Women in general are trained not to show anger – Southern women especially. I grew up in the South in the Reagan years, the daughter of a divorced mom. I was close to my dad, step-mother, step-brother, and grandparents.
No one ever argued; no one ever fought. The one or two times I said something in anger, I was swiftly and harshly reprimanded.
Nice Girls Don’t Get Angry…Right?
I learned to repress all anger, any rage. Eventually, in my late twenties, I discovered an easy way to get rid of the anger: wine! Family holidays became fun as the wine and margaritas and Bloody Mary’s flowed freely. I would sometimes throw up in the morning, but I was always so nice – never feeling any anger or really much of anything at all.
Later on, when I was in a long-term relationship and owned a house with my boyfriend, I would get drunk and finally vent my anger at him over things I couldn’t talk about sober. One night I even threw a full glass of wine across the kitchen. It made a terrible mess, leaving shards of glass all over the floor (and making me realize that, if you’re going to throw a glass of wine, it should be white, not red).
The angrier I got – at my job, my boyfriend, even my family – the more I drank. I didn’t know how to communicate or negotiate, I only knew how to smile politely when sober and either drink to the point of almost passing out at the local dive bar or get drunk at home and throw a fit.
5 Ways to Release the Rage
In sobriety, I had to learn how to confront the rage in a healthy way. With the help of my therapist and a few close friends and family, here’s what I learned.
- Keep Communication OpenIf you’re angry at a friend or family member, find a quiet time. Ask if they are open to talking about what’s bothering you. That keeps those emotions from getting repressed.
- Find Healthy Ways to Get the Negative Energy Out Run, do yoga, even just take a walk.
- Plan AheadWhen you know you’re walking into a situation that will make you angry, have a strategy for how you handle it.
- Talk to Someone Uninvolved A therapist is a great person to talk to, or a trusted friend who isn’t embroiled in the situation.
- When You Do Feel Rage, Forgive YourselfIt’s a natural human emotion. Don’t beat yourself up for being angry. Let yourself off the hook. I used to feel so guilty the morning after a fight with my ex. I’d grovel to him, then resent the groveling.
Remember, anger is normal. Repressing it can be a quick way to relapse. Protect yourself and your loved ones by finding healthy ways to let it out!
Additional Reading: Clean, Sober and Totally Pissed Off: A Bad Trifecta
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