As a young girl, I noticed how boys (and men) lost their temper loudly and sometimes physically. I remember scuffles in the school hallways, boys shoving each other or even “duking it out” at recess. Those fights got worse as they became older and stronger.
Girls didn’t behave the same way - not most of them anyway. Many girls quietly stewed. They ignored the friend they were angry with. Or manipulated them, turned others against them. And yes, they even cried, a reaction that often comes from the frustration of not knowing how to express anger.
Only the really “bad girls” used hands and fists. I can’t even count on one hand the number of girl fights I witnessed growing up, despite the fact that this number is increasing. Actually, the only two that come immediately to mind involve myself. Once, I was pushed into my locker by a peer who called me “slut.” The other was a few years later when I physically hurt my own friend.
Obviously, I struggled with rage. Terrible anger plagued me as an older teenager and young adult. I didn’t have the psychological sophistication to understand my feelings until years later. It was only then, and under the guidance of a therapist, that the causes became completely obvious. At that point, I had to learn how to deal with anger, the natural emotion that all humans experience. Girls are not typically taught how to handle these feelings. It is imperative that we teach them.
Here are five simple things I wish I would have learned at a younger age. Share them with the women and girls in your life. Let them know that feeling mad is completely normal, and that there are healthy ways to deal with it.
1. It is okay to become angry and to anger another person - In our lifetime, people will say and do things to us that make us mad, and vice versa. This is a natural part of life that can be dealt with in appropriate ways. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry.
2. Do not try to ignore anger, swallow it, or push it away - Feelings have a way of resurfacing when we don’t deal with them. Oftentimes, old anger that hasn’t been examined or expressed properly turns into dangerous fury. It is then that we say or do things we don’t mean - things that we can never take back. Don’t let old grudges weigh you down.
3. Expressing anger does not have to mean yelling, screaming or becoming physical - Telling someone you are mad can be simply, confidently and sometimes even calmly stated. Practice makes perfect, as with anything. Start by stating anger at times when you aren’t so ticked off. I used to practice by saying things like, “I’m really pissed that my computer isn’t working.” Or, “I’m so agitated that it’s raining outside.” Then, when it comes time to confront a larger, more important situation, the language will feel easier.
4. The best way to tell a person you’re angry with them is to used the tried and true “I Statement.” - Too often, we lob off accusations like, “YOU did this! YOU did that! YOU piss me off!” Instead, try something like, “I feel angry when you…” It is simple, concise, and accurately describes what is going on inside.
5. Learn to cool the flames in the moment, before communicating your anger. There are many tools out there to help lessen the symptoms of rage. A few that work for me and people I know are: deep breathing, yoga, meditation, clapping (when anger feels physical), exercising, being alone, writing in a journal. Although it is best not to let anger simmer too long, it can be useful to calm down before confrontation. Try these simple tools, or do a quick Google search to find other techniques that might work better for you.