In my culture of middle-class America, people are nice.
There has been a high cultural value placed on not expressing anger. But that’s shifting. Have you heard people saying lately that it seems like people all around us are getting more and more angry?
But I have a hunch this isn’t a surge of NEW anger that’s welling up. Instead, I think lots of people are suddenly getting in touch with anger that’s been buried inside them for years. And this could ultimately be really, really good for all of us.
I’ll give you an example of something happened to me recently, when I felt annoyed, was too nice, but didn’t actually know I was angry until afterwards. While we were under contract to sell our house, one of the things that we needed was a new survey. I had been told in advance that no one needed to enter the house. Two men arrived, and the one who seemed to be in charge knocked on the door and introduced himself. Then they started doing their surveying thing.
A little while later, he knocked again and asked me if he could see our house because it was so cute. I was completely caught off guard because when a house is for sale, you’re supposed to contact the realtor and have them arrange an appointment for you to see it. Plus, once a house is under contract, you stop showing it, and he would have known we were under contract, because that’s why we needed the new survey.
But that darn belief that says I’m supposed to be ‘nice’ rose up in me and drowned out the voice that said it felt inappropriate for him to ask. So I let him in and showed him the ground level, which is basically one open space. As he looked around, I sort of walked with him, then ended up between him and the stairs. My whole body language was saying, “Okay, you can look around here, but not the bedrooms. That’s the end of your tour.”
Then he said, “Can I see the rest?”
I said, “Well, it’s not clean like it was for the showings.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” said he, and just came barging straight towards me. He didn’t actually touch me, but only because I instinctively stepped out of the way. I followed him through the rest of the house, feeling completely uncomfortable that I was alone with an unknown man looking at our bedrooms.
But did I tell him? No, I just chatted pleasantly about how much we’ve loved the house since we bought it.
Because my training in niceness was so strong. Even though I felt physically vulnerable, and even though his actions were completely inappropriate and unprofessional, I didn’t protest. In fact, in that moment, I didn’t even know I was angry. If someone had asked, I might have noticed I felt ‘annoyed.’
(Just so you know the end of the story before I make my point, I did call the company later and complained to the owner, who agreed that it was not appropriate.)
Feeling annoyed – there have been a few people in my life who always say they are annoyed, never that they are angry. My mom was one of those. She was one of the kindest people in my life, and she seldom got visibly angry. She got annoyed. I just looked up the root of ‘annoy,’ and it is from a Latin word that means to make odious, i.e., to make hateful. I have a hunch that when we say we are annoyed, or something is annoying, we often mean it more strongly than we are willing to express – that we are angry.
Why is it good to know we’re angry?
Because anger that isn’t acknowledged doesn’t go away; it just morphs into other unpleasant forms.
Morphed anger can become:
Perfectionism, which is anger that you’ve turned on yourself when you don’t live up to your own standards, even if they’re unreasonable. You make it impossible to be happy with yourself, or satisfied, or to love yourself, because the standards are too high. Perfectionism is actually just a code-word for self-hatred. You probably have a case of perfectionism and self-hatred if, when you make a mistake, you say things to yourself like, “You’re so stupid. You just did it again. Why do you always…? Why can’t you ever…?”
Depression, which is anger that feels powerless to change either yourself or your circumstances. Our sense of personal power is zapped, and we live in victim mode, allowing life to happen to us and feeling sorry for ourselves. And depression can make us more prone to illness or addiction.
Volatility, which is anger directed at the wrong target. Volatility is experiencing more anger at a situation than most people would think is warranted. Volatility is getting mad at the store clerk when actually you’re angry with your spouse.
The next time you find yourself feeling ‘annoyed,’ but perhaps still acting nice, just ask yourself this question: am I angry?
And what if you discover you ARE angry? I have two suggestions.
Suggestion One is forgiveness. I survived a terrorist attack. Click on the link below to listen to my story, and how I realized I was angry and learned to forgive.
Suggestion Two is to schedule a one-hour free ‘I’m Annoyed and I Don’t Know What To Do About It’ Breakthrough session with me. Just email me on cynthia [at] MagicCarpetLifeCoaching dot com, and let me know you’d like to talk, and we’ll get something on the calendar. I can help you go from feeling annoyed, acting nice, and allowing your anger to morph into something worse, to learning how to process anger in healthy, useful ways.