"Grab the Broom of Anger"


The #MeToo movement, and the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, have brought to light anger, which many argue, women have been suppressing for centuries. In this culture, women are socialized to be “nice,” to be deferential, accommodating, and never, never angry – anger can only be expressed by men. Even in the lauded documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Justice explains how her mother taught her to “be a lady,” which meant, in part, to not be angry, resentful or envious. Rebecca Traister (and others) in her new book, “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” suggest we are at a cultural turning point, and that women’s anger is driving political and cultural changes.

Sigmund Freud had something to say about anger too; he believed that anger turned inward against one’s self, contributed to depression. According to Paul Gilbert in this blog, “…Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘No one blames themselves without a secret wish for vengeance.’ Freud borrowed this for his theory of depression. He suggested that people become depressed because the anger they feel for others, who have hurt or let them down, is turned inwards. He thought that they couldn’t express anger to others because they were dependent on them, and the depressed people were frightened that if they expressed anger, these others would turn against them.”

As my clients will attest, I am very curious about their anger and rage, and the ways they deny it, shut it down, and turn it inward against themselves. What might happen if those abused as children felt their anger? What if women felt their anger? Who would you be betraying if you felt your anger? What are you afraid might happen?

In my work, I find that when folks begin to feel their long-supressed anger, they experience profound internal shifts. Often, a heaviness is lifted, and new capacities to experience self-compassion are discovered. A sense of relief washes in, and psychic energy which used to be spent denying anger, is freed up for other feelings, thoughts, and pursuits.

I believe that it is past time for women and survivors (and men!), to embrace healthy expressions of anger, and as the great writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “…grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear.” I am proud to stand up for righteous anger, for healthy anger, and for anger appropriately expressed.