Re: Expressions of Anger
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999 10:04:00 -0600 (MDT)
>From Sherri's post:

>  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.

I come from what I call a sub-working class family. Working is tenuous and
Friday to Friday. You get paid or fired on Friday--sometimes both. If you
get fired, you also move because you can't pay the rent and still eat the
next week if you don't find a job on Monday. Bank accounts were completely
unnecessary--even rent was paid in cash.

While everyone assumes I'm WASP New England money (or they did before I
gained weight--a definite down class activity), it is only because those
were my grandmother's values. She didn't get it from "New" England but from
several generations of parents who brought the same values from England to
the South. And all hell broke loose when we violated them.

To maintain that value system without the proper cultural and financial
supports or the social respect,  you learn to be very tough. Otherwise you
don't make it.

You have to be tough within the family--that is where it is really
important--to keep all the kids from sliding into alcoholism, drugs, theft,
etc. In public you are nice and sweet because those are not the people you
care about, those are the people you have to please to survive. You care
about family and you fight for them and with them until everyone is safe.

In cohousing  you have a situation where it is part public and part family.
Many of the responses sent to the list are "public" solutions that  feel not
only like pleasing, but like the worst ideas of safe sex. Emotional

 What cultural diversity really means in terms of accepting and
understanding behavior, personal history, and emotional reactions is little
understood because we haven't lived with it. What a desire for diversity too
often it means, like all the scholarship programs I was on for 8 years of
college and graduate school, "we will include you if you behave like us and
accept our values." And that meant a hierarchical class system.

One of the most touching and informative moments in a program filmed years
ago on scholarship students at elite liberal arts colleges in New England
was a young Mexican American girl from Texas who couldn't eat the food in
Connecticut. At every meal, she was in agony.

Her mother had to send her boxes of chilis and  beans and tortillas--"bad
food" she kept hidden in her closet because no one then was eating anything
but rare meat and polite vegetables and instant oatmeal.

To say "Chill" to someone who is expressing their own very deep feelings is
like saying "put it in the closet."

Labeling the situation "public" in the context of people being
themselves--good or bad, means "not family." Hide it. Go home.

For those of us who have hurdled the class barriers, several times, in many
directions, phrases like "it just isn't done" or "it doesn't work" or "it
isn't effective" are extremely relative.

I'm really tired of this thread, and I'm sure I'll get flamed again for
responding truthfully again, but I hope it has been helpful to all the nice
people out there who never yell, never get angry, and certainly would never
raise their voices in public--or even in private, to understand that this is
not the only way that perfectly nice and caring people respond.

The initial question was how to deal with two people who repeatedly argue in
front of others who are tired of hearing it and are afraid it is setting a
bad example for their children. My decidedly unique take on this was to say
look at it another way and you might find a new, workable, answer.
Obviously, none of the "normal" group process and people skills techniques
had worked. I'm sure the original question came from someone who was just
informed as the rest of us about what these are.


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