Is anger a feeling you are comfortable with or is it an emotion you go to great lengths to avoid? For many women, angry feelings are some of the toughest to acknowledge and cope with effectively. Before you tell me that it's not a part of your world, here's the truth: everyone gets angry. And contrary to what some women may have learned growing up, it isn’t pointless or unkind or impolite.
Anger is a fact of life.
Anger is also a feeling. It’s not a behavior.
When we feel anger (which we will, because we are human and everyone feels anger from time to time), we have two choices:
- How we handle the feeling
- How we choose to behave
Lots of people, especially women, are afraid of feeling angry. One of the reasons may be that the distinction between the feeling and the behavior has become blurred. It’s not uncommon to associate anger with “reacting” (that’s behavior). So a client who is uncomfortable with anger might say something like, “I don’t want to be angry. I don’t like to shout.” Or, “What’s the point of being angry, it will just cause trouble.” (Actually, she is assuming that her behavior—what she decides to do as a result of feeling angry—will cause some kind of trouble.
Anger is not a bad thing. Our anger is a signal that something is wrong. In a relationship, when one person gets angry, something isn’t working smoothly. It’s a sign that something needs to be corrected. Injustice has fueled a lot of anger and that anger and some of the behaviors or responses that were chosen have created powerful change—in families, in communities, and in the world.
So what do you do with the feeling of anger?
Do you stuff it down, try to distract yourself? Do you breathe into it and feel its power? Do you let it grow, maybe thinking about past anger to really get it simmering? Have you ever been able to not judge your anger and simply stay with the feeling?
Do you know that you are bigger than your feelings and that no feeling will wash you away? That even the biggest feeling of anger will eventually crest like a wave and then recede?
Most people skip past the feeling and get really busy trying to figure out what to DO with the anger (that’s the behavior).
Do you cry, yell, or stamp the floor? Do you attack and look for someone to blame or to be angry AT? Do you write like hell and let your journal have it all?
Or do you try to get away from the anger? Do you eat when you are angry or sleep or escape into something to avoid your anger? Do you try to distract yourself or do you simply decide to “not be angry?” If you do—how much work does it take to keep it tamped down? Does it seep out around the edges?
Do you choose behaviors that you don’t like when you feel angry? Does it happen too fast? Do you feel out of control when you feel angry or do you feel strong and powerful?
Have you ever tried to work your anger out physically—by sweating or dancing or kickboxing or walking really fast?
Or do you find yourself directing your anger at yourself so that you feel guilty and self judgmental for feeling the way that you do?
How do you wish to attend to your feelings and behave when you feel angry?
Please note, not feeling angry is not an option here. It’s a guarantee that from time to time, you will feel pissed off.
Not knowing what to do with feelings can be a major source of stress. Start by giving yourself permission to be angry, and next time you are, experiment with separating your feeling from the
behavior. The more you can have compassion for your angry self, the more you will feel able to step back and make choices about how to tend to your feelings and how you want to behave.
Does anger feel like a trap or a minefield for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Take good care,