Saturday, March 03, 2012

Getting angry doesn't solve anything*

*quote from a Grace Kelly movie, and also part of the lyrics of the Mika song "Grace Kelly."  I disagree, because sometimes getting angry is a good thing.  It just seemed like a good post title, especially if you can hear Grace Kelly in your head, saying that in her lovely voice.  She could say anything and I'd nod my head.

Anyway.  I'm bad at anger.  I never know what to do with it.  When I was a kid, it was the 60s, and we had pretty much a standard, patriarchal authoritarian household.  My mom says now that she argued with my dad when they were alone, but we never saw them argue.  I never (in my memory) heard her even disagree with him.  Dad was allowed to get angry, and he often was, but we were not.

When I was in my 20s, I could get boiling mad over watching the news or various unfair situations in the world or the larger community.  A therapist pointed out to me one time that this is a way of sublimating anger about other things; you're afraid to express anger about things in your personal life, so you vent your rage by getting very angry about situations you can't do anything about.  Interesting, yes?

So I slowly started working on expressing anger.  Twenty-five years later, I'm not sure I've made all that much progress.  I've moved on from fuming in silence to a) furious hissing or b) occasional screeching.  Big progress right?  ha.  But it's better than just bottling it all up.

I read a magazine article one time-- it was just one of those one-page deals in some women's magazine like Ladies' Home Journal-- that was a big help.  It said to use anger as a tool to figure out what is wrong, but not to act out of anger.  Wait until you're cooled off, and then you can reflect on what pissed you off and decide what to do about it.

Several of us were involved in a situation in an online community a few weeks ago.  It made me very angry, which surprised me a bit, because I haven't been nearly as involved in that community as some others that seemed relatively un-fazed by what happened.  I knew I needed to cool off, so I walked away for a couple of weeks.

I was surprised and delighted to find yesterday, when I had to briefly communicate with the admin folks at that website, that I've pretty much moved on.  The anger was mostly gone.  I can stir it back up again if I start obsessing over what happened, but why do that?  I like them.  I don't want to be angry with them.  I don't think I need to hang out there anymore, but I'm glad I'm not still seething.  Yay.  Sometimes you do the right thing without really knowing you're doing it.

But that's a relatively impersonal situation.  When there's something at stake-- peace in our house, for one thing-- anger is still a tough one for me.  So the main point of this post is to ask:  What do you do when you're mad?  not mad about the environment or the political scene, but mad at your spouse or your kids or one of your co-workers?  what are some strategies for coping with anger?


  1. Grrrrr. Blogger just ate my first comment.

    My family of origin sounds a lot like yours in our approach to anger, so no surprise that I have issues in that area, too. As a teen, I would cry when I was furious. I still do that.

    I like the article you mention about not acting out of anger, but deciding what to do once you've cooled off. I'm very good at the first part, but have only in recent years started to tackle the actually doing something once you've cooled off part.

    I have this seemingly innate fear that letting my anger show will change people's feelings toward me. My therapist says that stems from my attachment issues and that working through those issues will help me address the anger part, too. We'll see how that goes. :)

    1. Blogger has been eating comments frequently lately. It's very irritating. I wish I knew what to do about it. It happens to me on other people's blogs, too-- to the point where I try to remember to hit Ctrl-A (select all) and Ctrl-C (copy) before I click "submit" so that if it gets eaten I can just paste it back in. *Sometimes* it works- ha.

      Anger is scary to me, too-- other people's and my own. Surprisingly (to me), one of the things that has helped me with this is reading romance novels. The ones where the hero and heroine are really strong characters and they argue all the time. It's like a glimpse into a world where people can express their anger and disagreements, and no one dies and no one leaves, it's just anger. Mind blowing when you grew up in a home like mine! :-)

      The idea of this fear stemming from attachment issues is interesting, I'll have to think about that.

    2. Yeah, I try to remember the copy thing before submit, but I always seem to forget to do it on the ones my computer eats. :)

      That's a good point about romances. I'd like to think they've helped me, too, so maybe they have.

      My therapist also says that I'm a regulator, meaning that I go around soaking up the emotions of those around me and try to regulate them. I'm thinking that feeds my fear, too. Someone gets angry at me and I just know I must be in the wrong and I have to fix it. I'm getting better about it, but it's a tough road. Especially for someone who considers herself a strong person, but this just blindsides me.

      I hope that sounds totally foreign to you. ;)

    3. unfortunately that sounds all too familiar. I've never heard the term 'regulator,' I'll have to check that out. Sounds like you've found a great therapist, which is an amazing help. I'm not seeing one right now, but I've seen plenty and their wise words echo in my head all the time.

  2. Interesting comment re romance novels, in your comment above.

    I don't think I have anything exciting to say in re anger--the cooling off period is probably the advice I try to follow. Things just sort of take on more perspective, so if it's important it will still be near the top, but if less so, will sink.

    (And my annoyance over the kerfuffle has faded too. Just not important enough in the scheme of things. I mean, people's feelings are/were important, but once one has expressed support to them... bah.)

    1. exactly. What's done is done. I could never for a minute regret being part of that community, and I'm still involved in the FB group. But it was inevitable that it would change, it's just too bad that the change had to be that rude and abrupt. I think the problem was that it had changed for the leader a long time ago, and we just didn't realize it (because she didn't tell us). So it seemed like a rude awakening to us, but to her, it was more like, where have you been?

  3. Oops, I just replied to a lost e-mail, and it has MUCH to do with what sparked this topic.
    (Can't call it the "kerfuffle" because, uh, I'm still angry and that is WAY too nice a word. I'll tell you, privately, what word would be more appropriate, if you really want to know.)

    Anger. Yeah, I'm better than I used to be. For much of my life it was more like RAGE! It was my instant and animalistic reaction. Both my parents are like that, we all were. It was a LOUD house growing up. ;)

    Not sure about a cool-down phase. I'll let you know if I ever get to one.

    1. Ha. We need to trade. You send me some of your outspoken-ness and I'll send you some of my reserve. (will respond to your e-mail tomorrow, have to get back to Wuthering Heights right now.)

    2. Understandable to feel angry about it, Julie. Totally fair.

  4. I think I have two levels of angry. There is the irritated level where I just say what I'm angry about and then let it go. Then there's the outrage anger. This is the one that has me fuming for days and scares me and gets me to write long impassioned letters that never get sent. Sometimes, after cooling has taken place, then rationality sets in and discussion can take place.

    There was the third level of anger which was crazy insane screaming rage triggered by really minor things during PMS. When I'm doing gratitudes I try to remember being thankful for Prozac because that was just awful. For me and everyone around me.

    One think I really like the internet for is getting rid of righteous anger on issues - political, environmental, etc. I can now sign petitions and write emails without leaving the comfort of my home and feel like I've at least done SOMETHING about whatever is bothering me.

    1. good point about the different levels of angry. You're right, some of it, you just feel and then don't ever think about it again. I never had to deal with PMS until I hit peri-menopause, but now I'm pretty much done with the whole thing. Hang in there, it gets way better in a few years. :-)

  5. this is a small thing, but for the record, I found out that it is NOT Grace Kelly's voice on the Mika song. I've read different accounts of whether it is Mika with his voice altered a bit, or if it's another actress, but apparently it isn't Ms. Kelly. Or Mrs. Monaco. Or whatever we're supposed to call her.