Updated: Jun 28, 2022
'Bang!' My eight year old self swung open the living room door, stamped over to the stereo and turned off my mum and dad's record player (playing something hideous like the Everly Brothers or the Beach Boys at a ridiculously high volume).
'There's CHILDREN sleeping upstairs!' I shouted to 30 stunned partying grown-ups in a smoke-filled living room (it was the 70s after all), and stamped back upstairs.
My mum STILL recalls this incident as evidence of me being a very angry little girl.
There were more 'incidents' like this.
I probably WAS an angry little girl.
From my parents embarrassedly apologising for my unbecoming behaviour to assorted neighbours and friends, to me becoming a feminist and even studying law to right some wrongs (or so I thought). From internalising anger and getting ill, rather than finding healthy ways of expressing anger, all the way through to recognising anger and using it as a signal for things to change.
Yes, anger and I have had quite the journey.
But I've come to the conclusion that - most of the time - anger is normal, and often a force for the better.
Even the Dalai Lama agrees with me.
So, what's the problem?
1. Women's anger and society - Emotions are gendered. Being angry is not an emotion that women 'should' display. Even though women and men both feel this emotion, women are called 'mad', 'crazy', 'hot headed'. (Whilst men are 'assertive', 'decisive' and 'passionate' Double standards much?)
We are not able to express our anger as society forbids it and punishes it. Our anger turns inwards as a result. Watch Soraya Chemaly's TED talk on this.
2. Uncontrolled anger - If you are not aware of your anger, you may not be able to control it and out it comes, at times when you could do without! (Interesting fact: 65% of office workers have experienced office rage, 45% of staff regularly lose their tempers at work.)* Needless to say that this can cause harm to yourself and also to your relationships and career.
3. Pointless anger - Sometimes you are aware of your anger, but you are using it in the wrong way. For instance, you always get angry about the same thing, but nothing really changes.
Harriet Lerner, psychologist, describes this very well in her book ‘The Dance of Anger’ (see book review below). In this book - which I have returned to again and again during the last thirty years - she describes how women use their anger in behavioural patterns that keep the status quo in their family relationships in place. Reasons for this could be that they want to protect their loved ones or that they are afraid of dealing with the profound changes that changed behaviour might bring about.
So, how do we 'solve' the problem of anger? First of all, you can't stop being angry. Anger just IS.
But what you CAN do is to apply choice to your anger.
You can choose to acknowledge your anger and find out what is causing it.
You can choose how to act as a result of those feelings of rage when that old familiar feeling of anger boils up.
You can choose to have arguments that resolve anger - and by doing so NOT have the same argument over and over again, with the same predictable results.
Your emotions The first step of my Career Freedom programme is all about emotions. And I think anger is a big one. A big gendered one at that. (And one that, in today's society, I'd say is totally legitimate! But I'll leave that discussion for another day!)
One that needs addressing. In a way that doesn't harm us, our relationships, or our career progression.
But one that is powerful, that puts fear in the back seat for a while,
I believe choice is your power tool. It is YOUR choice to acknowledge, manage and use your anger for the better. It is your choice and your responsibility. And doesn't THAT feel empowering?
What do you think?
Can we use anger for the better? Is anger perhaps the healthy solution and can bring about profound changes for the better?
Well, I think so! (Even if 30 grown-ups in a room might not have agreed).
* Source: British Association for Anger Management
Tineke Tammes is an ICF accredited Career Coach, who supports creative, multi-passionate, professional women in making successful career transitions! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
Join her now in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women or sign up for her newsletter.