Revisiting Anger: Healthy Anger and the Fear of the “B” Word

I was going to title this post “Anger”, but I realized that I already have four post with Anger in the title. Hmmm… think it’s a pattern here?

As with most things, my understanding of anger gets clearer over time. As a girl child, I was raised to be quiet. When my mother would be angry, she would get really quiet. Her anger permeated the air and seemed to create a barrier around her. This left me with no examples of what healthy anger in a woman looks like. I had one sister who was vocal in her anger, however it was a reactive judgmental anger. Because of this, she had negative labels placed on like, “Bossy”, “Rude”, “and the all too familiar “Bitch”.

As a child I felt a lot of anger and was a pro at temper tantrum. As the years passed and I grew out of throwing temper tantrums, I was told that my anger was “too  much”. In my anger I can get quiet, hold grudges, ignore people, and hurl hurtful sarcastic comments. Somewhere in between all of this, I cry too. I rarely scream and yell (around others).

Being in therapy has helped me to understand that my anger shows up so twisted as my father could rage with the best of them, and my upbringing taught me to not show my anger. Not being able to express anger in a healthy way causes multiple psychological and physical issues such as gastrointestinal problems and low self-esteem.

I’ve also learned that anger is not an emotion you want to eliminate. It serves a purpose. For myself, anger lets me know that a boundary has been crossed and/or that I feel afraid to speak up on my behalf. Anger also lets me know that a perceived injustice has been committed. Being able to sit with my anger is hard, but if I can process it, I can usually see it’s source, and decide if I want to take action. Processing my anger allows me to be tactful and assertive instead of emotionally reactive, and it also allows me to be very clear, with others and myself, about my boundaries. Assertiveness in females is unfortunately commonly seen in a negative light. However, as hard as it most times, I’m accepting that what other people think about me cannot override what’s healthy for me. People project what they want, and that is none of my business.

As a woman I find it hard to find other women who express anger in a healthy way. I have seen various examples of unhealthy anger such as yelling, accusing, hitting, screaming, revenge, resentment, blaming, and forcing. Sometimes I get a glimpse at healthy anger, when someone is able to express themselves in a calm and firm manner. The latter example is one I strive for, and am ever so slowly learning to do. When I get angry, my usual response is to get overwhelmed with anger and all rationality goes out the window. I am in rage and I get there quickly.  It has been a long time getting to the small understanding of what anger is and what healthy anger looks like.

I found Assertive Communication to be helpful in learning what healthy anger looks like. It’s a simple, yet full of detailed skills which can come in handy for work and personal life. The following link describes what Assertive Communication is and sis not, as well as various types of Assertive Communication skills.


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