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Stop being nice

In Coaching, Counselling and Personal Development, Mind and Movement by Steve SweeneyLeave a Comment

Anger has a bad reputation, much of it deserved. Yet without it, our ‘No’ does not carry any power. Your personal power and the anger you suppress are linked.


The astrologer smiled at me and said, “You know, in my experience, Librans are the angriest people in the Zodiac.”

I looked at her and asked, “Are we?”

“To be so nice, they have to suppress what they feel.” She said. “While they might be nice people on the surface, underneath they are seething with unexpressed anger, resentment and rage.”

The description about being a nice boy sure fitted for me. However, I was unsure if it had more to do with being born under an astrological sign, or being raised by my mother to be her ‘nice boy’. In my practice I see this often — men and women who have been raised to be ‘nice’ boys and girls. They report a lifetime of being told: Don’t raise your voice, don’t create a fuss, never be angry, don’t hurt mummy’s feelings, always be nice, don’t upset your father…

Anger is a useful emotion — without it, we cannot put up boundaries. Or be convincing when we say NO! or STOP! Without access to it, we will be treated as doormats. Our wishy-washy ‘no’ will be ignored as it has no power behind it. Without female anger the feminist movement would not have transformed the Western world. The rage and anger of women across the globe, from years of injustice and inequality, fuelled the social revolution that has made the world such a different place than it was just 100 years ago.

Anger can be expressed in a constructive or destructive manner. The trouble is most of us have experienced anger as destructive and scary. Hence we avoid it, ignore it, or pretend we are above it, by being oh so spiritual.

I recall my first encounter group and the facilitator asking me what I was so angry about. I was shocked to be confronted with the news everyone in the group was aware of the rage that I was feeling and was emanating from me. My delusion of being the ‘nice boy’ with all my ugly anger hidden away out of sight was shattered.

So began my journey in learning to express the emotion that I had put a lid on so long ago. The surprising thing for me was discovering that, under the anger I carried, was where so much of my denied masculine power lay hidden.

By denying this emotion I was suppressing my personal power.

Sometimes anger needs the physical expression of hitting things and screaming. After all, most of us have anger from decades ago that needs to be expressed. Once the backlog is mostly gone, we learn anger does not need to be screamed or physically expressed. It does not need to be expressed in ways that are harmful to others or ourselves. Just a few quiet words, ‘I feel angry when …’, and that’s all it takes to be complete. Yet learning this takes courage and a willingness to experience both our power and our vulnerability — as the two are inextricably linked.

Steve Sweeney has worked for over 25 years with people; in groups, as couples and individuals. His passion is helping people create Xtraordinary Relationships.


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