“How you gon’ win if you ain’t right within?” -Lauryn Hill
Is Anger Ruining Your Relationships?
Lesson: Anger Mis-Management Workshop! Nobody Wants to Tame Your Shrew
Anger is such a multi-layered emotion to discuss when it comes to women. Many of us grow up as girls feeling that we don’t have a right to our anger. I was taught that it was not ladylike to express anger or other uncomfortable emotions. When we express unwelcome emotions as women, we can be dismissed as having “PMS,” for acting like a “bitch,” or being emotional. However, anger is a normal, healthy part of our emotional range as human beings.
Emotional women are viewed pejoratively by women and men. This makes sense because in our patriarchal society we are taught to hate other women. Then, add to this the burden of representation. Cultural stereotypes like angry black women, hot-headed Latinas, unstable Italian women or nagging Jewish women can make us feel as if we don’t have a right to our full expression.
Who gets to be angry?
I grew up in a house with a rageaholic. As a result, for most of my adult life, anger was not an emotion that I felt comfortable with. When you’re raised by someone who has flashes of blackout anger, screaming and yelling about the slightest thing one second, then being apple pie sweet the next second, it teaches you to walk on eggshells. The other parent (in my family, at least) becomes part-enabler, part-victim of the other person’s rages. To add to the confusion, the rageaholic parent in my family was kind, funny and generous the rest of the time, just with a short fuse about seemingly irrelevant things.
Often when there is a rageaholic in the family, only one person gets to express their anger. Everyone else is given the task of managing their lives around the drama queen or king. Obviously, this is extremely toxic.
I learned to stuff my “unladylike” anger down with food and work. Other women try to quiet or suppress their anger with pills, drinks, sex, and other addictions. The unfortunate thing is that you can’t shut one emotion off. Trying to close down anger is like turning off a circuit breaker that controls all emotions. You end up being numb to anger and sadness but also joy, vulnerability and compassion. We’ve had previous Love Classes about how misplaced anger can stem from trauma.
[Read: Post-Traumatic Love Disorder.]
A feminine energy woman allows herself to feel all emotions from giddy happiness to anger. Being intimately in touch with how you feel makes you radiant, intuitive and vibrant. Emotions only want to be felt and acknowledged. Then they move on.
Anger vs. Rage.
Anger is a physiological response to a perceived threat. To an enraged person the threat doesn’t have to be real, only perceived. This kind of angry mind is not rational. Rage is like a seizure. The person blacks out and feels out of control. However unlike a seizure you can always be in control of yourself.
Rageaholics can’t tell the difference between a real fight or flight threat such as, “my life is in danger” and a pretend threat that makes no difference to the life of an adult. Pretend threats include, “Somebody called me names,” “Somebody smiled at the guy I like” or “Oh no, he left his socks on the floor.” The good news is your default anger button may be broken but you are not broken. These things may be reason for a conversation but not fight/flight rage as they don’t threaten your true well-being.
In order to be mentally healthy, we have to have access to all of our emotions. There are no good and bad emotions, only emotions that make us feel better and emotions that make us feel worse. A “Course in Miracles” teaches that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and most spiritual teachings find this to be true. Anything we feel can be traced back to either coming from love or stemming from fear. Common fears that cause anger include fear of not being enough, fear of being unloved, fear of being disrespected and fear of being alone.
Owning your voice.
Anger can be extremely healthy. For example, the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict evokes righteous rage. Like many other people I am beyond enraged about the injustice. I am also extremely sad. Righteous rage prompted brilliant Twitter user @MoreAndAgain to use positive activism to end the book deal that Juror B37 seemed to secure less than 48 incredulous hours after the verdict.
Imagine if Genie Lauren, that courageous tweeter, had instead tried to only numb her anger with food or drugs. Similarly, imagine if she reacted by going outside and punching someone in the face. Neither action would change anything.
To a rageaholic, this kind of righteous rage is just as relevant for someone who cuts them in line. Road rage, for example, is practically an epidemic. One rageaholic client told me that she felt the need to fist fight people who were looking at her the wrong way. Another said that she felt blackout anger whenever she felt disrespected. When you love, honor and respect yourself fully, the actions of others are irrelevant to your life. As an adult who cares how someone you don’t know looks at you?
Your true personal power.
Every time you fly off the handle because life doesn’t go your way you are giving away your power. There is external power and internal power. People who feel true internal power feel no need to be reactionary to everyone or everything that crosses their path. You always have a choice in life. No one is making you angry. You are choosing to make yourself angry.
I have been working with coaching clients on their anger mismanagement lately. There is a difference between being an “angry woman” and “a woman who is angry.” Anger stems from frustration so it’s natural to be pissed off from time to time. A woman who is angry feels this emotion when life calls for it but it does not control her life.
An angry woman is owned by her anger. She is brittle and on edge. It’s not fun to spend time with her because the most random things might set her off. Her out of control anger can manipulate entire families, groups or office environments to pay attention to her. She creates a hostile environment all around her. Dealing with someone who is quick to anger and set it off in real life is no fun.
The tricky thing is that we see this kind of personality being rewarded more and more in media with reality TV shows, book deals and the like. We also bond around misery. People seem to have more respect for looking for things to bitch and complain about than looking for things to feel good about. We see mothers training the joy and celebration out of their kids by literally shouting at them in the supermarket to stop feeling good.
Message to the Rageaholics.
Questions for my angry women: Are you the kind of person you would want to spend time with on a daily basis? Are you tired of everyone feeling like you’re the toxic person in your social circle? Are you willing to rise to the challenge and learn some new coping tools? Would you like to become a better woman today than you were yesterday?
You are not having the healthy, fun, happy quality of life that you deserve to have and neither are the people around you. Your blackout aggression and rage is doing the opposite of what you want it to. You want to show, “Look how powerful I am, nobody can mess with me” but you’re showing the opposite.
You are just a puppet to your anger. Any person can get a rise and reaction out of you. Anybody can call you a name then there you are reacting like an angry fighting puppet again. You give your power away to any random person in any random situation.
Managing your anger.
Our job is to evolve and do better than previous generations. Raising your children in an angry environment changes them. Be courageous enough to get help if you need it. Join Rageaholics Anonymous, a support group for compulsive and destructive anger addicts.
When you’re angry your entire limbic system – your emotional brain – is engaged. You want to also engage your prefrontal cortex, your thinking brain. When someone loses it, we often say that they revealed their true colors. Our true colors, however, are the powerful, self confident, loving jewels we were as tiny kids. The average child feels a flash of emotion, it moves through them, they express it and it passes. This is also true when we allow ourselves as adults to have healthy emotional responses. Trying to squash down your feelings may make you turn your anger inward as depression or result in manipulative, passive aggressive behavior. On the other hand, lashing out at others in words or deeds is an act of violence.
Your emotions are an important indicator of how in alignment you are. You deserve to be happy and feel bliss. When you are aligned with your true self, the self that is an expression of the Most High, then you feel juicy and alive. When you are not aligned with who you are you feel fearful and ready to lash out for the slightest reason. The choice is yours.
Nobody wants to tame your shrew! Know your triggers. When you were a child and trauma happened you had no choice. As an adult you always have a choice. You’re not a victim. Take an adult time out. Stop, drop and roll out of the situation and ask yourself, is this really important?
Allowing myself to feel all of my emotions has been the healthiest thing I’ve ever done. This has been the key to my recovery from emotional eating and workaholism. I have also been working on my adult temper tantrums and I advise you to do the same. We all have a choice to see things differently. It’s unfair to hold the people you love hostage to your state of mind.
Address these questions in a notebook. You may want to form a Love School Playgroup with your friends to do these assignments. Take 5 deep, cleansing breaths to get centered and begin.
When I feel intimidated I…
When I feel frightened I…
What is my anger trying to teach me?
Positive self-talk affirmations for upsetting situations: I am making myself angry. I have a choice. My haters make me greater.
Get your anger out without lashing out at others. Write it out. Throw pillows. Go running. Work out. Live!
Get Caught Up on Love Class
- Baby Mama Drama and Multiple Families
- How to Live and Love with Authenticity
- Women Hating Other Women
- Dark Girls: Beauty, Skin Color and Love
Passionate Living Coach Abiola Abrams gives extraordinary women inspiring advice on healthy relationships, evolved sexuality and getting the love we deserve. You’ve seen her love interventions in magazines from Essence to JET and on shows from MTV’s “Made” to the CW Network’s “Bill Cunningham Show.” Find love class worksheets, advice videos, coaching, and more at “Abiola’s Love University.” Tweet @abiolaTV or #loveclass.