Are Women Allowed to Be Angry?

Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, so she has worked with hundreds of people struggling with a family of origin issues.

Here are some few things Dr. Cira can say on this topic:

  • Men and women alike have been shaming women for their anger since the dawn of time.  You can primarily blame it on rigid and deeply ingrained gender roles in which women are encouraged and molded to be “nice” at all costs.  And anger isn’t always nice!

  • When we share angry feelings, we could hurt someone else’s feelings, make someone uncomfortable, or even anger someone else.  And in addition to being nice, women are given the message, explicitly and implicitly, that everyone and everything else is more important than them, so if saying or doing something would put someone else in a bad spot, chances are women will likely stay silent, choosing to swallow their anger rather than express it, which has negative outcomes for the woman’s mental health and her relationships.

  • While the long-term solutions are multifaceted and need to occur in every system and layer of society, there are some things that women can do to work on this for themselves.

  • The first thing anyone must do in order to better communicate their thoughts and feelings is get aware of them!  If we have no idea what’s going on in our heads and hearts, it’s impossible to share that with anyone. So get in the habit of checking in with yourself.  Decide on a behavioral marker (every time I eat, every time I get a drink of water, etc) and then make it a point to check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “how am I feeling right now?”, “what am I thinking about?”.  If you have an extra minute, jot down what you discover and your hypotheses about what caused those thoughts and feelings in the first place.

  • Once you know how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, you’ll be in a better position to figure out what you want and need.  And once you know what you want and need, then you can start to practice expressing those wants and needs.

  • Whenever you’re giving tough feedback, the sandwich technique is an effective way to kindly deliver difficult news.  The gist of this technique is to say something positive, then offer the constructive criticism/angry feelings and end with something positive.  This is a way to preserve the relationship while still honoring your angry feelings.

  • Another technique to try would be “I” statements.  Instead of accusing someone of making you feel a certain way, you can use this formula: “I feel (whatever emotion) when you did (whatever the trigger for the anger was) and it makes me (the consequence of the behavior and anger)”. For instance, I feel angry when you don’t take out the garbage after we’ve talked about it several times and it makes me feel like you don’t respect me.

  • If you know you need to express your anger more and you’re willing to try these techniques but get in the moment and find it too difficult, ask yourself if you’re willing to drink poison for the person who has angered you.  Are you willling to drink poison for that taxi driver who totally ignored the route that you requested? The barista who was rude? Your partner? Your family member? Because when we swallow our anger, instead of expressing it in a healthy and appropriate way, we are sacrificing ourselves – our well-being, our mental health, our needs – for someone else.

  • Expressing our anger is difficult and you won’t be very good at first!  Sometimes you’ll lose your temper and sometimes you won’t say anything at all.  Don’t beat yourself up! Keep trying, keep practicing, keep experimenting. It gets easier over time.  And you’re worth it. 🙂

Dr. Colleen D. Cira, Psy.D. received both her Masters and Doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and has been practicing in the field since 2001. Dr. Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC a boutique group practice with locations in Chicago and Oak Park that specializes in Women’s Issues/Health and Trauma. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife and Mommy to two little ones.

Dr. Colleen Cira: Available for Interviews.

Jo Allison
Success In Media

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