re: public displays of anger
From: Jennii Markley (
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 13:08:40 -0600 (MDT)
Hi, my name is Jennii Larsen. I  don't live in cohousing yet, but I do
have (nebulous) plans to live in a cohousing arrangement in the future. I
joined this list because I figured it can't hurt to learn about some of
the problems and solutions those currently living in cohousing have
        I find the issue of public displays of anger particularly
touching, because to me, the ability to express anger productively is one
of the main benefits of living in a close-knit community. Within my
family and friends, if someone gets angry, the most helpful response is to help
the emotional one understand exactly what they are angry about, and that
usually leads to a solution thyat is not only truer, but longer lasting.
The instances when an angry response has been attacked by other members
of the group as being inappropriate for whatever reason, the argument
has extended, and the root cause gets hidden,lurking in buried emotions
until it pops up again to start the fight all over.

        In case you can't tell, I agree with Sharon, and disagree with
Stuart. No matter how angry and offensive someone is, asking them what
the problem is, and really trying to listen will calm them down in
nanoseconds. Ignoring their problem and focusing on their response
will often aggravate their anger, and will probably foster an emotional
rift between involved members. Aguments are never fun, but, with a little
effort, they can be solved to benefit all those involved. Avoiding
arguments because you feel "acutely uncomfortable" signals the presence of
that emotional rift, and the lack of true community. If necessary, find a
third party, uninvolved with the argument to try and find the root of the
negative emotions. After all, it behooves EVERYONE to have a truly
harmonious community, without all the dirt piling up under the rug.
        I come from a high-emotion family. We have learned these lessons
the hard way, and I'm glad, because we have managed to turn a
dysfunctional, hateful family into a very close, loving one.

Jennii Larsen
I can never think of a cute saying to end my email with, so I'm writing
this instead.

 Stuart wrote:
> If I understand you correctly, you are asserting that yelling and swearing
> may be [part of] a good and appropriate way of handling conflict, though you
> draw the line at name calling.
> I strongly disagree.
> Clearly, there are wide cultural and class variations in how anger is
> normally expressed.  I don't want to make any global judgement about other
> cultures, but I'm interested in what is culturally appropriate amongst middle
> class white North Americans and similar cultures (since that covers 99% of
> the likely potential recruits for a cohousing community represented on this
> list).  In this context, community members expressing their anger via yelling
> and similar behaviours carries a number of very significant costs.
> Firstly, it makes other community members acutely uncomfortable.  Not only is
> this bad per se, but a community where this behaviour is frequent is likely
> to lose members and have difficulty attracting new members.
> Secondly, it creates serious power imbalances and distortions.  Many people
> are instinctively and strongly fearful of someone who blows up regularly.
> Group members are likely to avoid opposing them on decisions where the angry
> one is known to feel strongly or avoid bringing up issues that might elicit
> that kind of behaviour.  It has a strong chilling effect on the group's
> ability to frankly and honestly discuss their problems.
> Thirdly, my experience is that, in relationships where people have some
> option to hate and ignore each other, that is what open expressions of anger
> and hostility will cause them to do.  It works very differently between two
> neighbours than it might in a marriage, say.  In the latter case, yelling at
> each other does seem to be cathartic and helpful for some couples.  But I
> have yet to see a case where community members felt better about each other
> and more prone to interact because they yelled at each other.  Instead they
> avoid each other and think badly of each other.
> Finally, in many cases, it is explicitly against the group's agreements on
> behaviour.
> Stuart.
> --
> Stuart Staniford-Chen --- President --- Silicon Defense
>                    stuart [at]
> (707) 822-4588                     (707) 826-7571 (FAX)
> ------------------------------
> End of COHOUSING-L Digest 121
> *****************************

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