Harriet Lerner on why supposed ‘Good Girls’ and so-called ‘Bitches’ aren’t really so different after all:
“In the ‘nice lady’ category, we attempt to avoid anger and conflict at all costs. In the ‘bitch’ category, we get angry with ease, but we participate in ineffective fighting, complaining and blaming that leads to no constructive resolution.
These two styles of managing anger may appear to be as different as night and day. In reality, they both serve equally well to protect others, to blur our clarity of self and to ensure that change does not occur..
If we are nice ladies, how do we behave? In situations that might realistically evoke anger or protest, we stay silent—or become tearful, self-critical, or ‘hurt.’ If we do feel angry we keep it to ourselves in order to avoid the possibility of an open conflict. But it is not just our anger that we keep to ourselves; in addition we may avoid making clear statements about what we think and feel, when we suspect that such clarity would make another person feel uncomfortable and expose differences between us….
Those of us who are ‘bitches’ are not shy about getting angry or sharing our differences…But when we vent our angry ineffectively, we can easily get locked into a self-perpetuating downward cycle of behavior. We do have something to be angry about, but our complaints are not clearly voiced and we may elicit other people’s disapproval instead of their sympathy. This only increases our sense of bitterness and injustice; yet, all the while, the actual issues go unidentified.”
- Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger