Today was a challenging day for me. My youngest son was asked to leave his high school for poor grades. Consciously, I understand that he is a large part of the problem, regardless of his obvious learning “differences” (he has them, and it makes it tough for him). But I still found myself harboring a sense of anger toward the teachers who, in essence, didn’t reach him. The thought that kept rolling around in my mind was …
“My boy didn’t succeed here, but the teachers and the administration fully failed.”
As I waited for Ty to collect all his stuff in his school, I sat on the curb outside the building and just fumed. There was a part of me that thought it would be so satisfying to march in there and say exactly what I was thinking, and the other part of me worried that if I did I would upset others, embarrass myself, and put my son into more discomfort than he may already be feeling.
As I wrestled with all these thoughts, my judgments about being angry won out. I stayed put until he came back out to the car and then chatted it up (like nothing was really wrong) as I drove him to the skate park, where he could blow off some steam. By the time I got back to my office, my feelings of anger were overwhelming. The worst part about it all was that those feelings were inside of me, making me feel remarkable negative emotion.
For women, expressing anger is difficult. It’s as if your feelings of anger are not appropriate, or you may rationalize that you will never get the results that you want by being angry. For some women, there’s the real fear of being judged that stops them from communicating anger to someone who’s upset them.
Lois Frankel, PhD, author of Women, Anger & Depression, says, “From early childhood we hear messages like ‘little girls don’t get angry’or ‘you’re not cute or pretty or fun when you get angry.’” Dr. Frankel continues by saying, “Women are made to feel as if there’s something wrong with them when they get angry.”
Still, recent studies have found that when women either mask their anger or externalize and project their anger irresponsibly, they are at higher risk for anxiety, nervousness, tension and panic attacks.
In 1993, psychologist Sandra Thomas, PhD, conducted the Women’s Anger Study, a large-scale investigation involving 535 women between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-six. Based on her research, she discovered three common roots to women’s anger: powerlessness, injustices, and the irresponsibility of other people.
Historically, culture indicated to women that anger is “unladylike” and shouldn’t be expressed. Currently, there is far more leeway for both genders to be “fully expressed,” but yelling and screaming or acting out violently has equally significant negative effects on your system.
Either extreme outlined above is indicative of low self-esteem, yet we need to understand that not dealing appropriately with anger can create even larger problems. Internalizing it cultivates depression, overeating, drinking too much, or somatic symptoms like headache or stomach pain. Externalizing it by yelling at kids, co-workers, spouses or friends, damages important relationships and creates a deeper sense of guilt or shame rather than effectively solving the problems.
Have you ever had the experience where you were extremely sad or feeling depressed? Nothing is really that appealing or motivating, or you just cry a lot, and keep to yourself. Then, something triggers a feeling of anger in you.
Wasn’t that anger like a breath of fresh air?
Suddenly, you have a sense of purpose and the despair you were so smothered in, lifted with the surge of emotion that we consider “anger.” The trick is not staying in anger but reaching for the next best possible feeling you can muster, fundamentally using your “bad” attitude to crowbar you out of powerlessness.
When you were depressed, your loved ones were probably much more compassionate and concerned. They may have been concerned about your crying a lot, or that you were locked up in your room, but didn’t necessarily get upset about your state of mind. Getting angry and flaying around in the middle of things, now that’s upsetting. Your family and friends would probably almost rather have you depressed again, because you’re so much easier to deal with.
Thus, the insistence that you “tone down that anger” is very possibly a ploy to keep you quiet and to keep things running smoothly. Unconscious, but still possible. So, instead of being able to use your anger to move out of depression, you just yo-yo back and forth from despair to anger.
Approached productively, though, anger can be a step in the right direction for success. When you learn how to use your anger as an emotional bridge helping you get from despair to ultimately joy, it then becomes a valuable asset to your emotional, physical, and spiritual “bottom line.”
Explore your anger and recognize that being angry isn’t a “bad” thing, so much as a difficult emotion to feel. By learning better communication skills and employing techniques where the use of your breath, meditation, or movement can all support your ability to confront people you are angry with them, or help you find other means to move through anger and into a sense of hope or possibility.
Lucky for me, I practice what I preach. It wasn’t necessarily “easy” for me to shift from anger to where I am right now. Today, I’m quite content and excited about what’s coming for my son, and truly have a sense that things are unfolding as they need to for him. This is a big difference from last Friday when I felt such powerlessness in helping my son get the education he deserves.
What I did was run the problem through the 4 Amazon Principles© and wrote my thoughts down … effectively getting them out of my system, and I quietly remembered that being his mother meant that I was only required to love and believe in him. He is responsible for what happens to his life, I just act as a resource that can help him create more of what he wants, more of the time. I found myself feeling better and better as the afternoon and evening progressed, and satisfied with the next steps we would take in getting him as education.
Keep in mind, everything is still the same here. My son still has difficulties that make his success at school elusive, and it’s been painful for me since he was a small boy. The school remains largely unaccountable for its part in his having to leave.
What is true is, I don’t feel powerless any longer, and I don’t sense that being angry was anything but a blessing in disguise.