Monday, October 22, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 16.2 Anger
16 of the participants speak of anger in the interviews and anger seems to be related to crying according to some of the 13 participants who spoke crying (appendix 4). Anger is mentioned 91 times and crying 32 times in all the interviews and it seems that they are often mentioned in relation to each other. Ruth explains that anger and crying are the two most important emotional expressions they meet at the Incest Centre in Vestfold, and she confides that she herself, when listening to others, sometimes feels anger. This is an anger which seems to arise together with a feeling of weakness (avmakt). She mentions the feeling of weakness first and then anger and research done by Skjørten (1994, 2007), in her work with male abusers in domestic violence, shows that some men who feel weakness in various situations tend to show anger afterwards instead of crying. Dagny and Bodil on the other hand say that they cry instead of feeling anger. For them anger is an emotion they either don’t feel or have not yet been able to grasp. Gunhild says that she does not have a problem with feeling anger and has a lot of anger inside of her. Margaret explains that some feel anger towards their mothers because they expected them to protect them, but they failed to do so.
Ruth: The two most important things here are anger and crying. ((Bites her lips together)) Uh-huh… A feeling of weakness (avmakt) and anger, yeah I can feel anger myself here. I don’t pay attention to it under a conversation, but the things we hear here do something to us.
Dagny: I don’t feel it. I can’t feel any anger or temper…I can be hysterical at home in a situation with my kids, if they don’t listen or something, but I don’t really feel angry. Anger doesn’t exist. I don’t have a hot temper. Or maybe I just haven’t released it yet.
Bodil: I’ve tried, but I just cry instead.
Gunhild: I’ve got a lot of anger inside of me. Dear God yes, yes, yes. I can really ignite. That’s no problem at all. That’s for sure.
Margaret_1: They feel a lot of anger towards their mothers whom they feel have failed to protect them. They feel let down. There’s a lot of anger there, a lot of aggression; anger, hate and contempt, yeah.
It seems possible in my opinion that crying may function as a way of letting out ones feeling of weakness before it develops into anger, while others may cry in order to let out ones feeling of anger. The function of crying in the healing process seems to me to be an interesting focus for further research.
I believe that there is much truth in the research done by Hareli and Weiner (2002) when they argue, like Ruth, Dagny, Bodil, Gunhild and Margaret, that anger is generated by judgements of personal responsibility. Anger is the result of a value judgement that follows from the belief that another person could and should have acted in another way. In addition, anger requires some personal involvement as a victim, identification with the victim, or both. Anger communicates the feeling that someone ought to have done something or refrained from doing something. The moral aspect of anger is evident when it is recognized that if the communicated anger is accepted, or perceived as justified, then the recipient of this emotional message will feel guilty.
Linda: I’m afraid I’ll attack him.
Margaret: We have to use our hate and anger in order to become free.
Sally: I usually explode during family celebrations.
Pia: Most of my anger is towards my father… I did all sorts of bad things in my youth just to harm them.
Ivar: All of the abuse I suffered involved umm aggression, violence and pain. Yeah it involved both psychological and physical umm aggression, threats, violence, and even bondage and strangulation… He was a sex sadist…he made me shout out my pain, but held his hand in front of my mouth so no one would hear me, while he pounded real hard on me from behind. I shouted and screamed ((Laughs)) that was the sound that was there.
It can be understandable in my opinion that victims of sexual abuse like the five participants above can feel anger towards those who have abused. They point their anger towards there perpetrators, but others, as shown in this study, focus their anger towards their mothers who they feel should have protected them or towards themselves for not being strong enough. Lutwak, Panish, Ferrari and Razzino (2001) have carried out a study where they explore the possible relationships between anger, shame and guilt. Their findings suggest guilt-proneness is negatively related to outward anger, both for men and women, and positively related to anger control. In my opinion, this research shows that there seems to be a positive correlation between shame-proneness and inward anger. Other researchers have shown that modes of expressing anger and hostility have been noted to be heavily influenced by experiences of shame (Tangney, Wagner, Fletcher and Gramzow 1992). Lewis (1971) suggests that anger may be an emotion which is not accepted by the self as valid; it is not a personal right for shame-prone individuals. Angered, shame-prone individuals may feel ashamed of their anger, since they seem to view this emotion as taboo and unacceptable.
If anger and shame are related, then showing ones anger in the right way and in the right place, might function as a way of reducing ones shame. Some do this through ordinary physical activity such as in sports, others need help to release there anger. In this way energy is released, and that is way Margaret sees anger as something that can be positive. It might be so that if one can channel this energy in the right direction, shame will seem to become weaker. Some of the users show their anger for the first time; some have never been allowed to be angry before. Anger can then become a new experience in the healing process.
Margaret_1: People can have umm big problems with conversations, maybe because they have a whole lot of aggression inside. Umm one girl here was at the store and the queue was moving really slowly. Someone was standing in front of her, dawdling. The girl became really irritated and ended up exploding (.) She felt like she was going to explode and was able to say something to those in front of her and got really mad. When she came here afterwards and told me what had happened, she felt guilty and didn’t want to feel that way. That was wrong. After all, it was all just a trifle (.) someone dawdling in the cue. So she felt her own (.) her own anger and knew that it wasn’t reasonable anger. I believe it was very important for her to see herself as she is, even if she was being unreasonable, it was honest anger, and she should have taken it seriously…Most people can feel anger and get real angry. ((Drinks water))…I see aggression as a good energy…and it’s good that those who come here show their aggression. But the important thing is to channel it so that it doesn’t hurt others. One can’t go around being aggressive all the time but you have to learn to express it in a safe way... It’s very effective to hit a punching bag. You can get a whole lot of anger out there. Especially if you give the punching bag a name, because anger is often directed towards a person…The anger you feel inside becomes a different kind of anger when you start to pound on the bag… They name the punching bag after their abuser or someone else they umm feel has failed them… Aggression is energy and if you can tap into this energy, then you feel that you don’t have so much to be ashamed of anymore. One isn’t as shameful afterwards. That’s my experience… They take back their own power, yeah. Not in order to dominate others, but in order to take control over themselves instead of letting others use them.
I agree with Margaret that anger and aggression can be used as energy if used in a correct manner. But letting aggression grow into violence towards oneself or others would be a destructive development. Linda speaks of the negative aspects of anger, when anger is channelled towards the self and results in self-injury. She also says that anger is positive when it is expressed in the right way
Linda_1: There are some boys who injure themselves, but I believe it’s the same reaction when they become violent. It’s good to get one’s aggression out, but it’s a shame for those who are on the receiving end of this aggression. So what we do here is to put on boxing gloves and let them pound on a punching bag…They yell a lot when they punch the bag…Yeah there’s a whole lot of screaming here, I can hear this quite often here ((Laughs)) I can hear it through the walls…First we try to help people release their aggression by using words.
Anger and aggression seems it be emotions which contain a large amount of energy and it important that they be channelled in the right direction. How this is to be done depends on the individual. Some are more rational than others; some are introspective while others are more outgoing; some are shame ridden while others are guilt ridden. The research done by Tangney, Wagner, Hill-Barlow, Marshall and Gramzow (1996) suggests that shame-prone individuals are more likely to engage in unexpressed, indirect aggression, (i.e. self-aggression) than guilt-prone individuals. However, they also found that shame-prone individuals are more actively aggressive in conflict situations. It seems that shame-prone individuals tend to be meek, submissive and passive even though they are angry. Furthermore, shame-prone individuals tend to express their anger in irrational and counterproductive ways.
Showing oneself to others is easy when everyone likes what they see, but more difficult when one believes oneself to have a range of negative features, such as anger. Showing ones anger, maybe for the first time may require a great deal of courage. Ruth explains just this about one of the users she has spoken with.
Ruth_1: She had never cried, never felt anger, she had never dared. The consequences would have been terrible had she done so… Her awful aggressive feelings grew stronger and stronger every time she came to the centre. I remember when she first started placing the responsibility for and guilt connected with the things that had happened in her childhood where it belonged, and some completely new thoughts struck her. Who am I really? What am I? (.) Am I the person I thought I was? Am I the person my abusers say I am? She started to sort things out. We were in the basement here. She lived here for a short while. And then she said, “Ruth, there’s something I have to get off my chest.” We closed the door, and she started to swear and curse and kept on for two hours. She had never said a naughty word in all her life. They weren’t umm the worst words in the vocabulary, but they were awful for her. She said things like God, Christ, Shit and Pee. They were all bad words for her. But she felt much more at ease after those two hours.
Permitting oneself to say shit for the first time, saying a naughty word, might be the most aggressive action some people have done in their lives. The Incest Centre in Vestfold does not encourage users to show their anger or aggression, but when users themselves show such emotions and feel they need to work with them, users are then helped with these emotions. One of the consequences of shame, in my opinion, seems to be silence and hiding, locking the door to ones emotions. So when users start to show their emotions, this can be viewed as a positive development in the healing process. In this section I have showed that anger seems to be an emotion which can be conceived as both positive and negative, depending on where it is directed. If anger is directed inward, towards oneself, it can harm the self. Directing one’s anger at others can also have a harmful or negative outcome. Focusing on one’s anger as a positive energy and releasing it indirectly through different forms of controlled activity, rather than directing it toward oneself or others, seems to have a positive effect. Ruth speaks about a woman who had never sworn in her life, and who found release when she was able to curse for the first time. Working through embarrassment seems to play an important role in expressing emotions. I will therefore take a closer look at embarrassment in the next section.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Pettersen,Kaare Torgny, 2009: An Exploration into the Concept and Phenomenon of Shamewithin the Context of Child Sexual Abuse. An Existential-Dialogical Perspectiveof Social Work within the Settings of a Norwegian Incest Centre. PhD 2009 Department of Social Work and HealthScience Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management. NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Doctoral theses 2009: 184