Rage, rage against everything
December 28, 2018 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I float between people pleasing and savage repression of my feelings or passive-aggressive acting out and exploding in anger. This isn't healthy. Help me become more assertive so that I can express my feelings and needs.

I'm consumed with anger and resentments: I'm angry at the shitty white feminists at work when they are mean/racist and yet still manage to fail up, I'm angry about being overworked, I'm angry about political injustice, I'm angry about Asian Americans not being part of the national conversation on race, I'm angry when mentally ill people go on racist and sexist tirades on public transportation, I'm angry when my sister's husband is disrespectful to my fiance -- I'm angry, I'm angry, I'm angry.

Very relevant: I'm Chinese-American, and was intensely socialized to be pleasant and to keep the peace amongst my family. What that means is that my main way of dealing of all of this is trying to suppress my anger so that I can please others, especially at work, because I don't want to be seen as insubordinate. (In fact, my boss told me that I could "never say no," even if I was trying to set boundaries around my work.) I also don't bring things up because I don't want to offend people--the savage suppression that sometimes and too often turns into exploding into rage and quite frankly, temper tantrums.

My fiance told me that I didn't know my own power and that I really had the soul of a fighter, but that I needed to find better ways to channel this so that it was more effective for me. I completely agree with him, because all of this is making me 1) stressed out and 2) very, very close to a brutal nervous breakdown and 3) angry as fuck and yet feeling completely powerless.

I know; I need therapy, and I'm looking for a therapist that has openings. In the meantime, I'd really like to hear about resources on women's anger, especially for minority and Asian-American women. For now, I've checked out books like "The Asshole Survival Guide" and I'm considering taking up kickboxing, but obviously, I need more help.
posted by hello my sockpuppet to Human Relations (11 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Hello fellow woman of Chinese descent. I feel familiar with that variety of anger. My strategies have included venting by writing it all out on paper, having internal dialogues with myself when in the moment of an angering situation, look at wearing a mask of professionalism at work as part of the job while articulating the meanest of things in my head, regarding all people as petulant teenagers in need of compassion by default, keeping my eyes on my personal goals and not getting too invested in things that inconsequential to them and letting go of the idea that I need to make a statement with my life to say “look what an Asian woman did.” Not saying my strategies are healthy, but I feel like I’m much better at getting through the day. There’s only so much you can do, and if you can honestly say you’ve done your best in any given moment, then that’s all there is to it.
posted by alusru at 1:12 PM on December 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Not as deep as the other answers, but: read any posts on Captain Awkward tagged “boundaries” and any posts on Etiquette Hell tagged “polite spine”.
posted by matildaben at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

You could go here and click on Assertiveness for a self-help CBT workbook.

This is a classic in Western pop psychology for women and anger, but I honestly don't know how well it will help with the Chinese influence you are describing. It is probably written for a primarily white female audience. That said, I encourage you to look at the excerpts and decide for yourself if there is anything of value. Bonus: it's widely available in used book stores abd libraries.

I found this article which may also prove useful.
posted by crunchy potato at 1:53 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

One thing that’s helped me is realizing that my anger is often a signal that something is important to me. Because I ignore my own feelings until they’re at the rage stage. So if I realize I’m angry because something is important, I ask myself what I can do to at least feel heard, hopefully empowered about that thing.

I start Very small, like asking to change the music at home when I don’t like it.

The Dance of Anger was a helpful book a therapist recommended to me long ago.
posted by ldthomps at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm a guy who was also very deeply programed to be sociable and nice and keep the peace. For these and other reasons I have previously tried to make connections with clients (and generally and it's seldon gone well). A few things changed this for me, oddly a line from The Interpreter where Penn's character says "they're not our family, they're not our friends" was most meaningful to me and I've worked since on that basis.

The other realisation was that some people/organizations are dark whirlpools and I've learned to (sometimes) recognise them and avoid their vortex. I hope you can work something out.

I suppose this is mostly about boundaries as in matildaben's post.
posted by unearthed at 4:03 PM on December 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding The Dance Of Anger.

It's helpful to me to talk to a trusted friend outside of whatever I'm angry about. Like you my first reactions are usually 1) meekly keep the peace or 2) explode with rage. Talking it out can help me center on my interests and figure out the best way to address the situation - usually a third path that has nothing to do with what at first seem to be my only choices.
posted by bunderful at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

The thing that has helped me the most - more than meditation, more than therapy, more than talking - has been buying boxing gloves and hanging a heavy bag in the garage and channeling my anger energy into punching that bag. It leaves me physically tired and relieves my feelings.
posted by usedsongs at 4:53 AM on December 29, 2018

I think you are already on the right track by admitting to your anger. That is way more difficult for us women who were socialized to be "nice" all the time. Once I was able to finally admit that my anger was there, a fact, and not something I had to judge myself over. Once I was finally able to say "okay, I'm angry, and I'm going to be that way until I'm not (but I can choose how/whether I act on and express it)" my feelings became much less problematic for myself and others.

As others have pointed out, anger can often be a legitimate signal that something has to change. For example, any boss who tells an employee that they "can never say no" is a terrible manager and the best thing you can do in that situation is find a new situation. That kind of behaviour would piss off a statue.

It also helped me to learn to live with the disapproval of others. Setting boundaries will annoy/upset/anger entitled people, but if the alternative is your own annoyance/discomfort/rage, you are allowed to choose your own inner peace over someone else's. Let other people manage their own feelings.
posted by rpfields at 8:33 AM on December 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

First, all these things are angry-making. I think you know that, right? Anger is a not-unreasonable response to much of what you are describing.

Two book recommendations, and I apologize that I haven’t read either, but based on interviews and such, I think they might be good reads for you:

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister (a white feminist, so this might not speak to issues specifically faced by women of color)
posted by bluedaisy at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, with just a few sentences you‘ve managed to paint a picture of a very toxic workplace (the „never say no“ thing - wtf??). That kind of workplace can mess up your sense of what is normal office culture and also your sense of what you are actually worth on thd job market.

Can you start setting some time aside for serious job hunting?

It seems like quite a few of these angry making, powerless-feeling things take place at work. Getting out would eliminate those and give you brain space to deal with the other micro aggressions you are facing.

And even if jobs are hard to find, the job hunt itself will help you - by refocussing on yourself as someone who has a lot to offer on the market and is worthy of respect. As someone with options and, thus, power.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

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