Many people who are striving to be tolerant and loving and kind suppress their own personal power because they mistakenly perceive the energy of personal power to be anger. Especially in situations where it would be more constructive to express their personal power by being assertive, firm and take good care of themselves.
One of the things I’ve learned from working with clients is that many women are really afraid of anger. It’s a big taboo, a big no-no for many women. Men can get angry, but if you’re a woman and you’re angry, it’s 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 so many women react like that, instead of saying, “Yeah, you know what? I’m really pissed off about that.” Why do we bow our heads instead and say, “What me angry? Me? Never! Never!”
It’s probably because we’ve learned that anger is not ladylike, not feminine… but is that true? After sitting with so many female clients, I’m convinced most women are pretty confused about this issue. So let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.
Men And Woman Are Equal. Yes, But?
First of all it’s good to remember that even though here in the West, we live in so-called free societies where men and women are considered equals, we all come from the same patriarchal background.
Historically we all 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’s simply the way the world has been programming people for generations upon generations.
So even if we’re all free and equal here in the West, I would question whether this really true. I would question whether this longstanding programming has really 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 every day like I do, you will quickly see that this programming is still here, is still very much alive, and still going strong.
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Owning Your Anger, Owning Your Power
I say this because many of the women I see might be feeling what they would call “anger”, but they also often feel very uncomfortable about feeling this way. This is not hard to understand, especially when you look at things from a historical perspective.
So even today many women 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. Which in reality translates into being afraid to say no when people around them are actually stepping on their toes!
When I ask them why they’re so afraid of this feeling, 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! But is this true? Are they the same as the people (or person) who are stepping on their toes?
To answer this, we must look at the reality of what’s really going on.
Is This Anger That You're Feeling?
Is the energy a woman feels in a situation like this really anger? Or is this woman really just feeling her own innate inner power to defend herself?
If we look closely, we will see that what we call anger can actually be divided into two types of energy.
The first type of anger – which is what we call a "negative" or aggressive energy – is when we are attacking another person and are violating another person's right to be who he or she is with the choices and preferences he or she has.
In other words, it's an abusive, negative energy when we tell another person what to say, think, or do when this person hasn't asked for our advice and it's really none of our business. This is a boundary violation, which is why it feels so uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of this type of energy. This aggression or anger is a negative energy.
But there's another kind of energy which arises when someone violates our boundaries and this is what I would call "positive" or assertive energy. Actually I would rather call this energy "healthy self defense" even though energetically, it can "feel" like anger because it's a powerful, outgoing energy.
What is basically going on here is that when our boundaries have been violated, the natural impulse is to protect and defend oneself, which is a strong, healthy, positive energy. This energy is completely different than the energy that arises when we violate another person's boundaries.
So when we slow things down and look carefully at the energy in this way, we can see that this powerful, out-going energy which we call "anger" can be either:
- aggressive, attacking energy (violating someone else's boundaries)
- assertive energy or healthy self-defense (defending one's own boundaries and right to be who you are)
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? 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?
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 the energy is healthy because we’re talking about 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.
The Difference Between Aggression and Self-Defense
So let’s be very clear about this. Aggression and aggressive anger is when you violate someone else’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 urge to defend yourself from someone else’s aggression.
They are not the same, and cannot and should not be equated with one and other. It’s very important to be clear about this. Because the danger here is that if a woman feels violated and then feels that her natural urge to defend herself is “anger” (which she considers to be negative or inappropriate), she might not let the energy out and defend herself. Instead she might keep this innate power locked up inside. In situations like this, women often cry instead because tears are the only legitimate way to 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 the energy out, I would look at what’s happening and then I would question if what you're 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!”
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.
Take A Closer Look
So next time this happens, slow down at bit a 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 women’s anxiety about anger comes from our historical programming that it’s not OK to set limits and take care of ourselves.
Healthy self-care involves being able to defend oneself and protect oneself from other people when our boundaries are violated or when someone does not respect our right to be who we are and choose how we want to live our lives. Exercising this prerogative is what personal power is all about.
Personal power is the ability to set limits and take care of oneself. Personal power is the ability to be firm and assertive in a respectful manner (if possible) when necessary. Additionally, personal power is also the ability to protect oneself when someone else is aggressive (whether or not we do this in a respectful manner). Healthy self defense and personal power are the way in which healthy self-esteem manifests itself in the world. Which is why it is also called healthy self-love.
So when someone (or you yourself) tells you that you shouldn't be angry, please take the time to look closely at the situation and see whether what you are feeling is destructive, boundary-violating anger or healthy self defense. When you can see what is really going on, then you won't give your personal power away.
© Barbara Berger.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Book by this author:
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
What is preventing you from being happy now? Is it your partner, your health, your job, your financial situation or your weight? Or is it all the things you think you “should” do? Barbara Berger takes a look at all the things we think and do that prevent us from living happy lives now.
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