Yes, I was an angry black woman. Let me explain.
(published via ForHarriet.com)
Anger is a natural feeling that, in my experiences, is often misconstrued for passion and other visceral emotions. It is raw, intense and manifests through recognizable emotional traits. When fueled by love, it causes a sister-in-law to physically assault her much older brother-in-law. When fueled by rage, it causes twin sisters to violently bite, cut, and repeatedly stab their mother after she tried to wake them up for school. It is vivid; it is pure; and if left uncontrolled, it can be deadly.
I have a bad temper because my mother always told me so. As a child, I wasn’t clear on what she meant by that assessment. Not until after violently lashing out at my husband during my first pregnancy did I really understand. In my mind, he was trying to take my chocolate chip cookies. In my mind, I felt threatened and proceeded to attack his 6’2” frame. My 5’2” frame and seven month pregnant belly didn’t respond too well. But that didn’t stop me from charging him at full speed. In my mind, the pregnancy hormones made me do it. That was episode one.
Episode two. Four children later, I was in the throws of graduate school exams. In the evenings after a full day of work, I would sit down at the computer to study. My home office was adjacent to the kitchen – ironically, the heart of the home. So while I am studying, I hear the kids laughing and eating dinner. Immediately, I felt an immense pressure to get through my reading assignments and outlines, and asked the kids to be quiet. In my mind, I wasn’t screaming. But in my husband’s mind I was a bit excessive. I felt challenged and proceeded to lash out at him by kicking an object in his direction – this time the kids noticed. They were scared. I realized that I had a problem. I refused to blame my problem on external factors. That would be a cop out. I had to reign in the physical manifestations of my anger for my family’s sake.
Family is the main source of emotional support for most people. Pulling support from a complex system of personalities and idiosyncrasies can create stress in a loving environment resulting in uncontrollable emotions and behaviors. I didn’t truly understand this theory until I was an adult with my own family. I find that when angry among strangers, it is easier to suppress and internalize the emotion. But when I am angry with a family member, I am more expressive. Often times I feel free and unashamed in my anger because I know that my family’s love is unconditional. Still, there is no excuse for my outbursts. No family should accept or dismiss erratic and violent behaviors associated with anger. It is important to seek help in order to learn to recognize triggers and incorporate strategies to deescalate a heated situation.
Healthy coping strategies are important for both the aggressor and the victim. When I accepted the fact that I had control issues, I used very rudimentary strategies to calm myself – count to ten and walk away. My husband also vocalized how he felt about my actions. I learned that anger is okay, but physical responses as a result of anger are not. A similar approach would work for the Knowles-Carter family. When Solange erratically kicked, slapped, and punched her much older brother-in-law, the response or lack thereof, from Beyonce and Jay Z was quite telling. It appears that they are accustomed to Solange’s outbursts. The two stand as observers and only react to shield themselves. This is unhealthy for all involved. What if the bodyguard was not there to hold Solange back? The result could have been more tragic, as in the case of the Whitehead twins.
Being angry and resting in its intensity is allowable; at least I’ve allowed myself this experience. It is what you do with the raw emotion that makes the difference. Stress, depression, lack of control and other life catalysts can stimulate an emotionally or physically charged response. Determine your triggers, seek help, and take the necessary steps to correct your behaviors. It may save your life.
A Formally Angry Black Woman