Friday, 27 October 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Anger 2

Summary of our weekly group discussion ~


Can we talk about anger?

The eyes widen and the cheeks flush. The lips quiver, muscles swell and we are suddenly filled with a violent urge to destroy something..........

This is not Bruce Banner transforming into the Incredible Hulk but a description of anger written by the Roman philosopher Seneca, still as vivid today, here in the twenty-first century.* Anger, we learned in our weekly discussion, is one of six basic universal emotions experienced similarly across cultures, although the way we express anger is influenced by our upbringing and culture. Anger is a natural response to feeling attacked, deceived or being treated unfairly. Naz told us that we commonly experience anger when our goals are threatened and as one of the most basic human goals is to live and to survive, it's hardly surprising that some of us experience high levels of anger when we are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

But how many of us with a diagnosis of primary or secondary breast cancer feel able to express our anger?

For many of us, social expectations and our gratitude at being given 'a second chance' can get in the way of us feeling that we can admit to having or sharing our feelings of anger. Instead, we are more inclined to focus on our gratitude, like feeling blessed that our treatment is finished or is continuing to work. We instinctively feel that our families and friends (already burdened enough) do not want to hear that we might be angry we got cancer, that we experience insomnia, hot-flushes or weight gain - all of which might turn even the stoical Seneca into a raging Hulk! Add in the occasional lack of empathy and understanding of a friend, a rude colleague, unrealistic expectations or insensitivity and it's not really surprising that we become irritable or our temper is frayed.

Anger is an unruly emotion, it can be unpredictable, frightening and makes us feel dangerously close to being 'out of control'. Anger, often described as a 'negative' emotion, poses a threat both to the person experiencing it, and the person who is confronted by it. Not surprisingly, it can be an emotion we prefer to avoid expressing.

Attitudes to anger are complex, for example, some might argue that anger is a socially unacceptable emotion (think about ‘anger management courses’ targeted at those who have ‘difficulty’ controlling their rages). Additionally, in our society there is a commonly-held view that it is more acceptable for men to show anger than women. Yet some of us in the group shared how we channelled our great anger into a force for good, for example about the lack of support or inequalities in treatment, into campaigning for change.

Some of us directed our anger inwardly, at ourselves. For others anger was directed outwards at those around us, sometimes explosively, perhaps warning us that we were at the limit of what we could manage, that we are still in a process of adjusting; are coming to terms with losses and face ongoing challenges. While anger is considered a short-lived emotion (unlike grief for example), it can lead to sadness and frustration, or even depression, if it is avoided at large costs.

Here is a link to a recent news story that is a good read:
*Taken from The Book of Human Emotions, Tiffany Watt Smith

If you are a woman living in the UK with a diagnosis of breast cancer and you would like to join our private group, please contact is by facebook message


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