In our everyday journey’s we encounter different feelings… sadness, boredom, joy, excitement, worry, fear… and ANGER.
How often do you hear someone say.. “I am angry!”?
How do you react when you do?
Do you lean in and say.. “Really!… How interesting, do tell me more?”
Or do you look for the nearest exit and slowly back off … saying or stuttering… “Uhhh.. .yes… well… um… good luck with that”?
Or maybe you reply “That is right! That…. is totally awful/unacceptable/dreadful!”
Most of us fall into the middle category, and avoid anger at all costs. Or when we do connect with anger we fall into the later and revel in complaining about and blaming others.
Let’s look at trying to avoid anger. It is an impossible task. Anger is a human emotion, like sadness, joy, and fear, that all humans have at some point. Like any human expression, anger, has all kinds of implications, stories, judgments, and consequences attached. When Anger shows up in our lives, we often jump to respond in ways consistent with these stories.
For women, this is particularly complex, because they are often told they can not be angry. Anger, is often portrayed as unacceptable for women to voice or express. The type and way this message is communicated can vary depending on your community, racial and cultural background. Even so most women are in some way or another silenced when anger arises.
Yet due to anger being a human emotion… we all experience it. Also, when anger shows up it has a power to it.. it energizes us literally… get’s the blood pumping and gives us the energy to act – to DO something. It also helps clarify what is important to us. This in of itself can be really helpful – it can help us advocate or fight for our loved ones, causes we believe in, and move on or rise above exhausting situations because the journey is worth it to us.
Yet, when we receive the message, we can not name, express or act on the needs linked to our anger… this benefit is lost. Anger’s invigorating energy or helpful signals may become destructive. If we avoid it, anger doesn’t disappear. It can turn inward… the “I’m fine” followed with silence and stonewalling, or killing with kindness. This can end in a sort of implosion (exhaustion, distancing, burn-out, self-harm).
It builds up and can then eventually explode into yelling and other externally destructive behaviors. When this happens, others are quick to come in with judgement.. ” See! Anger is bad”, or “You are over-reacting!”, or even stronger “You are Crazy!”
We then may feel guilty, shameful and interpret our behaviors as ineffective, thereby feeding the negative social and emotional messages.
When we are curious and lean in to our anger and ask… “Really, can you tell me more?” we can befriend our anger. We can learn about anger’s function, the social contextual messages increasing the pressure on us around this feeling.
Yet, this differs from reveling in our anger, by venting, complaining and/or blaming. In these methods we may name our anger, but not our needs. Or, even if we name our needs we place the responsibility to address them on others, dis-empowering ourselves.
So even though anger can provide us clarity and power to see and advocate for our needs, it lies on us to do so in ways that are effective. Do find ways that both protect and connect us. Often our reactions to anger full-fill one but not the other. Swallowing our anger allows us to connect with others, but does not our needs. Venting and blaming identifies our needs but pushes others away.
So in engaging with our anger in effective connective and protective ways, can shifts us away from pitting these needs against one another. Empowering ourselves with this knowledge and experience, can allow us to open up our response options to include less destructive ones and help us connect with our needs and with others.
We will explore ways of doing this in our Women’s Group.