Do you ever feel angry because the one you love has an issue with drugs, drinking, pornography, gambling, or sex? I bet if you were being honest with yourself you would say, “Yes, I do feel angry sometimes.”
Now, let me ask you another question: Do you feel guilty about feeling angry? When you deal with anger, do you turn into an out-of-control crazy lady saying things that you regret later? Or do you continue with the act of being “nice” and just shove, shove, shove it down further and further inside until you can almost pretend you’ve forgotten about it?
Anger for women is a tricky subject. I was listening to a podcast the other day, and a famous author said she wrote one paragraph in her book about anger and received more criticism and attention about that paragraph than any other part of the book (and this was a New York Times best-seller).
The other author on the call (who is also mega-famous) said when she had the courage to talk about her anger, she lost a lot of readers who refused to buy her books. And these women have a predominately female audience.
So why are we so angry when women express anger? Why is this an emotion that we’re afraid to talk about?
Unless we’re robots, anger is a natural emotion and it especially makes an appearance in our lives on a regular basis if we are being lied to, manipulated, or hurt by the disease of addiction. Anger is a very important emotion for us to pay attention to.
Dr. Harriet Lerner discusses this theory in her book about anger called The Dance of Anger. The very first paragraph helps us understand the importance of anger. She writes:
“Anger is a signal worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right. Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self – our beliefs, values, desires, or ambitions – is being compromised in a relationship. Our anger may be a signal that we are doing more and giving more than we can comfortably do or give. Our anger may warn us that others are doing too much for us, at the expenses of our own competence and growth. Just as physical pain, anger preserves the very integrity of our self. Our anger can motivate us to say ‘no’ to the ways in which we are defined by others and ‘yes’ to the dictates of our inner self.”
Don’t you just love that? I think it’s so helpful because it shows us that anger isn’t something we need to feel ashamed about. It’s not an emotion we need to ignore. It’s a warning signal. Our insides are letting us know that something isn’t right.
Now that we have an understanding that anger isn’t something to feel guilty about, we need to talk about how to deal with our feelings of anger.
In Dr. Lerner’s book, she talks about how women are dismissed or called irrational when we show our anger. Has the one you love dismissed your anger when you’re upset because they have been making hurtful choices? Have they told you that you were being irrational or dramatic?
So how do you handle your anger? Do you have a pattern of lashing out or do you suppress? Do you cry and breakdown or shut off and walk out? Are you prone to giving the silent treatment, or are you passive aggressive?
If you are not handling feelings of anger in a healthy way, starting a new pattern can be super helpful.
Here are some steps to start practicing next time something comes up that triggers your anger:
Start by asking yourself:
How do I feel about this?
What do I want?
What do I believe?
How do I want this to change in my future?
Check yourself before reacting. Get a clear head and a clear understanding of why you’re feeling angry. Take a break to take inventory.
Approach your loved one when they are sober. There is no sense in talking to them about your feelings when they are trying to numb theirs. Wait until they are sober, clear-headed, and able to receive your feelings.
When you do choose to share your anger, make sure you’re in a calm and controlled state of mind and heart. I am not saying you need to disguise your anger, but you do need to be in control of it.
Make it clear how you feel and why you feel that way but don’t hang on to their reaction. You’re expressing your frustrations because you think it’s important to give your feelings a voice. You’re making space and respecting your warning sign that something isn’t sitting right with you. But don’t expect change when you’re dealing with addiction. This exercise is for you and your mental and spiritual health.
Walk away if they are not respectful. Be prepared for defensiveness if they can’t receive your feelings. That’s okay. You accomplished your goal of communicating your anger in a respectful and dignified way. You cherished your own feelings by giving them a voice. Congratulate yourself and choose to end the conversation if your loved one isn’t ready to hear you. You can still celebrate your victory.
The fact that you read this is the very reason why I can tell you this: no matter what happens to the one you love, you will be okay. You have a desire to get healthy. You are open-minded and ready to change. And I am so proud of you my sister.
If you found this helpful, we have three courses that could change your life (and your relationship) PLUS a Secret Facebook Group filled with women just like you (so you will never feel lonely again). Click here to learn more.