Anger’s a complicated emotion, isn’t it? Whether you’re someone who tends to direct her anger inwards in the form of self-critical thoughts, or find yourself getting cross with others when they make mistakes or act selfishly, it can be tricky to develop a healthy relationship with this controversial emotion. As women, we’re often taught that anger isn’t something that’s “right” for us to express. So today, we’re reframing this issue and asking what anger can do for us.
Getting to know your anger
We all have very different relationships with anger. What makes you angry, and how you express that, will be very different.
You might have specific physical triggers around your anger. I know I often experience swings in blood sugar that can result in intensified anger – maybe you experience the “hangry” monster yourself when you’ve been on the go all day without a snack.
Some women experience heightened feelings of anger when they’re pre-menstrual, or during menopause, because of hormonal changes. (There’s a growing movement of women keen to reclaim that as something of a superpower, and one that can help us create powerful change in the world!)
What’s your anger like?
Try keeping an “anger diary” or just making a quick note of how often you feel angry during a typical week.
- What triggers your anger? Are there any patterns you can notice – perhaps when you’re tired or under pressure, or when you feel you can relax and “release” pent up emotion from the day?
- Are there particular people who tend to bring up feelings of anger? What connects them – is it people you’re close to, those in authority, or people who behave in a specific way?
- How does your anger show itself? Is it in sarcastic comments, spectacular eruptions, or an internal dialogue that’s less than kind?
As with any emotion, bringing a gentle curiosity to how it’s showing up for you can be the first step in developing a healthier relationship with it.
The physiological response
Anger is a primal emotion, and it’s one controlled by the amygdala – the part of our brain that’s responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ reflex. When we perceive ourselves to be under threat in some way, our entire body is flooded with a series of cascading hormones – before we’re even consciously aware of danger.
At times like this it can be hard to think things through logically; we tend to quickly operate on instinct. So when you notice yourself becoming angry, it’s important to remember that the biological response is already happening.
Take a break; count to ten; go for a quick walk or take 5 minutes to dance it out.
When you’re feeling more yourself, it ‘s time to dig in. What messages might your anger have –and how can you harness it in a positive way?
Anger and the Women’s PowerTypes
The Women’s PowerTypes are 5 archetypes that are the key to developing a sustainable, flexible form of female leadership that we refer to as Soft Power.
Rather than slipping into disempowering ways of being – like victim, martyr or bitch – they offer ways of handling your day to day emotions in a way that’s healthy and constructive, and which helps you cultivate strong and supportive relationships with those around you.
They can also give us clues as to ways we can approach different emotions – especially the ones we might characterise as “negative”. Here are 3 examples of how you might use the PowerTypes to cultivate a healthier relationship with your anger.
What anger can do for us: the PowerTypes approach
1. Anger can help you set boundaries with Queen
If someone repeatedly triggers feelings of anger, it might be because they’re continually crossing a boundary that’s really important to you. Perhaps you feel taken for granted when your friend often expects you to babysit at short notice – it’s as though your time’s not as important as hers, just because you don’t have the unpredictable hours and last minute deadlines of her fast-paced job.
The Queen PowerType is a wonderful way to tap into a quietly assertive, decisive and wise part of yourself. The Queen is sympathetic to those she cares about, but she isn’t afraid to say a firm “no” to something which oversteps the mark.
Instead of finding yourself seething for the umpteenth time, your anger might be a clue that it’s time to have a clear conversation and set some boundaries. If you find negotiating boundaries whilst keeping your cool a challenge, download our free guide to creating healthy boundaries here.
2. Anger can help you create change with Warrioress
Anger can be an amazing motivator. If there’s a particular cause that you find really brings rage, let that be a clue as to where you might want to be investing your energy – whether it’s volunteering for a cause or making a financial contribution to a charity working in a particular area.
Warrioress is the PowerType we turn to when it’s time to get into action and get things done. Just as a battle can inspire feats of great bravery and courage, so our warrioress energy inspires to take bold action and stand up for what we believe in.
My recent feelings of anger over the treatment of women over the centuries have really lit a fire under my mission to empower women leaders, and in doing so to have an impact on some of our biggest challenges. You don’t need to hold onto those feelings of rage to be able to channel them into practical activities that you can feel are having an impact.
3. Anger can help you heal with Mother
If your anger seems disproportionate to the situation, it can be a clue that there’s something more going on than meets the eye. For example, if you find yourself flying off the handle with anger when you make a small mistake at work, it might be a sign that there’s some residual fury that you’re holding onto from the past.
When we’re experiencing overwhelming emotions connected to something that’s happened in the past, judging or blaming ourselves will only make them worse. The Mother PowerType brings a gentle, accepting energy that reminds us that whatever we’re experiencing in the moment will pass.
Moving into Mother can allow you to comfort yourself as you would a small child – reassuring them that it’s OK for them to feel what their feeling. Bringing that love and acceptance to your emotions can help you explore what lies behind the anger, and take steps to resolve it once and for all. That might mean writing it out in a letter, expressing it through physical exercise, or finding a coach to work with who can help you resolve those feelings.
Make anger your ally
When you’re no longer holding on to past anger, and you’re able to channel the emotions you feel day to day into positive outcomes, anger can begin to feel like a powerful ally. I’d love to know your relationship with this misunderstood emotion. Let us know how you use your anger in the comments.
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