Two kinds of anger

Still trying to take in the news from the last few days.  Two people.  Both of whom have left their mark on history– but for very different reasons.

A twenty-seven year old girl. Beautiful, talented, insecure. A well-documented battle with drink, drugs, self-harm. Dead – possibly at her own hands.

A thirty-two year old man.  Good-looking, passionate, bright. An ‘ordinary guy’. A murderer who has blown up and shot nearly 100 people.

What do we know of these people?

With Amy Winehouse, the writing’s been on the wall for some time. Her struggles with addiction are well-documented. There have been interventions.  To some extent, this tragedy could have been predicted – but we’ll never know the whole story.In her tributes, we see two pictures.  The public face of an artist who sold more than five million records and influenced a generation of fans and musical contemporaries.  The tabloid shots. The interviews.  The melt-downs. We know less however, about the private woman.  The daughter.  The aunt.  The friend.  The child.

Then there’s Anders Behring Breivik. Just a few days ago, no-one knew his name or face – now it’s hard to forget.  A picture is emerging – of a loner, interested in bodybuilding and politics. A devoted son, a quiet farmer, an extremist. As the days unfold, we’ll no doubt hear more about who he is and what he stands for.  So far, there’s been nothing in his past to suggest what was to come. Perhaps we will never understand.

It’s fascinating to see the extreme differences between the two:

One person couldn’t cope with fame.  The other couldn’t cope with ignominy.  One person’s life was out of control.  The other was extremely disciplined.  One was full of self-doubt.  The other was certain he was right.  One revealed her problems to the world (“I told you I was trouble!”).  The other kept it all inside.  One took it out on herself.  The other took it out on everyone else.

Winehouse and Breivik show us two faces to anger.  Amy directed the hatred inwards.  In this interview she speaks of her deep insecurities leading her to drink.  The head of A&R at her record label said “She walks onstage thinking that everyone thinks she’s a d***head and thinks she’s sh**.”  (source)

On the other hand, forensic psychologists have depicted Breivik as nursing “a slow burning anger.” (source)  He was:

a “very egocentric, narcissistic and disciplined man” likely to believe that he was always right.

Clearly they are extreme examples, but is it significant that the woman turned her anger on herself, whilst the man inflicted it on others?

5 thoughts on “Two kinds of anger

  1. Yes – think you might be onto something here!
    Of course we generalise, but when something goes wrong for “him” (me!) then it’s someone – anyone – else’s fault…
    …And when something goes wrong for “her,” she’s most likely to analyse it as having been something she did (or didn’t!)
    The Solution? Acknowledge that yes, we (I!) have messed up (the lady’s got it right!)! But then recognise that he (Christ) has fully dealt with the full consequences of those actions – end of!

  2. What an awfully sexist thing to imply!! Very bold and an example of generalisation at its worst…

  3. Hi Pedro – yes, perhaps it’s not a case of he/she but rather an acknowledgement ‘we’ mess up and then, as you say, looking to Him..

  4. Hi Amelie

    You may be right. Of course women also lash out and men also internalise. I have a tendency to think in very black and white terms and also to take the most provocative stance without thinking it through! That’s why I ended the post on a question instead of a statement.

    Saying this, I do think gender is a significant factor in shaping how a person handles anger. Don’t mishear me. Men and women are equally fallen. The massacre is shocking and unforgivable in every sense. But statistically, women are much less likely to carry out this kind of action.
    See for example, a 1992 Tennessee University survey, which found that even though women make up half of the population, they were responsible for only 14.7 per cent of homicides during the ten-year survey.

    This is not to suggest that men are latent terrorists . Of course not. Nor does it imply that women are ‘better’ (even in behaviour) than men. But I think it does show that in general, gender is a significant factor in how we handle anger.

  5. Just reading through old posts and couldn’t resist this one. The gender difference here strikes me more as from method and not motive. When men act out, at self or others, it is often VIOLENT (like blowing his own brains out). Women are often steady and systematic with their destructiveness (either to self or others). Think of smothering, needy, possesive mothers or busy-body social activist types slowly driving individuals and society into ruin. Neurotic people, of either sex, say “everything is my fault” psychotic people say “everything is your fault” I guess we all have to watch falling into either lie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *