The Virgo Woman's greatest problem with anger is that she seldom recognizes it. Her other main problem is that she fears expressing it. But she is not alone. Anger, in general, is considered socially unacceptable, and for this reason most of us are taught to repress it. Violence and poor emotional functioning often result. So-called sex crimes, such as rape, are extreme examples of the explosion of pent-up violent anger. Rape has nothing to do with sex. It is an act of rage.
Recent research sponsored by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare has shown that war-oriented and patriarchal societies, such as ours, tend to repress various forms of physical pleasure. Research has repeatedly proven that the limitation of sensory pleasure and stimulation causes rage, insanity, severe depression, and other types of emotional disorders. Lack of touching can even result in death, as was shown by studies done on continuously neglected babies.
Anger and sex are bound in a reciprocal relationship. Repressed sexuality produces anger. Repressed anger numbs feeling, resulting in inadequate sexual functioning. The woman who holds back her anger is destined for the bleak landscape of an unhappy emotional life, inhibited sexuality, and chronic mental or physical pain.
Anger is a basic human emotion, though we have not really accepted it as such. Feelings are facts. We love someone, we feel sad, jealous, greedy, elated, happy. We have angry times or moods. These are facts. Drinking, in many cases a symptom of repressed anger, is condoned, but anger overtiy expressed frightens us. We do not want to mar our already flawed, cracked, civilized masks with it.
We tend to call anger by other names: depression, stress, anxiety, resentment, hostility, irritation. We project personal anger on groups of people: women, Jews, Latinos, blacks, unions, strikers, foreigners, the government, radicals; the list is endless. Because we fear it so, we have limited the expression of anger to ritualized channels such as war and sports. This leaves women without a socially sanctioned way to express hostility. Rage in war is acceptable, even rewarded by medals. But as thousands of veterans from Vietnam and the Gulf War found out, rage at home must be suppressed, even if it becomes depression. It is a well-known clinical fact that depression is most frequently caused by unexpressed anger turned inward.
The woman who shows her anger is quickly called a bitch. She has no role models to help her transform anger into a positive force. Yet anger causes blocked communication. It also can cause low self-esteem, physical illness, psychosomatic illness, or outbursts of temper that may result in the loss of a job or a friendship and can even cause divorce. Anger is also a huge obstacle to healthy sexual expression. The angry woman closes down sexually. She may justify this as a means of punishing her partner or all men, but she is primarily hurting herself.
The Virgo Woman is likely to be ignorant of the basic steps to take in coping with anger: the identification of anger and its proper expression. I came to this conclusion after interviewing a number of women who are Virgo types or who were going through a Virgo phase. Here are some of their comments, typical of the Virgo attitude toward anger:
1. "Anger? I don't think about it. I mean, if I think I might be getting angry, I just think of something else. I'd rather think of something pleasant."
2. "I used to hate shopping with my mother when I was a little girl and a teenager. I found it boring and humiliating. I could never fuss about it, but I was really in a rage. I've never told my mother this, but I get depressed now every time I have to go shopping for anything bigger than a sack of groceries."
3. "I remember being teased a lot in school for being so prim. I guess I was sort of a prude by their standards. I was really shy, but I think now that I just became, more than anything, angry."
4. "I have never once been angry. My life has always run smoothly. I have everything I want. Why should I start ruining it now?"
5. "The recognition of my anger, I think, has probably destroyed my marriage. So I feel ambivalent; maybe it's good, maybe not so good to know you are angry. Each woman has to decide if it's worthwhile to dig in. You can find an awful lot of frightening emotions in yourself, and once you open Pandora's box, anything is possible."
6. "I've recendy learned in your seminar on constructive uses of anger that people see me as a placid, contented person. My classmates have told me that I smile when I seem to feel uncertain. I'm just learning about how I really feel, and I know I don't feel placid and happy inside. I am outraged at what has happened to me, at what I haven't done with my life. And I have nobody to blame but myself; that's the hardest part of all!"
The first woman has the quintessential Virgo attitude prior to enlightenment (the term my classes have used to denote the point of no return in a person's self-awareness). After enlightenment, only forward movement is possible. This woman has pushed her anger down and is not sure when she is angry. Her use of the word might indicates how tentative she feels about being angry. She would rather "think of something else." Anger, however, is not a thought. It is an emotion. It cannot be cheated or ignored out of existence.
The second woman learned thoroughly and efficiendy early on that she was not supposed to show her anger. Even now, she seems to turn anger inward against herself, and this results in depression. The Virgo girl who is taught not to fuss, to be prim and proper, to please by being a perfect little girl, often pays for it by the suppression of emotion. Anger is one of the toughest for her to unearth, for she is often taught to feel guilty about feeling angry, guiltier still about expressing it.
The third woman takes it on the chin for being a typical Virgo girl. However, she seems fairly aware of her own angry reactions and of her suppression of anger out of fear. Virgo fears rebellious behavior and is often teased by peers for following parental dictums. She is often an emotional prude, not deigning to touch on feelings she considers dirty or unwanted.
Though I'd like to give the fourth woman the benefit of the doubt, it is probable that she has been trained, and has trained herself, out of recognizing her anger. Her priority is to have an unperturbed life. I believed her when she told me she had everything she wanted, but I also believe she had something she did not want: anger. No human being can exist without feeling angry sometimes. She had probably suppressed the thoughts, memories, and associations that would lead to anger. In a later interview, she intimated that her sex life had never been a source of joy to her, but she said this was unimportant. She was not sure she had ever had an orgasm either.
I admire the fifth woman for her courage and honesty. When a Virgo Woman wants to be honestly analytical, she has more insight than the Delphic oracle. She is fair, precise, and self-critical without self-pity. This woman made a very good point. Each person must decide what she wants to know about herself. Many people elect to live with their eyes closed to all but a few facts and feelings. Some have been raised to ignore everything their upbringing did not sanction. A few break out; others more or less happily muddle through. But life is full of options, and one even chooses not to choose. One cannot choose well without knowing oneself.
The sixth woman covers her feelings with a smile. She is not realistically in touch with what she feels, and she has been largely unaware that the clues she sends out are so much at odds with her inner state. The woman who wants to be in charge of her life and to live it as she wishes must understand how she appears to others. This is most important in a professional situation, where she has to learn to balance her image: brains with beauty, femininity without submissiveness, strength without bossi-ness that others might find frightening. Expressing her anger is also a matter of fine-tuning her self-control. She must learn to lose her temper just enough to be heard—not so often that it's like crying wolf, but often enough to make a difference. Releasing anger and losing face doesn't help.
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