Has anyone else noticed lately that there are all kinds of opportunities coming up for us to form a healthier relationship with our anger? Especially if you’re a femme-identifying person, or perhaps you’re not, but you’re feeling anger that seems to emanate from your feminine side.
This purge began for me a couple weeks ago, after a steady buildup, and now within the last 24 hours I’ve seen the theme come up in three separate instances as well.
So, message received.
As women we are very often socialized to internalize our anger in ways that are neither healthy, nor productive, nor honest. Our anger is dismissed as “crazy,” sometimes even clinically – did you know that women exhibiting the same exact symptoms as men will be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder whereas the men will be diagnosed with PTSD (Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology, p5)? We are so often conditioned to feel that if we want our needs met we must suppress our anger, that expressing our anger will only take us further from our desired end.
The conditioning and gaslighting I received in my upbringing and formative relationships made me believe that I had only a few options if I felt anger in relationship:
1) express it and lose the relationship, whether by a) the person leaving because they don’t want to deal with my expression, or b) the person telling me that they aren’t going to change and that I should leave if I don’t like it
2) discuss the situation calmly, in an even-toned voice, and use logic and reason to sway the person to see things from my perspective, which generally leads to pointless “debates” about my feelings, or more gaslighting disguised as the same, or not disguised at all
3) find another way to change the situation, through people-pleasing, seduction, fawn response, subtle manipulation, or trickster energy
It’s been well over a decade since I chose option 1. Because option 1 is just a version of option 4 that takes longer.
How do we allow ourselves room for anger that doesn’t require sacrificing our relationships but instead purifies them, clarifies them, and makes them stronger?
This is the question I’ve been pushed to ask myself lately, and it’s not a fun purge to go through. Allowing myself the possibility that there are people who will not only hold space for my anger but who will value the bravery in my authentic expression is a new feeling. I already get told I’m too much, I’m too fiery, I’m too passionate, I think too much. I don’t really care what most people think of me at this point in my life, but of course there are relationships I’m afraid of losing. Of course there are people in my life who could devastate me by saying, “Well if you don’t like it, leave.”
The problem with anger is that if we express it and the person doesn’t care, then we’re faced with either leaving the relationship or compromising on a boundary. Compromising on a boundary weakens our position because it communicates that whatever we were so upset about couldn’t have been that important anyway, and we lose credibility. Our bluff gets called.
And then we wonder how we end up in relationships where we have no boundaries.
The steady erosion of women’s boundaries through the shaming of their anger is nothing short of an epidemic in the collective, and it is a mass, if unconscious, form of gender-based control.
I am very angry right now.
I’ve spent so long reining in my anger that I can make conscious decisions about where and how I express it, I can lure it out like a snake charmer, put it into art, sit with it, dissect it.
And I’m now staying attuned for models of that healthy expression of anger that deepen, rather than threaten, friendship and relationship.
I’m probably going to be in this for a minute. Apparently I need the practice.