Anger, especially for women, gets a bad-rap. Studies show that women do a great deal of tap dancing to avoid expressing anger. We may feel comfortable enough feeling the anger, but it is not always clear to us women how we should express it. Often, anger is disguised and shows up through tears, submission, withdrawal, self deprecation, even despondency. When our fuse is at it's end there may be a scene with shouting and blaming. None of these responses are helping people harness the power behind anger.
Yes, anger is powerful. That
might be one reason why women are not comfortable feeling it. Some
people aren't comfortable with that sort of power. Women are
historically conditioned to be more pleasing and caring and thus don't
"do" anger. In Harriet Goldhor Lerner's book "The Dance of Anger", she
women collectively have this unfulfilled relationship with anger. We
live in a culture that doesn't value angry women and so we aren't taught
how to manage or communicate this emotion effectively. Women usually
don't think anger is an acceptable feeling and strive to "rise above
True, screaming like an angry child doesn't usually work for
adults, but when harnessed effectively anger becomes more about
asserting oneself, righting a wrong, and reorganizing the balance of
power. When we work with our anger it can become our ally in our
pursuit for fulfilling our needs. Anger tells us when change is in
order. When an individual attends to their anger with respect and
acceptance it can be one of the most motivating, life altering states of
Here are four steps to take in order to make anger more effective in your life...
begin with, try taking a breath and consciously recognizing that you
are angry. Allow yourself to be okay with simply feeling the anger.
ask yourself what is making you angry; what is the belief behind the
anger...this is harder than it sounds and takes some practice. Rather
than staying stuck on the view that a person made you angry, try asking
what about this person has violated a belief or principle you have. It
is your anger; recognize that it is about you. "Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others" (Harriet Goldhor Lerner).
take responsibility for getting your needs met. Affirm them to either
yourself or verbally to the person with whom you are in conflict with.
Speak up before you build resentment.
Lastly, be prepared to
confront. Even if you do it with the jitters or an edge to your voice.
You don't have to say it perfectly the first time; strive to make your
position clear. Feel free to phrase your dialogue with, "This is
difficult for me to address, but"...
It can be helpful to substitute anger for an alternative variation like assertiveness when you are struggling with discomfort around feeling anger. Remind yourself that assertiveness is a
positive and accepted expression of anger. This may help you become more comfortable with your experience around anger.