Thursday 24 August 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Anger

Do you ever feel angry about getting breast cancer?

Have you ever wondered whether 'Pink positivity' is a smokescreen for how we really feel?

This week our discussion explored whether negative emotions such as sadness and anger undermine or promote happiness.

We live in a culture where 'happiness' is valued, where the focus is on enhancing and practicing a so-called positive emotion. Many of us could relate to this in relation to our experiences of managing with breast cancer. We focus on the positives, we cultivate a 'positive mental attitude' and there's no doubt that this helps us cope. But is there a cost to our well-being?

This article was the starting point for our discussion which mobilised a variety of different views on whether negative emotion could be helpful, particularly in relation to anger as a force for change.

"The results of the study, compiled by an international team of researchers, found happiness is "more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain".

It was fascinating to hear that some women feel very angry about their diagnosis, others mildly, others not at all. Some find themselves more emotional post diagnosis, others feel flat and numb. Many of us agree that to experience wellbeing we need to allow our feelings in, positive or negative. Many of us have learnt to be controlled in what we express, so as not to upset or worry those close to us. Some went so far as to say they feel frozen emotionally by the trauma of their diagnosis.

For some women, anger leads them to ask 'Why?' Not so much about our individual diagnosis, but why are so many women still being diagnosed with breast cancer? We wondered if we became angry about this, perhaps we could come together to campaign and raise money to find a cause and a cure.

We often hear that a positive attitude helps us through, which can lead to a bottling up of how we really feel. We want to be positive but there are times when we feel anything but positive, and want to scream and shout and cry. It can feel as though we are not allowed to be negative at all, and if we are fortunate enough to recover, we are expected to embrace life full on and climb mountains, run marathons, fill our lives with fund-raising activities, and be glad to be alive every moment.

Perhaps acceptance is a key factor with emotions, allowing ourselves to express whatever it is that we feel rather than constantly putting on that brave face?

For some, recognising that the anger is there, and must remain hidden for them to continue living their lives, leads to a self-compassionate awareness that permits them to be kind to themselves when they are feeling low. For others, anger can drive them forward and help them find the determination and resilience to carry on.

Our group gives women with primary and secondary breast cancer a safe space to share all our feelings, to understand. We will hold hands when we feel angry or sad, fearful or upset, or just plain fed up and exhausted, unable to keep that positivity going.

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