Contrary to what most people have heard about anger, it is actually not a primary emotion. Anger is a mask we use to cover up our real primary emotions. Yet, anger is too often associated as a negative adjective to describe person who is feeling emotional or passionate, especially for black women. Anger has no race or gender. This stereotype is dangerous because it systematically enforces black women to stay silent in hopes of avoiding this label. It is time society stopped associating any emotion with a race or gender.
So what are primary emotions and secondary emotions?
Primary emotions are reactions to external events
- For example, you may feel sad about someone hurting you.
Secondary emotions are when you feel an emotion about the feeling itself
- For example, you feel angry because you were hurt by someone which made you sad.
Secondary emotions are complex reactions, I like to view them as meta-emotions [emotions within an emotion]. Anger is simply a protector of very intense feelings because it helps the person avoid being more vulnerable. Typically underneath anger there is shame, sadness, fear, hurt, anxiety, disappointment and many more. Do you see how much more vulnerable you are when you express these more intense emotions over simply being "angry"?
When talking about anger it is important to look at anger as an iceberg. What are the true underlying emotions here?
This is how we need to view the black female experience and her emotions as well.
Help understand what underlying emotion she is experiencing rather than grouping her with the emotion of anger.
Rather than labeling her as the "angry black woman", ask yourself why does she feel as though she needs to use anger right now as a protective factor for her true emotions?
Give space for black women to feel safe enough to be vulnerable.