Girls Gone Wild

Why girls are getting angrier, and how to deal if you feel like you’re getting out of control.

There’s no denying it: girls are getting angrier. Last year the NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics & Research (BOCSAR) reported a 17.8% increase in domestic violence-related assault in girls aged 10 – 17 – that increase is when girls are the ones doing the assaulting.These assaults range from pushing and shoving to quite serious assaults where the victim sustains major injuries,” explains Craig Jones, Deputy Director of BOCSAR. “Typically most domestic assaults will involve a young person hitting their parents, guardian or a sibling, but those seem to be quite stable. What seems to be accounting for some of this increase is assaults between boyfriends and girlfriends. If that trend increases, it’s certainly something to be alarmed about – it’s bucking the trend. The overall trend in domestic violence is downwards.” Girls seeing red is on the rise!

Why do we get angry?

Why are we getting angry more often?

And what do we do about it?

Good Anger vs Bad Anger

“There’s nothing wrong with anger, or any feeling,” begins Pam Stavropoulos, counselor and psychotherapist. “Feelings are legitimate. Blocking feelings, or feeling guilty or wrong about them, is not the way to go.” Feeling angry about injustice – like someone hearing someone being racist or sexist – can be a positive reaction to spur you on to help make change. “Anger can definitely be useful and helpful,” agrees Pam. “But if it’s aggression, that’s not helpful.” Feeling angry every now and then is totally normal. But feeling angry all the time, or to the point where you want to become violent, is not. So why might you be feeling this way?

The Big Picture

Economic downturn, a planet in peril, religious warfare and terrorist attacks are no longer the stuff of big screen disaster films, such is the fabric of our everyday lives. “I think we’re more stressed as a society now,” says Pam. “There’s a lot of angst in the general population, so we would expect girls to be increasingly angry.”

Sugar and spice and all things nice…

…. That’s what little girls are made of. While there’s nothing wrong with being sweet as apple pie, sometimes that’s ONLY what girls are expected to be. It’s awesome to be kind, loving, respectful and loyal, but what about when you get really, really PISSED OFF? “Girls still aren’t socialized to express anger very well or even to recognize it in themselves,” says Pam. “Boys have always had more social outlet for anger and it’s more socially acceptable; ‘that’s what boys do’. But we’re incredibly shocked if girls act similarly. There’s a double standard going on there, and so there’s a rise in anger because girls are tapping into it.”

Look Like This Or Else

And then there’s the question of body image. Everywhere you turn the unrealistically airbrushed and slimmed down female form languishes on display. “It’s very, very difficult for any girl – whatever her personality – to be immune to the incredible focus on appearance,” says Pam. “While girls are trying to work at school, plan for future and have fun, there’s this barrage of information about how they’re meant to look and be. It’s a very difficult for girls to assimilate all that, and that’s a source of frustration that does come out in irritation as well.”

Alert! Danger Ahead!

So what is anger? “Anger is a very interesting emotion that often contains a lot of other things underneath,” explains Pam. “When people feel angry they’re often just conscious of extreme irritation – seeing red, really pissed off –  but if we’re able to unpack what’s underneath anger, it could be something quite different. It could be grief; it could be loss, milder frustration, or even simple fatigue. Anger is an alert that something’s not quite right, but it may not be obvious.”

How To Deal

The journey to understanding your emotions is a lifelong one. “We kind of feel that feelings are natural and we should know how to handle them,” says Pam. “I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If we find ourselves angry or feeling any strong emotion, we often don’t know what to do about it, and we often feel guilty. Managing how we feel is a skill that actually can be learned.” Here are some tips on how!

1. Take time to chill. In our manic age of mega multi-tasking, downtime is becoming a thing of ye olden days. Who has time to reflect when you could be online? But given anger is an alert system for a deeper problem, it’s important for your mental well-being to commit to taking time out. “Girls can try clearing a space for themselves on a daily basis to find out what’s going on for them,” confirms Pam. “They may recognize that anger is a disguised form of something else entirely; not having eaten for a while, exams, reacting to the news or an argument in the family.” You heard it from the experts chicks: chill!

2. Take time to talk. “We live in a communication age, but often there’s not a chance for girls to talk about how they’re feeling,” says Pam. “I do believe it can come out in anger, when primarily the issues may be about something else.” It’s easy for us to communicate about how hot we’d look in a pair of gladiators, not so easy to talk about vulnerability, grief, loneliness, or fear. Pam advises identifying someone you feel you can speak openly without judgment to. “In bringing it from ‘in here’ to ‘out there’, we often get a slightly different perspective on what we’re feeling – it’s a way of kind of making sense of it.” says Pam.

Your Peeps

Lifeline: 13 11 1 4

Kids helpline: 1800 55 1800

Reachout.com.au

When Celebs Attack! Violent Femmes

Naomi Campbell

Crimes: Naomi has been in and out of the courtroom for a series of alleged violent attacks on housekeepers and personal assistants. She’s even been sentenced for 200 hours community service for assaulting a cop!

Diagnosis: Nomes gets that “anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue… and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness.” She’s also explained her temper is a result of lingering resentment toward her father for abandoning her as a child. Who knew supermodels had problems?

Britney Spears

Crimes: Former Mickey Mouser Britney Spears has been known to lash out at paparazzi, once attacking a snapper’s car with her umbrella.

Diagnosis: Brits’ anger is a definitely a result of the frustration of having the global press watch her every move – particularly as these days, they’re usually pretty crazy ones.

Amy Winehouse

Crimes: It’s generally not a night out on the town unless Amy’s thrown a random punch at a fan, the paps or even just a passerby.

Diagnosis: Amy’s violence – as well as her problems with self-harm, eating disorders and drug abuse – are all alert systems for her admitted struggle with depression. Makes you think twice about wanting to be famous, huh?

See it!

Michael Moore’s award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine explores America’s active production of a climate of fear. An entertaining and thought provoking must-see.

Copyright Georgia Clark 2010


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About Georgia

I'm a young adult novelist with a weakness for hot nerds and cheese platters, not necessarily in that order. I am currently working on my third novel. I'm pretty excited about having just turned 30 because it means I can justify spending a lot of time thinking about homewares.
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