Teresa Garratty’s latest article on The Limping Chicken, ‘Is It Time for Deaf People to be a Little Less Angry‘, was met with mixed comments and reactions. On one hand, her article can be read as a commentary on how anger can be unhealthy and consuming, whilst many people took it as an article that lacked in-depth analysis, coping strategies and an appreciation of how deaf campaigners have fought for the rights of the current generation. Many people pointed out that the article lacked context – that this vagueness led people to interpret the article in their own different ways. This lack of context meant that some people responded feeling as though their anger and passion had been belittled.
In the Treehouse, Sara pointed out: ‘This article is a good way to make light of the facts around us – it is relatively true and reminds people not to take things so seriously. Not to be so immersed and concentrated. Not to be fighting all the time. It is not directed at people who campaign tirelessly but at the attitude within societies that give off those vibes of us not being a welcoming and positive community which is in turn misleading them.’
I had to go away and think about this article for a little while. To begin with, I could see why people may have found it patronising and simplistic. It took the focus away from the injustices of a society which still has a lot of adapting to do for deaf people, and put the focus on the behaviour of us, the campaigners. It raised questions about the way we come across to those not involved in campaigning, the people who we need to open a dialogue with to help them understand the different types of access we need. My initial reaction was to tweet on Twitter: ‘another way to look at ‘anger’ is ‘passion’. If you have passion for fighting injustice, it’s not ‘anger’.’
As Sara put it: ‘I just think if we come across as “angry” we won’t be heard but seen as just that. I can see her points from being on other teams and since I left those I can see those attributes which I have shrugged off as I do not want to be seen as demanding or “angry” but as welcoming and positive. Which would make inroads more? Being welcoming or being “angry” which is how hearing society is perceiving us? Hence why I said it’s misleading them because we aren’t angry. Some only appear angry. Most do react as though they are angry.’
However, I felt that the simplistic and tongue in cheek tone of the article didn’t address the power of anger. As a former feminist blogger, I can see how anger can consume people and lead them to feel powerless. I have felt powerless to do anything when confronted with the nature of injustice and just how much there is in the world. Sometimes anger can lead to depression if it doesn’t go anywhere or change anything. This is perhaps what Teresa Garratty meant to say, I don’t know. Constant anger as a health issue can be problematic, but I feel that the best way to counteract that is to be balanced – to have laughter, gratitude and positivity in your life too.
One person on the Treehouse commented: ‘I find this interesting. I remember I did an Anger Management course when I was at University and I learned that not only is it a negative emotion it also has many faces. It was thought that people often fall into different categories in the way they deal with feelings of anger & frustration. The labels were namely ‘Spoilers’, ‘Stokers’, ‘Deflators’ and ‘Disruptors’. Make of those what you will, I think most of us will know somebody from at least one or all of these groups!’
My own comment was: ‘I think there’s a difference between reactive anger and constructive anger. There’s anger that we direct towards other people, perhaps people who are in a forum, and possibly end up bullying and silencing people who have a different view, and anger that can be channelled into something constructive, such as people working together to create positive change. I know how self destructive anger can be, and how it leads people to become defensive/reactionary when they see someone with a different viewpoint, because they feel it is a personal attack when really it’s just someone explaining where they come from and what they think at any given time.
I’ve been that reactive/defensive person before, usually when I feel that someone has ‘come at me’ with their opinion. However, it’s a learning curve to learn to step back, take a deep breath and consider someone else’s viewpoint and where they are coming from. Sometimes people just have to agree to disagree. At the same time, anger directed towards institutions, systematic injustice and so on is legitimate. We feel what we feel, we just have to be careful we don’t let anger eat us up and make us feel bitter. It’s easy for that to happen, I became very disillusioned a few years ago with the online feminist community, but stepped back and have seen it differently since. Instead, I try to think of it as being passionate – anger can light a fire in your belly but we have to remember that too much fire can also burn you out.’
However, anger can be transformative and empowering when we let it turn into passion. When anger becomes a way of realising what really matters to us – what issues we feel strongly about. It can be a way to see what needs to be done and perhaps in what ways we can create social and institutional change. Passion is a driving force, and a very positive thing to have in your life. If you feel strongly about something and find like-minded people who also want to create change, this is both inspiring and satisfying. Be passionate about life – yes, we have so much to fight for, a lot that needs to be done and it’s easy to become angry, sad and worried about these things – but balance that out with the things that make you happy, that give you pleasure. As other social movements have shown, change takes time, sometimes a long time.
Here are some constructive ways to cope with anger and stress:
– Talk to someone. In the Treehouse, for example, we are here for you to talk, vent and work through things. Or talk to someone you trust. Bottling feelings of anger can often lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.
– Seek out like-minded people who understand where you are coming from, or who are doing something about what you are angry about. Remember – although there is a lot to be angry about, channelling it into positive action makes a difference.
– Do something that expends energy and focuses your attention on something else. When I’ve been wound up, sometimes doing something else helps (starting with stepping away from the computer) – such as going for a walk, playing with my cats, etc.
– Tweet the offending company with suggestions for ways they can improve their access. Get in touch with your MP. Think of ways you can change that anger into results, or at least doing something (that doesn’t involve imploding!). Get in touch with campaigning groups or your campaigning friends. Start a blog or vlog to explain your views.
What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share them with us!
– Lizzie Ward