Updated: Jun 27, 2020
Expressed anger is often viewed as out of control emotion. It pushes people away or it draws them in to engage. Many people fear their own anger will jeopardize the image they’ve worked so deliberately to uphold. Have you ever felt so insecure or vulnerable in a moment that you reacted with intensity to push back or defend yourself? Typical reactions include yelling, crying, breaking something, releasing through exercise, engaging in distracting behaviors like social media, driving, sleeping, venting to a friend, isolating, and substance use.
We are socialized to denounce anger, especially women who are deterred from expression of disproval or upset. For women, demonstrating anger looks like madness, lack of control, mental instability, and is completely “out of character”. Culturally, male dominance and aggression are encouraged as is pressure towards muscularity (physical strength and toughness). These behavioral expectations are often counterintuitive to natural gender balance and emotional well being.
Anger is not always a negative emotion. When it is used to trespass another’s boundaries, it can create negative outcome. When internalized, it can morph into resentment, sadness, and apathy. Anger is also useful. Heightened sensation of emotions, whether expressed or coveted, creates the need for movement. What this means is intensified emotion generally requires or prompts action to be taken. Viewed for its positive attributes, anger is transformative and offers healing.
To reframe anger, consider this self-reflection: Although I am sometimes scared by expressions of anger, and even though I would rather hide from it than confront what makes me angry, it indicates when my personal boundaries have been violated. Knowing I have set standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior empowers me. I want to feel safe in the world and not taken advantage of. Some behaviors are not tolerated so my anger urges me to find resolution instead of letting it fester inside me. Knowing I have an internal warning system towards injustices allows me to trust that when I am triggered it is for a purpose and needs reflection. If others react in anger towards me, I can remind myself that I am 100% responsible for how I respond. Their reaction is not a refection of my worthiness.