How do you do anger as a female person?
November 15, 2017 12:45 AM   Subscribe

I just don't know how, and I've got a lot of it.

I guess I learned as a kid somehow (you know, culture) to just internalize. Now I've been therapizing and admitting it a bit and it just seems anger goes a long way down. Not as far as turtles, but close. Has someone written a book yet? Do we need to write a book?

I tried to extrapolate here, but it got into the things you would probably guess would be true for an American woman who has friends from all over of all different sorts. When I'm angry in front of people, I cry, which just super undermines whatever else I could do to prove I'm angry? I don't know how to do it.

I plan on journaling and basic self-care! Any better advice is super welcome. I'm not mad at everyone, but I am, like, super mad at the people who deserve it. (Again, in therapy. Still mad and still in therapy. Not hurting anyone.) Angry women, teach me.
posted by lauranesson to Human Relations (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

It’s not clear exactly what you’re asking. Can you clarify?

Are you looking for ways to “prove” you’re angry to other people? Ways to process your anger? Something else? Your question is super vague right now.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 2:29 AM on November 15, 2017

I don't know all that much about being an American woman, since I'm not American, so I have no idea where you were going with that bit. But your main problems seem to be
- expressing your anger
- feeling that you need to prove your anger

You don't need to prove that you are angry. Crying is a pretty well understood indicator of a strong emotion; all you need to do is let people know that you are angry and not, for example, sad. If you can manage to say something like 'I'm very angry right now' that may be enough. If you want to do more, maybe bang a fist on a table?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:16 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Take a boxing class. Chop some wood. Try a time-consuming, intensely physical hobby like welding or building bikes. Crush a small dumb object. Play fast and loose with your body– how about rock climbing or extreme sports? Make glare faces in the mirror, feel what it's like to ball your fists up and sink your feet into the earth and truly see what it looks like to want to punch and rage and destroy. Practice adding anger to your voice– how can you convey anger without intimidation? Are you able to say out loud to someone, "I am furious with you and here's why and this is what I need for you to fix it?"

But yeah. Really, really hard, brutal exercise. Anger is a physical cycle. When you bottle it up, that cycle doesn't complete and your anger hormones are just.. swarming. You have to finish somehow; go through the rage and shake it off. Crying is a good release! So is punching. So is saying your piece and choosing to be done with the issue. Right time, right place for each.
posted by fritillary at 4:02 AM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think for me, it just came down to honesty and believing in myself. And I know that sounds really cliche, but by being honest with myself and believing in myself and my own right to be angry, I no longer had to "prove" how angry I was. I could just be honest and say it, and if the people around me aren't complete jerks, they'll understand and back off, or act accordingly. .
posted by Socolime at 4:34 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am not American (though I am a woman). If the anger is about a person I interact with (instead of, say, a system or a public figure) I make sure I express my needs to this person. Like I can get so angry at men looking at my boobs or interrupting me. A « please stop looking at my boobs » and « please, don’t interrupt me » in a very matter of fact tone make WONDERS for my anger levels. Expressing my needs doesn’t mean they will be met but I know I’ve done everything I could do and it is immensely… calming? reassuring? empowering? …a bit of all this. It took me a while to be comfortable in expressing my needs but it really changed my life 180 and I am way calmer (but not less outraged or sad or happy or whatever. Just less angry).
posted by Ifite at 5:12 AM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

You need this book: The Dance Of Anger by Harriet Lerner. It changed my life.

Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion was also very helpful to me, but I needed to work with Lerner's book first.
posted by Amy NM at 5:59 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

For me the trick is to annihilate all of the twisted thinking I have in my psyche that tells me I don't have a right to be angry. People fear anger responses from women so we are societally trained to believe we shouldn't have it. If I get overwhelmed with anger and my psyche is like "nope, can't have this!" but my emotions are like "A GREAT INJUSTICE IS OCCURRING THOUGH" and those two things bounce back and forth until I get frustrated, it makes me cry. So fun.

Although I do this way less now. Things that have worked for me:
1) training myself to recognize emotions vs reactions. I spend a good amount of time reminding myself to stay centered and not react emotionally as much as I can.
2) narrating my emotions with as little drama as possible. Get away from people and try it alone just to get a handle on what is going on with you. Just say "I am angry." Or "I feel angry right now". Let it sit there! Narrate your physical responses too. My heart is racing. I feel flush.
3) really try hard to remember that while some people in your life may have the right to ask (or even tell) you to modify your behavior, nobody can tell you how to feel. Your emotions are yours and yours alone.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:30 AM on November 15, 2017

When I'm angry in front of people, I cry, which just super undermines whatever else I could do to prove I'm angry? I don't know how to do it.

I'm someone who cries easily and at everything, and oh my god do I ever know what you mean about crying undermining whatever you're angry about. . I'm so emotive all the time that people never noticed when things actually hurt or upset me. I don't think the concept of having to "prove" you're angry is productive, but the need to indicate to others you're angry/upset is valid.

What I have developed over the years is cool, calm rage I worked on completely distilling my anger into blunt words and non-emotive responses. Basically, I go fully Vulcan when I'm truly angry with someone.

- No yelling, no screaming, no raised voices, no glaring or dirty looks.
- I don't shy away from using very emotive, vulnerable words. I in fact deliberately use very candid, clear words to describe how I'm feeling.
- I use fewer contractions, because "I will not allow myself to be treated this way" sounds a lot more forceful than "I won't allow myself to be treated this way".
- I speak slowly, clearly, deliberately, and I avoid any hyperbole.
- I do nothing that could resemble being "dramatic".
- I look them straight in the eye while I speak.

I just don't distract from my message with yelling, crying, or any other "loud" body language.

Pretty much everyone who has been on the receiving end of my angry Vulcan has said it is terrifying. The vulnerable, honest feeling words paired with calm delivery and a steely stare is deeply effective. The simple fact that it is so far removed from my normal flamboyant self makes it jarring and impossible to ignore. And because I'm not raising my voice or doing anything that would resemble threatening behaviour, no one can really fault it.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2017 [15 favorites]

My mother had rages, so I didn't learn anything healthy about expressing anger growing up and tend to internalize (and cry when I'm angry) out of fear of raging, so I found When Anger Scares You helpful. Pretty sure I learned about it here on The Green at some point. (I'm a cis woman but found his chapter on men and anger particularly resonant because Mom the Rager found crying weak so I got a lot of the "stifle your feelings" messages that boys are typically socialized with.)

I've been finding it helpful to state it when I'm crying because I'm angry, even if it leaves some people confused because they're unfamiliar with that reaction to anger. It's just a physical release, and it's better than suppressing it or breaking stuff or hurting someone (the end result of anger in my childhood home).
posted by camyram at 9:42 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a woman who used to be angry a lot, and now is even-tempered (and not because I internalize it), I've noticed that I now categorize my anger in one of three ways and act accordingly:
  • I can do something about this, and it's worth my time. Examples: Someone says something that bothers me and I feel it's worth bringing it to their attention. Something happening in the world angers me and I can join / donate / volunteer to address that issue. In those cases, I take action.
  • I can do something about this, but it isn't worth my time. Somewhere along the line I came to realize that letting people anger me was giving them power over me. With that in mind, it is much easier to brush off something I would have stewed about, and I'm more likely to attribute it to that person's shortcomings. This also applies on a larger scale - there are some political / social issues that just aren't worth my time when I put them in perspective. I take a deep breath and leave it behind.
  • I can't do anything about this, and it's going to keep bothering me. This is where my answer will probably diverge from others' - I belong to a tradition with a ritual practice and is has been HUGELY beneficial to me in managing anger when things are outside my control. I can address those things in ritual and leave them behind so they do not impact my emotional well-being.

That said, I think it is completely natural and OK to have an immediate, involuntary reaction to anger like crying. But you may find that when you are dealing regularly with your anger in a non-internalized way, you will be better able to handle your immediate reactions to surprise anger.
posted by beyond_pink at 11:16 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

try out drumming!
posted by ghostbikes at 5:18 PM on November 15, 2017

Beyoncé's Lemonade film is a crash course in female anger without apology. (The album too, of course, but the film is longer than the album.) Having a soundtrack helped me let myself feel the anger.
posted by sadmadglad at 6:12 PM on November 15, 2017

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