Its time we take a closer look at the emotions of Rage and Disgust...
These emotions are important--but we rarely give them the credit they deserve.
The emotions of Rage and Disgust are one hallmark of the Misophonia reaction to a trigger sound. Anger/Rage is an understandable response to the experience of pain or extreme discomfort. It helps us get away from or fight back against something or someone who may harm us physically. Disgust on the other hand protects us from something poisonous that could harm us, either through actual physical contamination or by thought influence such as being around a person or group whose beliefs or behaviors strike you as “disgusting” or “toxic”. In both cases these are BOUNDARY SETTING EMOTIONS. They signal to us that we need to defend ourselves or get away lest we be harmed, injured, or poisoned possibly leading to...death? When you look at it that way, you start to see the power behind the automatic Misophonia response. This is not a simple “annoyance” it is a fight for survival and the body reacts accordingly.
The Misophonia response is not a simple “annoyance” it is a fight for survival and the body reacts accordingly.
Why might a Misophone have such a strong reaction to harmless noises? The typical Misophonia response of rage and disgust is certainly an unjustified response to everyday sounds such as breathing and eating, but if we look a little deeper we might learn something more. In my work with trauma survivors, I have seen time and time again, when our instincts to survive—namely to get away or fight back against someone or something that could harm us—are prevented or thwarted, we will internalize or “stuff down” the physical, emotional, and chemical energy our bodies give us to act on our instincts. If this happens repeatedly, this energy builds up over time and can become toxic and/or come out at inopportune moments or be projected on to people who have little to do with the original harm.
If an unconscious buildup of negative energy gets triggered by those that are closest to us, we can project that negative energy onto them without a conscious knowledge of where it originated.
I do not think it is a coincidence that our most common trigger noises are made by those closest to us, whereas the same noise made by a total stranger may not trigger us at all. We are more likely to experience any number of “hurts” by our family. Also, because many Misophones identify as being “highly sensitive people” we tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and “energy” which means we can pick up on—and perhaps even absorb—other people’s trapped “negative energy”. This will most likely happen at a sub-conscious or barely conscious level. Because of the gradual accumulation of this energy, it often goes unnoticed by the conscious mind until something is said or done to trigger a bigger response in an attempt to discharge the pent-up energy. If an unconscious buildup of negative energy gets triggered by those that are closest to us, we can project that negative energy onto them without a conscious knowledge of where it originated.
Anger as an Exile, Manager, or Firefighter.
Anger is an important emotion. Feeling angry can be an important signal that our boundaries have been crossed or that we need to set stronger boundaries with a possible harm-causing person or behavior. Our anger is important, but our current social norms often demonize or forbid its acknowledgment and expression. Women have—for centuries—been told that anger is forbidden under socially normalized labels of being “unladylike”, “not spiritual”, or “overly emotional and irrational”. Women, it seems are not allowed the emotion of anger so it gets exiled to the basement of our mind and body. Men, on the other hand, are not allowed emotions other than anger. Emotions of hurt or vulnerability get exiled to the basement and anger is often used as a Manager—a socially acceptable and often expected use of the emotion for men. The problem happens when the exiles carrying hurt and vulnerability get triggered and anger is unable to manage keeping them in the basement—then anger can become a Firefighter in the form of RAGE. This is when anger becomes destructive. When we are in rage we are out of our window of tolerance and all we care about is getting away from the feelings of hurt that have been triggered. Many cultural contexts also promote an overall unacceptance of emotional expression—including anger. Social and cultural messaging around anger is a form of Legacy Burden and is important to explore and address.
Anger is powerful, but if it is ignored and stuffed down it becomes toxic and if left to fester and grow to the level or rage it becomes destructive.
What does this have to do with Misophonia? We need to learn to have a better relationship to our anger. Anger is powerful, but if it is ignored and stuffed down it becomes toxic and if left to fester and grow to the level or rage it becomes destructive. For whatever reason, Misophonia magnifies the negative impact of anger—temping us to the edges of destruction in our personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and classmates. We need to find safe and healthy ways to expel whatever “negative energy” we have collected, and we need to learn how to set better boundaries so we aren’t taking on energy that isn’t ours. This is very different to venting which just circulates and increases negativity. Look for my next blog post to learn more about safe and healthy ways to release “rage” or “negative” energy.