One of the things I’ve learned from working with clients is that many women (me included) are really afraid of anger. Anger is a big taboo, a big no-no for many women. Many women feel it’s bad to be angry. And yes, according to most of us (men and women alike), being angry is not OK for a woman. Men can get angry, but if you’re a woman and you’re angry, it’s a sign of failure, a sign that something’s wrong.
So if you’re a woman and someone accuses you of being angry… you’ll probably reply with something like, “What me angry? Never! I never get angry.” Now why do we women react like that? (Instead of saying, “Yeah, you know what? I’m really pissed off about that.”)
Anger vs. Spirituality, Really?
Why do we bow our heads instead and say, “What me angry? Me? Never! Never!”
Well I would say it’s because we’ve learned that anger is not ladylike. We’ve learned that anger is simply not feminine, and worst of all, anger is not spiritual! Oh my God, there we have it. If we’re angry we’re not spiritual.
Just think about it. Spiritual people don’t get angry! But my dear friends, is that true? (What about Gandhi, wasn’t he angry?) So tell me… is it true that anger is not good, not feminine and not spiritual!
After sitting with so many people (mostly women), I’m convinced most of us (especially women) are pretty confused about this issue. (And if you’re a man reading this who has the same issues – yes, please read on because my analysis of the problem holds equally true for both men and women.)
But back to the basic confusion about anger. Here’s a bit of background. Even though here in Denmark and many other Western countries, we live in so-called free societies where men and women are considered equals, we all come from the same patriarchal background. And by that I mean, we all historically come from the same mental programming and mindset which basically says that men are the dominant figures and it’s the job of women to satisfy and serve them. And even though nobody today would admit to believing anything like that anymore, the reality is that that’s simply the way the world has been programming people for generations upon generations.
So even if we’re free and equal here in Denmark and the West, I would question whether this is really true. I would question whether this longstanding programming has simply disappeared from the collective consciousness in the last 40 years. I would question whether it’s really true that we’re all free and equal in our minds!
Because if you sit listening to women’s stories everyday like I do, you will quickly see that this programming is still here, is still very much alive, still well and still going strong.
I Don't Believe This is Anger
The women I see might be feeling what they would call “anger”, but they are also often feeling very uncomfortable about feeling what they call anger. And it’s not hard to understand why, especially when you look at this from a historical perspective. When you do that, it’s easy to see why so-called anger in women was not acceptable. (You might rock the boat.) And easy to understand why so-called anger wasn’t and still isn’t considered a feminine virtue. (You might rock the boat if you owned your own power and did want you want.)
So even today, in free-minded Denmark, so many of the women who come to me are still afraid of being called angry, still afraid of owning their own power, still of afraid of being called a “bitch” or not being feminine or not being spiritual. Which in reality translates into being afraid to say no to the people around them who are actually stepping on their toes!
When I ask them why they’re so afraid of this feeling, these women often tell me they don’t want to get angry because they don’t want to behave like the person or people who are treating them badly! I know this might sound funny and surprising, but it’s really shows how confused we are. And I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been there and felt that way myself.
But let’s look at reality now; let’s look at what’s really going on. This energy a woman (or a man) feels in a situation like this, which she calls “anger”, is it really anger? Or is this woman (or man) really just feeling her own innate inner power? If you’ve ever been in a situation like this or felt like this, ask yourself – what were you really feeling when you felt like that? And was it anger? Or was it just that innate primordial urge we all have to take care of ourselves and defend ourselves when someone violates our boundaries? And if this urge felt like aggression, well was it?
Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Aggression
Is it aggression to want to take care of yourself? If you answer yes, I would question this belief. Because my answer would be no! No, it’s not aggression to want to defend yourself. In fact, I would say it’s healthy energy, healthy self-defense. I would say it’s your natural right, your own inborn urge to take care of yourself, which is not the same as the aggression.
True aggression is when someone violates another person’s boundaries – not when you are defending yourself. So let’s be very clear about this. Aggression and aggressive anger is when you violate someone’s boundaries and someone else’s right to be themselves and defend themselves and make decisions for themselves. That’s aggression. But it’s not aggression when you feel a powerful energy to defend yourself from someone else’s aggression. They are not the same. And cannot and should not be equated with one and other.
Using Your Inner Power to Defend Yourself
It’s very important to be clear about this. Because the danger here is that if a woman feels violated and then feels her natural urge to defend herself is “anger”, then she doesn’t let it out and doesn’t defend herself. Instead because she’s afraid of what she’s feeling, she keeps her own innate power locked up inside. (Instead of feeling and using this inner power to defend themselves, many women cry instead. Because tears are often the only legitimate way women can let this energy out.)
So if you’re feeling like this. If you feel this pent-up energy inside and then cry instead of letting this energy out, I would look at what’s happening and then I would question first of all if what you are feeling can even be called “anger”. Are you sure you’re feeling anger? Are you sure you’re not just feeling a natural, healthy urge to defend yourself?
Are you sure you aren’t just feeling your own inner power which wants to say, “Hey look, this isn’t OK with me,” or “Look I’ve had enough,” or just plain “No thank you!” And even if you say this urge feels so powerful that sometimes it feels like aggression, I’d still say it isn’t aggression as long as it’s the basic urge to take care of yourself when your boundaries are being violated.
So please, next time this happens, slow down at bit and take a closer look at what’s going on and ask yourself… is what I’m feeling really anger??? And if you still answer yes, well then I’d suggest there is a big difference between “appropriate anger” and “inappropriate anger”!!! It might be all in our definition of the word “anger”, but I’m convinced that a lot of our anxiety about anger comes from our historical programming that it’s not OK to set limits and take care of ourselves.
(And of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t learn to express this inner power in skillful ways.)
©2016 Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
The Awakening Human Being: A Guide to the Power of Mind
by Barbara Berger with Tim Ray.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com