Expressing anger
From: RowenaHC (
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 09:54:03 -0600 (MDT)
    I think there are at least three threads running through this discussion 
and they are tending to get mixed up.  The three I see are: (1) Need to be 
able to express anger; (2) rules of public behavior; and (3) Dealing with the 
underlying problems.

It is vital that anyone in a community be able to express their anger 
somewhere, somehow.  I say this even though recent research suggests that 
"acting out" anger is not cathartic as has been the received wisdom for many 
years but rather tends to increase the anger felt.  The problem is that one 
person's freedom to express anger tends to run up agains another's fear or 
disgust.  Which brings us to thread two.

Yelling, screaming and obscenity are a poor way to express anger if only 
because the recipient ignores the real concern and conentrates only on the 
behaviour.  Most grown ups have learned to express themselves in ways which 
not only clearly state their anger but also direct attention to the reasons 
behind the anger.  If you want something to change people need to know why!   
 There is a world of difference between (a) loud and boisterous arguments 
among people who are comfortable with exaggeration and  "jumping in" to 
contradict each other,  and (b) public fights and yelling matches.  The first 
is great, the second is  generally unacceptable in this culture.

Luckily we don't seem to have a lot of screamers around here but rather we 
have plenty of people who are willing to step up at meetings and say "I am 
very angry about...."  Sometimes they are also able to say: "and this is what 
I want to happen...."  which is even better.   Yes, you need a place for 
people to vent and be heard.   In my experience as a mediator, however,  
clear identification of the problem and proposed solution will often work - 
yelling and screaming does nothing for the screamer and rarely results in a 

If fellow cohousers are being made uncomfortable, it is perfectly appropriate 
for a community to establish rules of behavior and to insist on their being 
followed.   If the community can't decide on formal rules, then those who are 
offended should feel free to say so - clearly but forcefully:  "I am offended 
by that behavior (that language) and I don't want my children exposed to it." 
  This is, of course, particularly difficult for the type of person who is 
getting most upset, but I bet you will get lots of support.   Other neighbors 
with tougher skins can also help out!

Finally, you need to identify the source of the problem.  If these scenes are 
rare in otherwise decently behaved people - clarity about what's acceptable 
to neighbors or a comment such as "Chill, Rob" will likely result in 
improvements.   It may also help if there is a system for dealing with day to 
day problems - some kind of "resolution" committee, or a "sharing circle" or 
some such, so that a constructive alternative is available.  If it is a 
constant pattern, then an "intervention" may be worth while.   It also helps 
if everyone else refuses to be baited into joing the fray!  Smile, shrug, say 
"let's talk about it later."   If it just happens between a couple of people 
all the time, perhaps they enjoy it too much in which case you may just have 
to shrug and tell your children:  "WE don't behave like that!"

Good luck
Cambridge Coho

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