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Excerpted from The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner. Copyright © 1985 by Harriet Lerner. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"There is, however, another side of the coin: if feeling angry signals a problem, venting anger does not solve it."

Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger, Part 3

Let us question these questions. Anger is neither legitimate nor illegitimate, meaningful nor pointless. Anger simply is. To ask, "is my anger legitimate?" is similar to asking, "Do I have a right to be thirsty? After all, I just had a glass of water fifteen minutes ago. Surely my thirst is not legitimate. And besides, what's the point of getting thirsty when I can't get anything to drink now, anyway?"

Anger is something we feel. It exists for a reason and always deserves our respect and attention. We all have a right to everything we feel - and certainly our anger is no exception.

There are questions about anger, however, that may be helpful to ask ourselves: "What am I really angry about?" "What is the problem, and whose problem is it?" "How can I sort out who is responsible for what?" "How can I learn to express my anger in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and powerless?" "When I'm angry, how can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive or attacking?" "What risks and losses might I face if I become clearer and more assertive?" "If getting angry is not working for me, what can I do differently?" These are questions that we will be addressing in subsequent chapters, with the goal, not of getting rid of our anger or doubting its validity, but of gaining greater clarity about its sources and then learning to take a new and different action on our own behalf.

There is, however, another side of the coin: if feeling angry signals a problem, venting anger does not solve it. Venting anger may serve to maintain, and even rigidify the old rules and patterns in a relationship, thus ensuring that change does not occur.

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