In men, anger is socially acceptable. Anger comes across as competence, and angry men are perceived as assertive. Angry women, on the other hand, are commonly perceived as emotionally unstable.
Women have learned that it is not good to be angry. They are afraid it will make them unpopular and unattractive. But swallowing anger comes at a high price: we lose a lot of our vitality. Do you feel the same way?
Mirjam: For a long time, I thought I was never angry. I had always tried not to be angry, because I found my parents’ anger attacks extremely frightening, unsettling, and scary. I tended to channel my anger into depression and chronic tension. It took me a while to learn that I was living like a powder keg all the time.
The older I got, the more porous my protective mechanisms became, and anger broke out every now and then. And I realised that anger suppressed for a long time can be very destructive.
The bodywork I learned through the Grinberg Method was the only approach that showed me how to release these inner tensions and use the vital power of anger to become healthier, more creative, and more effective instead of becoming weaker and sicker.
Valerie: Like Mirjam, I always had difficulties in managing my anger. As a mother, I often felt frustrated because my son did not do what I asked him to do. I had the same feeling when unexpected events happened or I had prepared something and then life surprisingly took a different direction.
I became more and more dissatisfied, and nagged the people around me all the time. Eventually my body and mind expressed my discomfort.
But I got help through sessions with Beatriz Fernandez, a Grinberg Method teacher. That was my “aha” moment: with Beatriz I learned to deal with my anger differently. I found it such a tremendous enrichment of my life that I started to work intensively with bodywork and emotional intelligence.
Today I accompany families in times when the doors are slamming with much anger, and I help mothers of adolescents who are at the end of their tether.
My personal experience with transforming anger has convinced me that all women can learn to build bridges in their relationships to make them satisfying and happy again. You just have to start.
Mirjam and Valerie: We’d like to share with you ways of dealing with our anger that have helped us in the past and continue to be useful for us today.
Anger is a natural physical reaction.
As we said earlier, anger has a bad reputation with women. But it is a very natural reaction that expresses itself physically.
As embodiment coaches, we are committed to teaching new ways of dealing with anger. The result is less physical tension, less pain, more restful sleep, and improved communication with others.
Why do we actually get angry?
Anger shows us that someone has crossed a line. Or it is a sign that we have neglected our needs. Then it’s time to take care of ourselves.
The first step is to recognise what we need.
Because it’s not about blaming, but about what’s important to us.
Do you need security? Are you looking for appreciation and understanding?
Do you want empathy, respect, and recognition? Or do you long for structure and solidity?
How do women usually react when they are angry? And how do you react?
Do you think that you are never angry?
Or are you often frustrated and dissatisfied?
Do you often nag and complain about everything?
These are the kinds of behaviours that represent women’s repressed anger. We have learned these patterns of behaviour because they are supposedly less destructive and threatening.
Why should women learn a new way of dealing with anger?
All these forms of repressed anger make us sick. The anger that smoulders inside us – and our struggle to suppress it – poison us, and, eventually, our environment as well.
Most of the time, our way of dealing with anger is a behaviour that we have been repeating unconsciously for many years.
It has become automatic through repetition in similar situations and has wired our brain so that today we only know the result – suppressed anger – as frustration, shoulder pain, pressure in the stomach, or tiredness after certain conversations.
Even if we think we have our anger under control, those around us often sense that we are angry, and our family or work environment suffers as a result.
How can we learn to deal with anger differently?
On the one hand, we want to show you what you can do when anger has burst out of you unchecked and you have to deal with the consequences.
On the other hand, we will also show you how to release old, stored-up anger and use it to recover your own strength.
And we will show you how to prepare yourself for difficult situations.
With these 5 steps you can overcome old anger patterns.
Take some time, find a quiet place, and write down your answers to the following questions:
Step 1: Pay attention
The first step is to focus your attention on the issue.
What triggers anger in you? Is it a person, a situation, your environment…?
Step 2: Identify anger
The second step is to identify your own anger.
How does anger feel in your body? What does your body express? How do you recognise that you are angry? Do you adopt a certain posture? For example, do you pull your stomach in, or do you push your shoulders forward or pull them up? What facial expression do you have?
Step 3: The reaction
The third step is to address your reaction to the anger.
What do you normally do in a situation like this? Do you move? What thoughts go through your mind? How do you speak, how do you respond to the other person? Or do you withdraw?
The more details you become aware of, the easier it will be to break out of the automatic reaction.
Step 4: Expression
The fourth step is to let go of the automatic expression of anger.
Here comes a big challenge! Because now you need the courage to be open to something new. To be ready to change yourself in the situation. If you release the tension that has caused the anger in your body, this step will be easy for you.
Sit on a chair or lie down on a mat in a quiet room. Remember the parts of your body you identified in Step 2, choose one, and bring all your attention to it.
Feel the area where your body is suffering from tension, place a hand on it, and increase the muscular tension a little more.
Hold the tension for a minute and then release. Breathe deeply and relax your whole body.
Step 5: The solution
Often an unexpected solution appears. Because the solution lies within you!
You get two benefits for the price of one, so to speak: you do something good for your body by releasing the internal pressure in a less destructive way, and, through relaxation, a way out of the tunnel and towards new possibilities opens up for you.
What helps immediately? How can you control your anger?
A good immediate measure is, for example, to walk away from the situation that is making you angry. If you find yourself in a heated discussion with someone, tell the person you’d like to take a break and resume the conversation later. Then do the following breathing exercise:
While standing, sitting, or lying down: breathe in and out three times and relax your muscles. Then inhale while counting to five. Then exhale while counting to five.
Repeat the process for one minute.
Unless you have serious breathing or heart problems, you can add the following variation to the breathing:
Square breathing exercise: inhale for five counts, hold your breath for five, exhale for five counts, pause without taking a breath for five counts.
You can repeat this exercise for up to two minutes.
(Credit: Instagram @anarocafatjo_pinturas)
How can you “digest” your anger?
When the damage has already occurred, i.e. a situation is over and you have not been able to stop your usual reaction, you can still work with your anger afterwards and process it.
A good way to do this is to describe the situation, the person, or the place that made you angry, as outlined above.
Afterwards, do the square breathing exercise or another breathing exercise of your choice.
Description and breathing are an optimal combination to “digest” anger. Ideally, do them as close to your angry episode as possible – the same day or the day after. Don’t put it off too long!
How can you best face difficult situations?
The same applies to preparing for situations in which you might get angry.
Imagine in detail what you’re expecting to happen (see list of questions above). Then focus on your body: How is the anger manifested? How does the body express it?
After a short moment of observation, let go of all the tension and breathe deeply several times. Add the square breathing exercise and then listen to yourself again. What has changed?
The kicking exercise
The following exercise is very helpful if you want to let off steam in advance. It is ideal for self-regulation because it reduces tension and gives you a feeling of security and stability in your legs.
Being strengthened in this way, you are well prepared for all the stormy moments that await you.
During the exercise, make sure you keep breathing. Perform the movements powerfully.
- Stand up with your hands on your hips. Lift up your right knee and then place your foot back on the floor. Repeat this movement eight times. Then do the same with the left leg. The rhythm is fast.
- Extend your right leg out to the side and then return it to its original position. Do this a total of eight times. Be careful not to twist your hips, so that they remain stable and facing forward. Repeat the movement eight times with the left leg. Do these movements quickly as well.
- Swing your right leg straight out in front of you, as high as you can, then return it to the starting position. Repeat eight times, then do the same with the left leg.
- Swing your right leg straight out behind you, then back to the starting position. Repeat eight times, then do it with the left leg.
After these four steps, stand still for a moment and feel your body. How are you standing on your legs now? How do you feel the ground under your feet?
Breathe deeply and, as you exhale, consciously let your weight sink into the floor.
(Credit: Instagram @anarocafatjo_pinturas)
In our daily encounters with clients, we see people getting to know themselves in a completely different way and having new experiences with their anger that were not available to them before. Quite often our clients are surprised by the changes that happen in their lives when they become aware of their anger.
When we stop our automatic reaction to anger, we can experience it as a source of energy that makes us stronger, clearer, more self-confident, and more courageous in taking care of our own needs.
Even after many years of working as embodiment coaches, it is still a privilege to accompany people on their journey to learn how to use their anger constructively for themselves.
Who are we? Valerie Adolff and Mirjam Köglsperger
We met almost 20 years ago during our training as Grinberg Method practitioners in Barcelona. Since then, we have participated in many courses offered by the method and have enjoyed learning together.
Mirjam continues to work as a Grinberg Method
practitioner, and also teaches the method to students
who wish to become practitioners.
She is the founder of the Happy Body Institute,
training people in body awareness and movement.
Her focus is on working with independent women.
(Credit: Janina Shank www.janinashank.com)
In addition to the Grinberg Method, Valerie has studied and trained in methods such as
Emotional and Social Intelligence Training
at the Daniel Goleman Institute and
Social Presencing Theater with Arawana Hayashi.
Her main focus is on supporting highly gifted, sensitive non-conformists, in individual sessions and with their families.
She applies her experience in her “Mindfulness and Collective Intelligence” programme, which she teaches at different European universities.
Original Text published online in the MIABOSS magazine in February 2022 : https://www.miaboss.de/wut-ist-gut-aber-nicht-bei-frauen/
Thank you to Elaine Konopka for making the text even better: www.elainekonopka.com