the habit. The very first step towards weakening the power of anger in the nature and afterwards getting rid of it altogether is to refuse all expression to it in act or speech. Afterwards one can go on with more likelihood of success to throw it out from the thought and feeling also. And so with all other wrong movements.”

“All these movements come from outside, from the universal lower Nature, or are suggested or thrown upon you by adverse forces — adverse to your spiritual progress. Your method of taking them as your own is again a wrong method; for by doing that you increase their power to recur and take hold of you. If you take them as your own, that gives them a kind of right to be there. If you feel them as not your own, then they have no right, and the will can develop more power to send them away. What you must always have and feel as yours is this will, the power to refuse assent, to refuse admission to a wrong movement. Or if it comes in, the power to send it away, without expressing it.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Anger, pp. 58-60

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.