Something that often comes up in group coaching calls with my coach, Barbara Huson, is anger - and the need for women to release it. My default position on this subject for so long was that anger didn't apply to me. As far as I was concerned, I'd never been an 'angry person'.
It wasn't until Barbara relayed a story from her own therapist that I began to question my 'not an angry person' belief. She talked about a time she'd had couple's therapy and her then husband had complained in the session that Barbara was 'an angry woman'. To this, the therapist replied: 'Show me a woman who isn't'.
Women, explained Barbara, have been muzzled for so long, of course they're angry.
Well, shit, I suddenly began to question myself. I knew the feeling of being 'muzzled' very, very well. Not least because I'd spent four years in a highly abusive relationship having every word from my lips shut down, belittled and judged. I'd been muzzled - so why wasn't I angry?
If anger was an emotion that all women had, and I didn't feel it, I wanted to know why. This might sound strange - why on earth would you want to feel angry if you don't?
It's not about wanting to feel angry. It's about exploring whether or not I was suppressing anger. As a psycho-somatic therapist, I know there's little more toxic than suppressed emotion. Anger, like all other emotions, carries valuable information. If there was anger in me, I wanted it out - and I wanted to learn from it.
Of course, the first thing Barbara did - like any good coach - was to remind me that there's no such thing as 'an angry person'. Boom. There it was. Insight number one: for years, I had carried the unconscious belief that some people are angry and some people aren't - in other words, it's a part (or not) of a person's identity. This was the first place to call bullshit. My true belief is that people are, in reality, spiritual beings, created noble. Anger is not identity. Anger is an emotion.
I got more curious: was it really that I didn't feel anger, or did I have a block about feeling anger, or admitting that I felt it? Immediately a memory flashed into my mind: I had felt anger before. Real anger. It happened when I was 11 and I'd confronted a girl who'd been bullying me at school. I was so angry - enraged - by something she'd done that something snapped inside. I was angry. And I was did something about it. I also used to get angry about injustice. Really angry. But this anger was often accompanied by a sense of helplessness - what could I do, as a young adult, about all of the injustice in the world? It was a daunting task.
The evidence was in. I had felt anger. So when, and why, did I switch it off?
Then it hit me: women aren't supposed to be angry. Women are supposed to be nice, good girls, pleasing and sweet. They're supposed to be all sorts of things. But not angry.
When I felt angry as a young girl, I'd channelled it into a healthy expression of standing up for myself and setting boundaries. But at some point, my ego took over. Its strategy for belonging was to be the nice girl. And nice girls don't get angry.
Women and anger aren't often talked about in the same sentence. Yet so many of my clients have some anger or rage within them. Anger is a normal emotion. It needs to be expressed in a healthy way, but it's still an emotion. It's something that gives us valuable information. It lets us know that something is not right and needs to be addressed.
If we look at the women of Iran right now, they are angry. Really angry. Their anger towards a brutal regime is being channelled into courageous acts of defiance and freedom. This is useful anger. It is being used to bring justice.
Women need justice. Maybe we need to get angry, to allow ourselves to be angry.
And then channeling that anger into positive acts that bring about growth - for women and all people.