Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Anger Management... Had a Good Rant Lately?

Seems we're all a little bit angry these days. At someone. Or something. And many of us are ranters. I never used to be much of a ranter. Sure I whined and complained sometimes. Vented even. But ranting, not so much.

We seem to think that expressing our anger, venting, or even ranting, is good. That it helps us to let off steam, avoid blowing our tops, so to speak. But psychologists would disagree. According to several articles I read in Psychology Today, venting or ranting can actually make you more angry. Especially if it's reinforced by your audience. If your rant doesn't change the situation that has made you angry, or prevent it happening again, then it's only minimally useful. We all want to be heard; that's just human nature. But Brad Waters says in this article that ranting can "feel intoxicating, when in fact it's usually toxic." For ourselves and those around us.


Cute donkey and me, near Verdun, France, 2015
Be careful that ranting doesn't make you look like an ass. 

Most of us have known co-workers who rant regularly, as if they're the only ones bothered by certain situations, as if it's their right to ruin your heretofore pretty darned good day with their negativity. I've worked with colleagues who were wonderful teachers, but who, when stress broke down their defenses, could trash everyone else's day with their constant venting. In my role as head, I sometimes had to take people aside and counsel them to stick a sock in it (of course I didn't use those exact words) because their release of stress was creating stress for everyone around them. That's one of the downsides of ranting. The collateral damage venting your anger can create for innocent bystanders.

I live with a ranter. Hubby has strong political opinions, which he expresses freely. Sometimes to me, or to friends, often to the television. And in his defense, they're not just empty rants; he does know what he's talking about. His degree in history, modern diplomatic history in particular, gives him a much better grounding than many to comment on political events. Better than me, anyway. I too have strong political opinions. But I usually save my ranting for those things I feel I know more about, like education, or books. 

When I was still teaching, sometimes I'd be frustrated by the educational bureaucracy, or by changes I didn't agree with, or angry at what I felt were unfair demands on my time and the time of the already hard-working teachers in my department... and I'd vent. And even occasionally rant. I tried to keep my emotion at school. I often used one trusted colleague, whom I had known for years, as my sounding board. She'd usually still be in the teacher workroom at the end of the day after everyone else had gone, and when I returned from a stressful meeting, I'd ask her if I could rant at her a little and get it out of my system before I went home. She'd always sit down, fold her hands and say, "Fire away." 

Sometimes that worked. Sometimes not. On the "not" days, I'd drive home, walk in the door, and Hubby would take one look at my face and say, "What's wrong? Out with it." Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who is absolutely unable to hide my feelings. I try, I really do, but my face always tattles on me. So I'd blab it all out again, despite my best efforts to NOT do so. And because he's a retired teacher and knew the frustrations I was feeling, Hubby would get worked up as well. The irony is, when I was done I always felt better, but then he'd be upset. I remember one night, he said, "I'll be glad when you retire, Suz. Your job is too stressful for me." I knew he meant that as a joke. But still, it was a signal to me that venting my frustrations could have negative effects on those around me. 


Sandra Shamus interviewed my Tom Power on CBC radio's "Q."
On "Q",  Sandra Shamus talks about being a fifty-something, Canadian-Lebanese, post-menopausal woman. 
Still, ranting can feel great sometimes. And sometimes listening to others rant, especially if it's funny, can be cathartic. A while ago, I listened to Tom Power interview Canadian comedian Sandra Shamus on the CBC radio program "Q."  I've talked about Sandra on the blog before, and her jokes about menopause and nouns. (By the way, if you click on that link I should warn you the language is pretty spicy.) Sandra has a new one-woman show in Toronto these days called The Big 'What Now?' She'll be sixty soon, and in the interview yesterday she talked about what comes next for her... and indeed for all of us women of a certain age. About the expectations associated with being a girl, and then a woman, and then an aging woman. And about how menopause helped her "get her anger back." She said menopause was, for her, "like a shot of vitamin B12." She felt freed, energized, and as she says, "a bit rant-y." But, even as she explained her exhilaration at feeling and expressing anger, she qualified her statement by saying that we should "be judicious" in where and how we vent. 

That interview resonated with me because I found that aging, and most especially menopause, has made me feel freer to express my opinions. And vent my anger. Which can sometimes be good. And sometimes, not so good. Hot flashes always had the added effect of raising my temper, as well as my temperature. I mean, I didn't even know I had a temper until I turned fifty. Eventually, I started announcing at work, to my colleagues and members of my department, that I was having a very hot-flashy day and they should beware. I remember once saying, "Today would NOT be a good day to ask me any questions to which you already know the answer." Sometimes I made it jokier than that; I might have once or twice mentioned the prospect of someone losing an arm. I know. That's terrible, right? I'm cringing even as I write this. 

Thankfully the fraught days were not that frequent. And when rant-worthy changes or new demands came down the pipe, my department would vent, and then we'd meet and decide how to tackle the issue as a team. Thus making us all feel less isolated, and not so helpless in the face of the educational bureaucracy. Not that we could stop the changes, just that facing them together and developing "our" way of embracing them helped us cope. At least I think it did. I hope it did. 

Action should always follow venting, don't you think? Maybe that's why so many, many women felt exhilarated by the Women's March last November. Venting on Friday, marching on Saturday. I felt exhilarated, and I didn't even march. I cheered on friends who marched in Ottawa and elsewhere. And clapped at all the shots from around the world. And imagined how wonderful it must have felt to actually be there. And I noted that amidst all the exhilaration, speakers and organizers reminded protesters to be mindful of, as Sandra Shamus says, "The big 'what now'?" Sound advice, I think.

By the way, I clapped hardest at the shot below taken by Toronto photographer Christina Zaza. Two Canadian icons at the Women's March in Toronto. That's Adrienne Clarkson, on the left, one-time child refugee, longtime journalist and broadcaster, author, and Governor-General of Canada from 1999-2005. And of course, the pink-hatted woman is Margaret Atwood. Feminist, writer, and all-round brilliant woman. Sigh. I love her. 


Christine Zaza photo, Anne de Haas Photography
I didn't intend to get into feminist politics when I started writing this post. I was initially concerned over all the divisive ranting going on these days, all the abusive comments on social media. And the effect all that anger can have on those who read it, and even those who promulgate it. And I think that a couple of Brad Water's points in that article I mentioned from Psychology Today are relevant here. He says to wait before you rant. I guess that's the equivalent of NOT punching the "send" or "publish" button right away. And he also says to write about your anger, not just express it verbally. And by writing he doesn't mean in fewer than 140 characters. Ha. He means to practice "expressive writing" which this article from Harvard Medical School says can "ease stress and trauma," and which has even been proven in some studies to help chronic pain sufferers by giving them a vehicle to express and asses their anger. 

So, I guess, for us "blurters," menopausal or otherwise, expressive writing can help us to better understand the cause of, and possible solutions, for our anger. And maybe, just maybe, help us to figure out what we can do now, how we can channel all that fiery energy into positive action... once we're all vented and ranted out. 

So to speak. 





P.S. This morning, I contacted Christina Zaza on Facebook, where I first saw her photo, to ask if I could use it in this post. She said yes (thanks Christina) and would I mind including a link to the Toronto Planned Parenthood site. I don't mind at all. She also said that if perhaps her photo inspired a few people to support women's causes, that would be a good thing. Now, isn't that a great response? 





Now it's your turn, my friends. Any venting you want to get off your chest? Any expressive writing you want to... express? Like my friend Beth... I'm sitting down with my hands folded..."Fire away." 





Linking up with Thursday Favourite Things Blog Hop at Katherine's Corner, Fabulous Friday at Pocketful of Polkadots, and Saturday Share Link-up at Not Dressed As Lamb

34 comments:

  1. It's hard not to be a bit ranty these days. ;-) I've learned to step away from certain social media when things get too heated or I feel my BP starting to rise. It can be a tough balance...keeping aware of what's going on and maintaining our personal equilibrium. Yay, Margaret Atwood! I've always looked up to her.

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    1. I know, it is hard. Today at my book club lunch we had to try very hard NOT to get started on DJT. Thankfully the book was interesting enough to occupy most of our conversation.

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  2. I try to keep my rants off social media. The atmosphere has gotten so nasty in this last year, I've had to stay off Facebook. Do I rant in my personal life? You bet and it drives my husband crazy:)

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    1. Yep... me too. I have a hard time believing that people can say such nasty, and obviously waaaayyy out of line things on-line.

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  3. As I have grown older, I have felt more and more free of the "code of nice" by which I was raised, i.e., the rule that a girl or woman should be nice above all else, whether she felt like it or not. Accordingly, about fifteen or so years ago, I started voicing my opinions and emotions on personal and global issues more openly, without cloaking them in "sweetness." (This almost always occurred in face-to-face exchanges and never on social media.) I am sure that I frequently overdid it and lapsed into strident diatribe (in exchanges with like-minded folk), but over the years, I learned to speak my mind (and heart) with a modicum of civility (and a smile, where possible). Unfortunately, that hard-won ability virtually disappeared with the result of the November, 2016 U.S. elections. And since the DJT Inauguration, I have found myself reduced, every day but the day of the Women's March, to a steaming mess of incredulity, anger, frustration and...crouchiness. I am trying to transform those emotions into actions (other than ranting or being crouchy), but I'm certainly not there yet. For me, accordingly, this is a very timely post, and I look forward to anything further you or any of your readers have to say about turning deep-seated negative responses to a trigger that will not go away for at least four years into constructive opposition/resistance (and regaining my even-keeled disposition).

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    1. I hear you. And I empathize and sympathize ... about how one can move forward with constructive action. Deborah over at Daily Plate of Crazy... if you don't know her blog, it's really good, well-written and intelligent... has just published a post on what to do now with lots of links and things. She feels the same way as you.

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    2. Here's the link to Deborah's post http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2017/01/26/after-the-womens-march-whats-next-for-you/

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  4. Whew, my comment could be book-length! First, it's good for women to express themselves wholly and that their concerns not be stifled under the belief that they should be "nice". Second, it's good to vent, but endless raging rarely gets action and eventually you just sound like a crank. The key is in •transforming• the anger, looking within it to identify the needs that are not being met, and these will be things of deep meaning to you. Then, to finding strategies to meet those needs, which may take a great deal of time and effort, or be relatively straightforward. Look up Rachelle Lamb and take one of her workshops when she's in Ottawa, and I think you'll find it illuminating. Untransformed anger is like a weapon you turn on yourself.

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    1. I agree that it's good for us to express ourselves. I am so much better at it now than when I was in my twenties when offending or not being liked was such a powerful motivator to stay quiet. In my last few years as a department head I used to rant a little at other female heads to speak up more at meetings instead of just venting afterward. So much more effective.

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  5. Nations have survived through bad leadership before and will do so again unless we destroy them first through the loss of civil discourse. The ranting and hate-filled posts only serve to widen gaps between people- gaps that will prevent us from connecting on all that we have in common.

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    1. Good point, Alice Jo. "Loss of civil discourse" has already happened in many areas of social media.

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  6. Thank you to Alice Jo Webb for stating the simple fact that ranting and hate filled posts only serve to make the gaps wider and harder to try to close. Move on and get to work for the greater good.

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  7. I used to be much rantier ( is that a word ?) than I am now . My father loved a good argument & there was plenty of ranting in our house . It taught we four daughters to be aware of what was happening around us & care about it - sometimes too much . We Yorkshire folk are famous for speaking our minds anyway . I seem to have mellowed these days & hubbie is now chief ranter, especially whilst driving .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Yep, lots of political discussion in our house when I was young. My step-father and I shared a deep love of politics, and I never missed voting in an election... and until he passed away, I never missed calling home on election night. I still think ranting about traffic and how difficult it is to find well fitting jeans is de rigueur:)

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  8. Thought provoking post, Susan, thank you for that and apologies for my lengthy comment.
    It has always annoyed me when people say "I just vent my anger and then it's over, I've forgotten about it". Yes you move on, but those around are left with the damage you've caused. Because when I was younger I didn't rant, and I sometimes wonder now if I had opinions, though I guess I did but they were hushed.
    I kept an empty cardboard box in the office and when something (usually a particular bloke!) annoyed me, I kicked the hell out of the box. I encouraged like minded ladies to do the same. It worked but poor box.
    Anger came out when I got to menopause and it hasn't gone away since! I am now opinionated. I'm feisty. I explode. I swear!
    So I was comforted the other day to hear Gloria Steinem's view that women become radical as they age. This change is not me, it's life's path, it is the natural order of life!

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I wish I had thought of something like that when I was still working...either that or a maximum time and frequency rule for ranting. Don't you love Gloria Steinem?

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  9. This is great, like your hubby mine is also very intellectual and so when he rants I listen and now we are both ranting which is bringing us closer together -weird huh. My 10th year of menopause has nothing to do with it, ignorance by others does. Keep on ranting sistah girl!

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    1. Thanks, Antoinette. I still rant...albeit more controlled than when I was in mid-hot-flash!

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  10. What a great post! I'm a firm believer in venting... in moderation. And that moderation -- how much, to whom, when and where -- is critical. Otherwise, you alienate coworkers, friends, and loved ones. And after a bit, venting has diminishing returns besides... Maybe it's like chocolate! Overdo it and you break out, gain weight, and hate yourself! But the right amount? Fabulous!

    Now about the Women's March. I agree with you -- whether ambulatory or not -- it was like a huge exhalation for millions of us, perhaps even a primal scream as the sheer INSANITY of the new administration begins to sink in. That the US is still so bound to puritanical, misogynistic behaviors masquerading as (dare I say it) "traditional values" or Christianity... well, masquerading indeed!

    Whatever happened to love thy neighbor? Whatever happened to do unto others? Why is it that US can't grasp that civilized countries (Hello, Canada!) believe that health and education are human rights! (Does this count as venting? Ranting? A primal scream?)

    I am not very mobile these days, but my mind and fingers will do the work of resisting in as many peaceful ways as I can come up with -- and encouraing others to do the same. And part of that process is bridging the many, many differences of opinion that individuals have. And the only way we can do that is by ceasing to name call (even when it's fun), and listening to REAL WORLD STORIES from real people -- their reasons for their beliefs, their experiences that shape their values. Only then, through civil discourse, do we have a prayer to coming closer together.

    Big (worried) sigh...

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    1. It's sometimes hard for Canadians, at least this Canadian, to remember that we're not as directly affected by all this as you are. That we're protected by our borders. We can watch all those "executive orders" being signed and flourished for the camera, shake our heads, say "unbelievable!"... and then go back to our lives, free health care and all. So you go ahead and rant, girl, you're entitled. At least the freedom to rant is one "entitlement" that isn't being eroded as we speak.

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  11. I love Christine Zaza's photo! In fact, when I first saw it, I copied it too and I still have it sitting on my desktop. I'd been thinking about writing a piece about the Women's Marches for my own blog, but I haven't been able to pull my thoughts together and do it. I did post a question on Facebook asking those who participated to share their reasons why and the responses were very interesting. I think there were almost as many reasons as participants!

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    1. That would be interesting, Elaine. I love Christine's photo too. It's been widely shared on FB I hear. But she was a bit disappointed that journals like Huffpost had used it without permission.

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  12. Thank you for another wonderful and thoughtful post. I enjoy Sandra Shamus' sense of humor. It seems like social media has removed all civil discourse and actually listening to the opinions of others objectively. If we don't start to have some compromise and end to these hateful executive orders, nothing will be accomplished. Mary Lou

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    1. You'e welcome, Mary Lou. And you're right, of course... about the loss of civility.

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  13. Oh Sue - you are just so lovely. And amazing. Thanks so much!!!! I was so lucky to have you as my boss for 13 years! XXX N

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    1. Thanks Nancy. We had a great team, didn't we? I guess it was 13 years...except for when you were the boss and I was in Australia...and then when you were in Australia:)

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  14. I was raised to express my opinions very clearly( I must have some connections with Yorkshire folk :-)),but I use to rant only at my home or in the car(a lot!)!
    So nice,when both,the pupils and colleagues love you so much(as well as we the readers),-you are a lucky lady indeed
    Dottoressa

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    1. Oh.... the car is THE best place for ranting, I think. Thanks for the kind words, Dottoressa. I worked at a pretty awesome school with a pretty awesome team of teachers, so that love went both ways.

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    2. And with respect to the readers of this blog. I can't believe I've stumbled onto such a wonderful community of people, from around the world.

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  15. Generally quite enjoy your blog, Susan. But did you really mean to say "free" healthcare? I know you understand we pay for it in the form of pretty high taxes. And it's fraught with problems. I've personally had to access an American hospital for life saving surgery that though deemed urgent by the specialists here, I was going to have to wait up to a year to access. Dug out the credit cards and headed south for almost instant access to the required procedure. In Canada the operation was being performed the way it was in the 1920's with extreme risks and limited results, and a week long hospital stay. In the United States I had the latest technology in a nineteen minute day surgery procedure. The differences between systems was staggering. There has to be a good explanation for this...I'm not a health care economist, but I don't have to be one to know that the US has been doing something better than Canada.

    Thanks for the chance to vent and rant. I hope I've been respectful.

    Dawn

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    1. Hi Dawn, So glad you enjoy my blog. I did mean to say "free" actually ...in the sense that we all pick up the tab with out taxes and then those who need the care don't have to pay extra for it. When Hubby had his heart problem in 2013, he received the very best surgery and after-care here at the Ottawa Heart Institute which my cousin the nurse tells me is quite cutting edge...no pun intended. I won't go on except to say that I guess our individual experiences always inform our opinions.Still I know there are smaller centres in Canada who do not have the advantages we have here in Ottawa.
      P.S. You were very respectful:)

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  16. Susan...after my rant about our universal health care system, I should have added that I am still very grateful, and proud, to be Canadian.

    Dawn
    Calgary

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.