Don’t internalize it: a lesson from Eminem

Photo by Blake Israel

You are driving down the interstate, trying to get off. A huge pickup truck cuts you off. A huge pickup truck cuts you off. You miss the exit. What is your response? Do you get mad? Do you flip them off? Or do you maybe consider that there is a reason that they are driving recklessly? 

Are they on the way to the hospital? Are they trying to make it to the birth of their child? There is no way to tell; it is up to you to decide how to react.

This is something that I have struggled with for years. I would think in the second manner, I would not let myself get angry when anyone wronged me; I would suppress my anger. 

I did this for years until eventually it got out of hand. I developed an intense depression that my therapist suggested was from “internalized anger.” 

And she was right, I would never let myself get angry at others because I had convinced myself that it was on me to make sure they were happy, that their happiness was my responsibility. I was wrong.

Of course, you should treat others with kindness, but not at the expense of yourself. 

If you do not release your anger, it will release itself in other ways; in my case it was with anger at myself in the form of depression. 

Your anger does not just disappear when you do not express it, it is bottled up and it will find a way out. It took me years to realize that I am a person too, and that means I have to show myself kindness as well. I needed to start expressing my anger.

I came to this realization in the strangest place, not talking to my therapist (though she agreed with me), but while listening to Eminem. 

His expression of his anger in such a positive and healthy manner lit a lightbulb in my mind. 

Even though he had a terrible life: he was bullied, abused, raped, drugged, went through a terrible divorce, and was raised by a single mother, he still managed to rise above it; he turned his terrible experiences into something positive. Instead of being beat down and saddened at how bad his life was, he used it as fuel. He did not get sad, he got mad. He got mad and inspired to write raps to express his anger in a healthy way.

He rose from distress to confidence. and he did it in such a genius manner; he created characters to express his anger through, characters such as Slim Shady.

He mainly raps from the perspective of 3 people: Eminem—the famous rapper persona, Marshall Mathers—the person behind the raps, and Slim Shady—the vicious angry persona. 

As he states himself, “there’s a Slim Shady in everyone.” Slim Shady is the embodiment of anger, he is who screams and yells when he is cut off on the interstate. He is an angry savage who does what he wants no matter what anyone says about him. He is an expression of rage.

One of my personal favorite songs by Eminem, truly expresses how he uses his anger to create masterpieces, how he is empowered by his unfortunate circumstances instead of destroyed by them: “Legacy” from The Marshall Mathers LP2. 

He talks about as a child how he was brought down by his unfortunate life, “[I’m] talking to myself, either that or inside hiding off in the corner somewhere quiet, trying not to be noticed because I’m crying and sobbing,” until he finally realized there was something he could do, something positive, “What about them rhymes I’ve been jotting? They are kind of giving me confidence. […] Why don’t I blast a little something […] to put me in the mood to want to fight and write songs that say what I want to say to the kid that said that I eye-balled him.”

Instead of crying and hiding from his anger, he faces it head on. 

I think that is very admirable, to realize where the negative feelings are coming from and rise above it to create something positive, to healthily release his anger before it can destroy him.

I think that we could all learn something from that, to find a way to healthily release our anger, maybe not all of us through rapping, but maybe through exercise, art, or writing. 

There is an infinite number of ways to vent your emotions, but a lot of us try to ignore them, try to bottle them up. 

That is not healthy. Your emotions always find a way out, usually in ways that you do not want them to.

My point is, do not be like me, do not bottle your negative emotions like anger, and just pretend that they are not there. 

Find a way to take out your emotions, to free your anger, so you can finally let it go.