Angry Men, Angry Women

by Elouise

Because society would rather we always wore a pretty face,
women have been trained to cut off anger.
~Nancy Friday

Anger repressed can poison a relationship
as surely as the cruelest words.
~Joyce Brothers

Anger conquers when unresolved.

* * *

The quotes above come from one of my recovery books:  Each Day a New Beginning:  Daily Meditations for Women, © 1982, Hazelden Foundation.  I couldn’t stop thinking about them this last week.  Partly because of Diane’s piece, “Yes, it hurt.”

But that’s not the only reason.  About three decades ago I was a tinder box of anger.  It was easy to direct it outward.  The sad truth is that I was angry at myself.

I was angry that I’d spent so many years wandering in a fog.  I’d allowed the opinions of others to determine how I felt on any given day and what I would or would not do.  I’d swallowed men’s contempt for me right along with their flattery.  It all settled in my gut along with what I’d swallowed from my childhood.  How could I have been so blind for so long?

I went back and began with my childhood, my family.  The questions below are similar to those I began asking myself.  I didn’t understand anger.  I’d never learned to befriend, much less dance with it.  I didn’t know how to follow my anger into dark places, light a candle, and take another look at my fears and supposed failures.  Or my pain and grief.

I needed to get close to anger and learn from it.  I had to unlearn bad habits and begin practicing healthy habits of anger.  That doesn’t mean people closest to me applauded and said, “Oh, Elouise!  I really like your healthy anger!”  They were probably as stunned as I was.  But over time I began to reap small benefits, and learned to take care of myself when anger and rage seemed to be drowning me.

Here are a few questions for you to ponder.  They remind me of things I don’t want to forget.

Questions for self-reflection:

  1. What were your family rules about anger?  Were they spoken or unspoken?
  2. Did your family have different rules for angry men and angry women?  If so, how did they differ?
  3. Do you remember seeing your parents or other caregivers angry at each other?  If so, what did that look like?
  4. What lessons did you learn from the way your parents or caregivers dealt with their anger?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 November 2014