I read an article yesterday in Good Housekeeping called "Anger Management" by Betsy Rapoport. (Being a sometimes freelance writer myself, I always go see who the freelancer is. I also read the acknowledgments in every book. I'm odd like that.)
Terrible opening aside, this article struck a chord with me because I've spent the last few years overcoming my fear of my own anger.
Rapoport contends that women "do" mad just as well as men, have no special difficulty in expressing it. She writes:
And yet negative stereotypes abounded. "An angry man is considered assertive and strong," Tavris concluded back then, "an angry woman is considered bitchy and overbearing." Moreover, she says today, the stereotypes are as pervasive now as when she first reported on them.
I took to Google and typed in "angry woman." This is what I got.
Lest I be unbalanced, I also did "angry man."
Listen, I know Google doesn't constitute highly scientific research, but I do think what pops up is a reflection of society. "Angry woman" gets you men writing about how to handle an angry woman. "Angry man" gets you blogs by men owning their anger. For the most part.
I pretty much agreed with Rapoport's points (that it's far better to express anger than get passive aggressive). I wanted to take it farther, though.
You have to figure out what you're going to do with your anger.
Anger, as an emotion, is energizing -- far more energizing than frustration, which is paralyzing. Think about it -- if you feel frustrated, you just want to pull the covers over your head. If you feel angry, you want to throw things. Throwing things is not socially acceptable, but if you allow yourself to be angry, you can then decide what you're going to do with it. And you can tell the object of your anger exactly that.
Which is more effective?
You never listen to me. Stop hitting your sister! I swear, you kids are going to be the death of me!
I'm getting angry now. Don't make me regret bringing you to Disneyland.
Anger with kids is one thing. We can threaten them, we can discipline them, we can take away their toys or what have you. Adults are tougher.
But it's the same. We have to tell each other when we're angry, and then we have to figure out what to do with that anger. Is it focused properly? Are you really mad at the person in front of you, or are you mad at the economy or your boss or the asswipe who cut you off in traffic? What do you want to do about it? Do you want an apology? Some attention? Social change? If you're angry with a person, deal with the person. If you're angry with society, join a movement, write, run for office. Frustration makes you feel helpless, but anger -- ANGER -- moves mountains. Anger gets laws changed. Anger incites women to leave bad situations, start companies, protect children. Women should not be afraid of their anger. We just have to figure out how to channel it.
I think these "angry women" discussions I found on Google are actually "frustrated woman" discussions. Because a real angry woman? Is nothing to be trifled with.