Angry People Are Not Always Wise

The photo above was taken by a Telegraph press photographer at the Bath Jane Austen festival a few years ago. It’s me and some of my family, including my Mum. It’s a rather flimsy link to the quote below.

“Angry people are not always wise.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

 

If you’re a woman reading this showing anger is probably something you’ve been criticised for in the past. Women who vent their feelings are generally labelled as shrill, harridans, irrational, over emotional. Anger for men, on the other hand, is often seen as a sign of strength. A ‘good’ emotion. But not always…

I’ve been pondering quite a bit on anger this last 7 days. At the end of last week I was running a session for a large local employer on assertiveness and confidence. We talked about getting angry and did it help. In the work situation, I don’t think it does, not often. If we’re confronted by anger we often feel pushed into a corner and respond by retreating or coming out fighting. Either response is not usually the one we want at work because we rarely get anywhere. Anger works when it is an emotion to be used to propel you somewhere else, a point, albeit a significant one, on the journey to changing something. Like the anger of the suffragettes. They used it to change something. Like the anger of the Women’s Equality Party. They are using it to change things.

People who are always angry, who view the world in black and white terms, who talk in terms of the good and the bad, eventually find their opinions are ignored. We stop listening to them. Yes, even the men.

On Monday morning I had BBC Radio 4 on in the background but was jolted into listening properly by a strong, working class Glaswegian voice talking about anger and class. It was a guy I had never heard of before, *Darren McGarvey, who had some very pithy and pertinent things to say on anger. He was talking about personal agency, in particular in relation to poverty and how taking some responsibility for one’s self, having ‘agency’, has become viewed as a middle class, right wing type of prerogative. He echoed so much of what I had been trying to say my group last week; not getting angry does not mean you accept the status quo, that we all lay down and become Stepford Wives and meekly accept our fate. Everyone has personal agency. Even in the darkest of situations we can take some personal power back.

Anger can make us victims of us all. The most powerful lesson I ever learned in my life is that I am in control of what I feel, and how I respond. I learned it when working with bereaved parents. How do you ever make sense of that, I thought? How can you go on? For me, the answer was from a Stoic philosopher called Epictetus, and if you ever come on one of my courses, you’ll hear me quote him at the end. He said,

We are not touched so much by life events themselves but by the view we choose to take of them.

Yes, get angry, but listen and try to understand what or who is making you angry. Make your choice about how you respond. Understanding, (not condoning) is powerful. It’s your personal power. Don’t give it away.

P.S Speaking of “my courses”, I am personally running RenewYou on 28th November in Bristol. I have 4 spaces left so please do take a look and get in touch if you’re interested.

*Darren McGarvey’s book is called Poverty Safari. I haven’t read it but I will be very soon.

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Posted on November 13th, 2017 by

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