Nice Ladies and Bitches

Nice Ladies and Bitches

This is the third in a series of blogs about managing anger looking at “Nice Ladies and Bitches” which is what Harriet Lerner originally wanted to call her book. (Unfortunately her publisher wasn’t too taken with that title!)

As I said in my previous blog, I first came across Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships when a client told me it was the best book she had ever read. I have since recommended it to many people – several of whom have said “I knew from the first page that it was the book for me – it describes me perfectly!”

Nice Ladies and Bitches

When it comes to expressing your anger, do you go down the road of silently seething with resentment, or losing your temper and yelling with rage? While it seems that these two ways of managing anger are very different, they are actually more similar than you think. They both serve equally to protect others, which means the woman loses sight of her sense of self. Her self-esteem suffers because she has not been effective at clarifying and addressing the real issue. Both the Nice Lady and the Bitch are left feeling helpless and powerless, and in the end, nothing changes!

These women tend to be “stuck” in a self-perpetuating downward spiral, where they do have something to be angry about, but because their complaints are not properly voiced and in turn, heard, they grow increasingly bitter and feel a stronger sense of injustice.

What are some common harmful anger tactics?

When we feel anger, we often use tactics that are harmful both to ourselves and those around us

  • Using “below the belt” tactics

Harriet Lerner lists these as “blaming, interpreting, diagnosing, labelling, analysing, preaching, moralising, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing, and lecturing.” These may be done in a calm and measured way, but involve putting the other person down in a way that is likely to damage relationships. 

  • Trying to control others 

“We may view it as our responsibility to control something that is not in fact within our control and yet fail to exercise the power and authority that we do have over our own behavior. Mothers cannot make children think, feel, or be a certain way, but we can be firm, consistent, and clear about what behavior we will and will not tolerate, and what the consequences are for misbehaviour. ”

  • Avoid “Nice Lady Syndrome”

Nice ladies keep their anger to themselves to avoid conflict that would make others feel uncomfortable. Generally, nice ladies will stay silent or become self-critical or “hurt”. At the expense of expressing themselves, nice ladies protect others by trying to preserve harmony in their relationships. Over time, this behaviour results in a loss of clarity of their own sense of self because all of their energy is on ensuring they don’t upset others. This leads to a self-defeating and self-perpetuating cycle: the more she gives in and goes along, the more her anger builds.

  • Avoid “Bitchy Woman Syndrome”

These women are not shy about expressing their anger. However they tend to vent their anger ineffectively. By not clearly voicing their complaints, these women get painted with a disapproving brush, labelled things like “unfeminine”. Words like this have the power to intensify feelings of injustice and perpetuate feelings of powerlessness. “Words like ‘nagging’, ‘complaining’ and ‘bitching’ are words of helplessness and powerlessness, which do not imply even the possibility of change”.

References

https://www.harrietlerner.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6Y9uhmL6Y Why won’t he apologise? Harriet Lerner TEDtalk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPgGfQPqyhg Interview with Harriet Lerner on The Dance of Anger

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

 

Book a counselling session today!

See also: Powerful ways to control angerControlling Your AngerLearning About Anger

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