All moms get angry at their children, but moms have different ways of how to deal with anger. How do you handle anger? Do you bury it? Explode? Do you get really quiet and just sit there simmering? Most moms fall into the following categories:
- Cream Puff
- Steel Magnolias
- The Mature (or Assertive) Responder
Here’s what each of them are. Which one are you?
The main characteristic of the cream puff is passivity. Cream puffs avoid making clear statements about what they think and feel, especially when their opinion might make someone else uncomfortable. Their energy is focused on protecting others and maintaining harmonious relationships. Other characteristics of the typical cream puff include:
|Anger suppressed||Denial||Responsible for others|
|Anger turned inward||Dependent||Self-condemnation|
|Avoids problems||Over controlled||Toxic shame|
|Conflict avoider||Passive reactor|
Cream puffs often fail to share their own legitimate needs and concerns and thus those around them are unaware of their pain. Over time they become less and less aware of their own feelings, thoughts, and needs. They characteristically avoid any direct experience or expression of anger. In situations that in healthy people would evoke appropriate expressions of anger and protest, they are likely to remain silent. They are more likely to say “I’m sorry” rather than “I’m hurt,” “I’m afraid,” “I’m frustrated” or “I’m angry.” They apologize unnecessarily. However, not only does the problem remain since nothing has been done, it usually gets worse. As the problem gets worse our pain and fear increase. We experience even more fear, hurt, frustration, and anger. As we allow those feelings to smolder inside, we feel an even greater sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Continuing to ignore the problem only decreases our sense of value and worth and increases our sense of powerlessness.
It’s easy for the anger that early on could have been appropriately communicated to someone else to be inappropriately directed inward toward ourselves. We then become immobilized, overwhelmed with discouragement and depression, overrun with guilt and shame, and unable to do anything. Cream puffs are like boats drifting aimlessly on the ocean with no motor, oars or sails. They are forced to go wherever the wind blows them. But there is hope. The God-given emotion of anger can be a source of propulsion to move us out of our doldrums and help us move in healthy and constructive directions.
The God-given emotion of anger can be a source of propulsion to move us out of our doldrums and help us move in healthy and constructive directions.
This is the opposite of the cream puff. In fact, one of the reasons many cream puffs lock themselves in a prison of passivity is their fear that if they ever let themselves get in touch with their anger they will become like the locomotive.
|Anger against others||Has few intimate friends||Prone to violence|
|Combative||Loud||Quick to blame|
|Cruel teasing||Over concern for self||Shallow|
|Has all the answers||Power hungry||Under responsible|
A locomotive doesn’t have much time for the feelings or opinions of others. She has a sharp tongue and can be quick to criticize, put down and humiliate others. On the outside, she appears confident, but inside she is riddled with fears and insecurities. Because she needs so much acceptance, it is difficult for her to compliment others. It gives them the attention that she believes she deserves and needs for herself. She needs to be right all of the time and when she errs it will be on the side of being tough and not tender. Whereas the cream puff is a passive reactor who doesn’t give adequate attention to legitimate personal needs, the locomotive is an aggressive reactor who doesn’t give adequate attention to others’ needs and rights. Whereas the anger of the cream puff is usually implosive, the anger of the locomotive is most often explosive. When a locomotive gets angry, everyone around her knows it and anyone within eyesight is at risk of being yelled at and blamed. Aggression is usually an act of desperation. It is often an attempt to overcome a sense of frustration and powerlessness. Although aggression may give us a sense of immediate satisfaction or relief, it doesn’t last long.
When you meet one of these “steel magnolias,” what you see first is rarely what you’ll end up getting. On the outside, you will see the lovely and sweet-smelling magnolia blossom. More than just a casual encounter will reveal hardened steel. She is a contradiction to herself and to others. She is the master of the end-run. A part of you wants to trust her but the other part of you says that she can’t be trusted. You can trust the cream puff to yield to the desires and expectations of others in order to gain approval. You can trust the locomotive to ignore other people’s desires and expectations. They are both fairly consistent. But you don’t dare trust the steel magnolia. She may appear to be sensitive to the desires and expectations of others, but she’ll often go ahead and do whatever she wants. She may appear to be passive but is actually quite aggressive. The steel magnolia may appear calm, cool and collected on the outside, but just below the surface a huge cauldron of bitterness and resentment is boiling. At the core of every passive-aggressive person is an anger that hasn’t been dealt with. It can be denied, disguised, suppressed, submerged or merely called something else, but that anger is never entirely concealed. The steel magnolia doesn’t state her needs; she is indirect. If you cross her or get in her way, you are in serious trouble. She may appear to be sensitive and tender on the outside, but don’t get too comfortable because the tough side is sneaking up behind you. Sarcasm is one of the most effective tools of the steel magnolia. She uses it to express anger while playing it safe. It is a way of attacking while avoiding a clearly hostile intent. Over time, individuals who use this tactic may convince themselves that they don’t have aggressive feelings. Here are the characteristics of the steel magnolias:
|Chronic lateness||Makes excuse||Silent treatment|
|Fear of intimacy||Misunderstanding||Stubbornness|
|Forgetfulness||Mixed messages||Subtle sarcasm|
The Mature (or Assertive) Responder
This healthy option is not an automatic reaction but involves a reasoned response. It is a way of responding that allows us to “Be angry and sin not.” It is the assertive response. Unfortunately, the word “assertive” is often confused with the word “aggressive.” But there is an enormous difference between the two. Aggression is a disregard for the consequences of your actions; assertion involves taking responsibility. Assertion is freedom from the persistent aggravation of a recurrent problem; aggression re-creates the problems. Assertion is common courtesy; aggression means pushing others around in their own lives. Whereas the anger of the cream puff is characterized by resentment and the anger of the locomotive is characterized by rage, the anger of the mature responder is characterized by indignation. Without the mature response style, this angry world of ours would be a much poorer place. Here are some characteristics:
|Anger communicated||Healthy shame||Proactive|
|Careful||I win/ You win||Responds|
|Firm||Motivated by love||Warm|
The mature responder is free to “speak the truth in love.” The cream puff will often speak in love, yet due to her over concern for others, she may not speak the whole truth. Because she fears hurting someone’s feelings or making waves, they may say whatever will not provoke the other person. The locomotive is not usually concerned with what others think or feel, so she is more likely to speak the truth as she sees it. However, it is rarely done with love. She is much more likely to dump and run. When provoked, the mature responder is less likely to immediately react without thinking but rather responds in a way that reflects some discipline and thought. She has learned the value of anger.
Do you know which “angry mom” tendency you have?