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Angry Birds to Save the World?

I shouted a few days ago. So loud! So loud, I was shaken like a baby after it’s had a loud hiccup, when its face crumples and it looks around for reassurance before going into an incontrollable burst of tears. I found myself shaking and wondering where the sound had come from…and who had made it.

Where had this sudden eruption of rage come from? Of course, someone had pushed me too far, I’d been very patient, but then, as we say in French “Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties” (translate: Don’t push gran into the nettles). Clearly though, the anger must have been building up for a while.

I’d been feeling a bit downcast for a while. Disappointing productivity, a constant flow of scary news – on top of reports of terrorism, it was announced that pollution is the fourth biggest health risk in the UK. And then a new survey estimated that one in four 16-24 year old women has self-harmed. No explanation, just a shocking figure. How terrifying for anyone bringing up a girl.

I felt a bit down and tried hard to regroup and cocoon, but I couldn’t stop thinking about these girls who self-harm – because of my work, I couldn’t get this startling figure out of my head. These young women… all that pent-up pain and anger they are trying so hard to deal with.

I decided to tackle my own mood head on, without all the crutches I’ve used in the past, without the destructive coping mechanisms I used to employ. I stopped vaping recently, so there was no nicotine to help. And it struck me for the first time in my life: How do people cope? How are we meant to cope with anger and disappointment?

I’d danced, I’d laughed, I’d sung, I’d spoken, I’d written, I’d even played. The pain was still there and it was parading as sadness.

I came across a video by The School of Life entitled “Why we may be angry rather than sad”. Alain de Botton explains here that in psychoanalysis, depression is considered to be:

“[…] a kind of anger that’s been unable to find expression, that has turned in on itself and made us sad about everything and everyone, when we are in truth – deep down – angry only about certain specific things and specific people. If we could understand our disappointment and rage more intimately, we could – the theory holds – eventually regain our spirits.”

I took the time to journal and to be honest about the sadness I felt. When I asked myself the question “Are you angry about anything, Charlotte?” my pen couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. And the anger left me feeling silly, like a child raging in her cot.

It’s odd, when I think about anger, it evokes grown-up men with issues of self-control. It says a lot about how little we are prepared to validate anger as an important emotion. There’s shame attached to it; it seems childish and selfish.

It’s like air pollution – it’s dirty and scary, and it carries an uncomfortable dose of guilt for us all: we don’t really want to hear about it, and we feel like there’s not much we can do about it anyway. We feel guilty and selfish about it – so we somewhat ignore it. And so it goes with anger, with the shocking result we read in the news: soaring rates of depression, self-harm, isolation and addiction. That’s not what we want for all the young girls and boys out there.

So what do we do?

We validate anger. We understand, express and channel it. Parents will have read entire books about doing this with their young children. And they will know how difficult this is, particularly when they learn to deal with their own anger.

As adults, we need to be role models for the children out there. We need to show them that we do feel anger, along with many other emotions, we need to acknowledge that life is messy…that it isn’t about being in a constant state of bliss or being deemed a failure. We need to tell them about our anger, and show them how we deal with it.

I believe that educating children on how to handle their rage is the only way we can put an end to the epidemic of self-harm in this country. Let these girls express their anger, give them a voice, give them the power to fuel change.

Alain de Botton says in his video, that “We may not be good at getting angry, because we have not seen successful expressions of anger around us”.

You could encourage your child, your friend’s daughter or niece to make art to express her anger – write a wrathful song, play the drums, produce an enraged painting…make them listen to a song which brought you comfort as a teenager – maybe you got a kick out of singing along to Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”.

“We may not(-)have seen successful expressions of anger around us”-de Botton Tweet This

And then, why not pick a battle? Share with them how their anger, channeled properly, can make a difference in the world; why they matter, and have power. Why their voice needs to be heard. Show them the film Suffragette by Sarah Gavron to illustrate how “pushing gran into the nettles” can lead to huge societal change.

Maybe angry birds can save the world.

I’ll leave you with this thought:

“Perhaps, instead of thinking of activism as something occasional, each of us needs to let loose our inner troublemaker, building action into our daily lives instead of leaving it for times of crisis”

– from A womans place is in the resistance by Lucy Treloar for Womankind

Now, I’d love to hear from you! Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts or email me at charlotte(at)astoryworthliving.com

  • How do you deal with anger?
  • Have you ever been surprised by what you were able to achieve by channeling your anger properly?

If you’ve enjoyed this article and know an angry bird, or someone who could benefit from reading this, please share it with them.

Thank you for reading!

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