Women’s minds are often on overdrive. We notice details. We have high expectations. We expect fairness. We become frustrated when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. What does this all add up to? Frustrated women! Upset women! Mad women!
Gone are the days when women would simply demure to others’ wishes. Gone are the days when women would squash their feelings in the name of femininity. Today’s women speak up. They vent their anger, even at the risk of gaining a reputation as a shrew, a nag, a bitch, a ball-buster.
What provokes women’s anger? It can be lots of things. A kid’s messy room, a husband who’s not listening, a friend who forgot a lunch date, a repair guy who shows up 3 hours late. The specific trigger can be one of many things, but what it all boils down to is a sense of not being treated fairly, not being listened to, not being told the truth and not keeping your part of the bargain.
In other words, for women, anger is personal. Typically it’s not a woman who goes berserk over an inconsiderate driver. Or, a referee’s boneheaded call. Or, a broken parking meter. Indeed, they may roll their eyes at men who get worked up over these occurrences. Why? Because none of these incidents were caused by people they care about and none were done personally to them.
Now, I’m not suggesting that most women are having meltdowns every time a friend or family member disappoints them. Even when there’s an initial spark of fury, most women evaluate whether their anger is justified.
- Is my messy kid just being a messy kid? Or, is his messy room one more indication that he doesn’t give a damn about me.
- Is my husband not hearing me because he’s intensely involved in watching the game? Or, is his lack of attention one more indication that he doesn't respect me.
Sometimes it seems that angry women are petty. They become irritated over every little thing. Others may view them as people who like to complain, control and find fault. And it may sure look that way. But look deeper and what you typically find is a woman who has been injured many times over. A woman who feels powerless and doesn’t know what else to do. A woman who believes that getting angry is the only way to get others to hear her.
I have never met a woman who is happy about her angry outbursts. Though others may berate her, she's invariably harshest on herself. Nobody grows up thinking, “I want to scold the ones I love. I want to become a nag. I’m looking forward to being a shrew.” Yes, when women express their anger, they are perceived in the most derogatory of terms - crazy, nuts, mad.
So, what’s a woman to do?
Keep your anger to yourself? Good idea! Only one problem. If anger isn’t expressed in one way, it will be expressed in another way. For women, it’s generally depression, over-eating, drinking and a low sense of self-worth.
Ruminate about what happened as you try to understand it? Good idea! Only one problem. Replaying the event in your head tends to fuel your fury. Indeed, in a vacuum, even innocent words and deeds are often viewed as personal affronts.
Let things go. Nice idea if you can do it. And if it doesn’t mean that you are enabling a dysfunctional pattern that will one day create a volatile response.
The best approach: Discuss the underlying meaning of the anger and explore possible solutions. Be creative. Remember the best in each other. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. If you’re still having trouble moving forward, give psychotherapy a try, Sometimes, just a few sessions can open doors that have been shut for a long time.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice. She specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior, particularly debilitating fear and procrastination.
She is the author of 5 self-help books, including the recently released, "How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age: 6 Unique Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles" To learn howthe book can help you or your loved one, visit visit http://www.BeatProcrastinationCoach.com.
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