Women and Anger: The Onion Theory

Learning how to identify and express anger is an investment in yourself and in your relationship with others. Women typically avoid anger. They ignore it because it is such an uncomfortable feeling. They have not been taught that anger is energizing, liberating, productive, and invigorating. Not only is it a necessary emotion to process conflict, but it actually can bring people closer, if handled appropriately.

Men have been socialized to recognize their anger as a normal emotion. They have been taught to channel it appropriately by directing it verbally, dealing with it competitively, physicalizing it through sports and activities, and inappropriately by the use of physical violence.

Imagine women’s emotions like being an onion. When you peel away the top layer of the onion, you see the emotion sadness. If you peel away the sadness, there would be anger underneath. Often times women don’t get past the sadness. Sadness is an important emotion, but it typically doesn’t mobilize us into action. Anger is much more proactive and moves us to a place where we usually can resolve issues.

Men are different. When a problem or a hurt occurs, they experience anger. The second layer is typically the sadness. When men are hurt or afraid, they feel anger and often times avoid their sadness.

Women need to get more comfortable with their anger. Here are some techniques to help:

Acknowledge what you were taught about anger as a child.

What messages did you get about anger as a child?

Our parents did not typically teach us much about anger, or they gave us advice that wasn ’t physically healthy. Women were encouraged to suppress their angry emotions. When you deny your anger, you naturally lose touch with your wants and desires. You create an internal sense of numbness, and lose a sense of who you are.

Acknowledge it!

Write down three things in the past that have made you angry.

Anger is a necessary emotion. You may have gotten angry in the past about your husband clipping his toenails in the living room or your teenager who doesn’t pick-up after himself or the boss who doesn’t recognize your work. By writing it down, you externalize it and move it from inside the body to outside the body.

Talk about it!

Find a supportive person who can encourage you to share your angry feelings. Find a safe person or place to share your anger. Best friends or women’s support groups can be a tremendous resource as a vehicle to acknowledge anger.

Of course, there are many other ways to externalize anger. Over the next few weeks you will be dealing with other safe ways of exploring and expressing anger.

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