Expressions of Anger
From: Sherri Rosenthal (
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 22:41:56 -0600 (MDT)
Dear Friends,
Stuart wrote in response to Sharon:"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

This touches on several topics:
1. I think the diversity among people who might appear to be "middle class
white North Americans and similar cultures" is significant, and rarely
explored. Assuming that "99%" of cohousers come from a similar cultural
background that shares behavioral norms--particularly around acceptable
ways to express anger--seems pretty dicey to me.
        Just as an example, since I am white and an attorney, people assume
I come from a middle or upper middle class background. I come from a
working class background where during my high school years my family had
little money and at one point received public assistance. I was able to go
to college only because of extensive scholarships and financial aid. In my
working class Eastern European Jewish home, argument about politics and the
Torah was cheap recreation. A volume of voice that would alarm my white
middle class Southern partner was commonplace in the home in which I grew
up, however, it didn't signal the emotional meaning that a Southerner would
assume. In other words, exhuberant argument or even an increase in volume
when angry wasn't 'heard' in that context as "yelling" as quickly as it
would be in the South. And even outright yelling wasn't the big deal it
would be for those from a culture that supresses anger.

2. Miscommunication--in person within cohousing, or on the Internet--is
really easy, and a source of a large percentage of conflicts. I read Stuart
and Sharon's e-mails, and wondered if they were using the same definitions
for words like, "yelling" and "anger." 

3. I think a middle path is best. Meaning, conflict should be encouraged to
be expressed and resolved. A forum should be created to encourage healthy
conflict resolution.  Name calling is clearly out of line because it is so
basically disfunctional and disrespectful. Basic respect needs to be
insisted upon. And no one should ever have to fear for their physical
safety. I personally feel that the group telling people to take the
disagreement where the group members can't see or hear it feels like
unhealthy suppression. I think it is completely okay, however, to have
certain behavioural standards that the entire group comes to concensus upon
which apply all the time, not just to angry members. So, if the group
decides, "no public swearing," that's fine.

In sum, after a little interpretive reading, I agree for the most part with
both Stuart and Sharon.

Sherri Zann Rosenthal
Eno Commons Cohousing in Durham, NC

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