Have I changed?
I think it is a sign of growth and healing that you are expressing your anger. I like you better for it.
As JWs, and especially as JW women, we were taught to be nice and avoid conflict at all costs. Only “righteous” anger was acceptable; all other anger was rottenness to the bones and must be repressed. We were to overlook the shortcomings of others and turn the other cheek. While there is a time for these strategies, I believe there is also a time to speak up. While mothers can be soft and gentle, they can also be protective lionesses, terrifying in their fury. At the very least, it is important to allow yourself to feel your anger, acknowledge it, and ask yourself from where it springs.
The ancient goddesses usually had a triple aspect: maiden, mother, and crone. This was an archetype for the aspects of a woman’s life. While Christianity acknowledges the innocent maiden and nurturing mother, it does not acknowledge the wise and powerful crone, who is capable of anger and destruction. Powerful women are given a nod in the Old Testament (Rebekah, Deborah, Jael) but are mostly portrayed as scary and evil (Jezebel, Delilah). I think this old training affects women. Without being conscious of it, we continue conforming to the JW archtype of a good woman--all sweetness and light, no anger.
When I was in therapy, I learned that anger is often a secondary emotion. My therapist taught me to cycle through the whole gamut of emotions as a way to identify the root of my anger. A good way to do this is what is called “the love letter” technique. When you’re angry, try writing a letter to the person triggering the anger, expressing not only your annoyance, but your hurt, sadness, fear, guilt, and love. An example of ways to begin can be found at: http://www.oahouston.org/oa-Love-Letter-Technique.htm
This technique helped me realize that my anger was often about something in the past; the current situation only rubbed salt in an old wound. The issues were between me and myself, not between me and the other person. At other times, anger was a signal that something was wrong and that I needed to act to change the situation.
I think Java is a marvelous example of someone who dealt with his anger in a healthy and productive way. In the thread about field service, he told how he would get angry whenever the JWs invaded his neighborhood. He could have gone around the house grumbling and kicking the furniture every time they arrived, without giving the matter much thought. Instead, he pondered the problem and came up with a marvelously witty and clever solution—joining them in their door-to-door activity, spreading his own “good news” about his being shunned for voting.
Lastly, here is a section about anger from The Portable Therapist by Susanna McMahon, Ph.D. It’s fairly concise. I hope it’s helpful.
Ginny the Crone
Why am I so angry?
Anger is one of the most basic and also most important emotions. It is necessary for survival as the feeling often generates the necessary strength to do things to protect ourselves that we normally could not do. Anger is also necessary in the infant’s development of a sense of self as distinct from others. Everyone has anger. Why then is this important emotion so difficult for people to deal with? Why does anger produce so much denial of the feeling? And so much fear?
The answers, once again, go back to our training. We have been taught, since we were little, that being angry is “bad” and that other people do not like us when we are angry. We learned that most of our anger is unjustified (as if feelings need justification) and that we have no right to be angry because we must consider the other person’s feelings before we consider ourselves. We have learned as children to deny our feelings of anger and to repress them so that we will not be labeled “bad.” If we cannot deny or repress the anger and we let it out, then we feel guilty and have to make justifications for our feelings. We have learned, usually before the age of five, that anger produces a vicious trap: if we express it, we are “bad,” if we repress it, it grows into rage and we are “bad,” and if we deny it, we learn not to trust our own feelings and that feels “bad.” What is the solution to this anger trap?
Give yourself permission to feel angry. You cannot control your feelings of anger. You do not always know when and why and how you will feel angry. Sometimes you may feel angry without knowing why. And sometimes, when you would expect to feel angry, you do not. Anger lives inside of you along with your other feelings. Accept that you can feel angry. But do not confuse the feeling of anger with the expression of anger. You cannot control the feeling of anger but you can control what you choose to do when you are angry.
Our training has taught us to confuse the feeling of anger with the angry behaviors that we exhibit. Most of us are afraid of what we do when we are angry. We have repressed and denied our anger until it explodes and we are in a rage. We then act in a destructive manner, to others and to ourselves. Accepting the angry feeling as it occurs means that we do not accumulate the feelings until they become rage. Often, accepting our anger as it occurs is enough. Remember, we do not always have to act on our feelings and our thoughts. We can choose what we will do and we have a wide variety of choices.
Practice saying to yourself when you feel angry: “I am angry. What do I want to do with this? How can I feel okay with my anger?” Sometimes you may choose to express it to others. Sometimes you may choose to think about it for a while before you act on it. Sometimes you may want to yell and get upset and sometimes you may want to calmly talk it out. And, once in a while, you may choose to let it go and do nothing about it. There is no one right way to act when angry. Any behavior you choose is right with yourself. If you cannot get past your anger and let it go, ask for help. Most of the time, recognizing that you are angry at the moment you feel it and accepting your feeling without judgment is enough for the feeling to abate. Just as you cannot control your feelings, your feelings cannot control you, unless you choose to let them.