“There is no great reward for being emotionally withdrawn, no pity prize for bottling your frustration. No one is coming to congratulate your chronic self-repression. By opening up, maybe you will inconvenience some people. Maybe you will trigger some conflict. Maybe you will be rejected, criticized, judged. Everything comes with a price and everything has its compensation. Authenticity may require pain, but it also opens the doors to joy, creativity, self-respect, empathy. Self-repression, on the other hand, costs you all the beauty of the world in exchange for a prison of comfort. Is it really worth it? Isn't it time to break free?”
― Vironika Tugaleva
The word “management” comes to mind with when we talk about anger. It is considered an unsavory emotion that should be tamed and hidden. All women struggle with this on various levels, but in a previous post, Let Them Be Girls, I discussed how the suppression of unfavorable emotions is engrained in WOC. Despite the stereotypical implications that WOC are angry by nature, what many people fail to realize about us is that our anger is often anything BUT acknowledged. Many of us have a “Cranes in The Sky” approach and attempt to “blank” it away. Behaviors such as overeating, overworking, over-loving (codependency), and pushing people away (counter-dependency) may provide a temporary salve to bandage our anger. It would make perfect sense that we’ve created defenses against this emotion since we don’t usually get permission to be angry at any stage of our lives. When we do express anger, we’re considered cliched, held to a higher standard, told not to do that, called a bitch/irrational/crazy. Point blank: we’re made to feel that our anger doesn’t matter.
Think back to how your anger has been received in your life. Whether an adverse response, a disregarded response or no response at all, if your anger was not given space then neither was your pain. As WOC, WE need to make space for our anger and acknowledge that it’s ok to be mad. Being able to sit with your anger and eloquently say to someone, “This does not work for me. This is not ok”, is a major key to our healing. This beautiful skill is about knowing our boundaries and teaching others how to treat us. We often don’t want to upset anyone or experience being upset. It’s not comfortable to be angry, but the alternative is worse. When we suppress our anger, we are also pushing our pain WAY down and allowing our feelings to go untouched and untreated.
Many of us have unleashed the dreaded, “BLOW UP!” on an unsuspecting victim or three. When we don’t express our boundaries clearly and they are crossed, this causes us pain. When our pain is not acknowledged and behavior doesn’t change to improve our interpersonal relationships, anger begins to blossom. When we suppress our anger, it only takes a word, a phrase, a microaggression, or a misunderstanding for all of our pent up aggression to explode into a fit of rage. These fits of rage are exhausting, unrelenting, and anxiety & shame producing. We don’t like to admit it, but we also lump in the anger we have at ourselves for letting things get that far.
We have all been there at some point and it usually occurs because we didn’t address what was bothering us when it mattered. Let's look at the pattern…
Someone disregards our boundaries-We say nothing
Someone hurts our feelings-We say nothing
Someone causes us pain by continually disregarding our boundaries-We say nothing
Our pain turns into anger over time-We say nothing
We are never able to express our anger without being disregarded or judged-We say nothing
One more injustice...BLOW TF UP!!!!!!
Our reaction is coming from EVERYTHING, usually not the isolated recent event. It is important to catch our pain in the beginning stages, feel our feelings, and let those feelings be known. Remember that we have been conditioned to “move on”, but this does not serve us well. Over time, we’ve become masters at masking our emotions. We rarely LOOK on the outside how we FEEl on the inside, which is deceiving to the people around us and even to ourselves. We are all on the road to healing which means taking a break from time to time to check on our emotional needs. Sometimes we aren’t aware of what we are feeling, but this means we need to carve out quality time to listen to what our bodies and emotions are trying to tell us. If something feels off, maybe we are hurting or mad. I have an activity that you can do to check in to see if you are experiencing unacknowledged pain or anger.
Golden Hour Exercise: Keep a journal by your bedside for this nightly exercise. The “golden hour” is the moment of time when you are settling down before bed. This is the time that your brain has a moment to reflect on the events of the day or issues that plague us. At this moment, we can choose to be present with ourselves and listen to what our body is saying. Are we holding on to something someone said or did to us? Are we upset over unresolved problems? What are we avoiding? Jot down your feelings of anger and pain to review for the next day after a good night’s rest.
It’s ok to express our anger in a healthy way AFTER we’ve taken a moment to regroup and decide the steps we need to take. Making space for our anger is not about being an angry stereotypical woman. It IS about checking in and asking ourselves, “Am I allowing myself to feel my full range of emotions or am I keeping a lid on what matters to me so that I can honor everyone else’s emotions?” In order to stay away from the BLOW UP stage, we should always honor our truth and make space for our anger and pain. When we are authentic and present ourselves in a holistic way, some people may not receive us, but our peace and healing are worth the effort.