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  • Jotham Busfield, LICSW

Serena Williams + Anger?

This episode of the Grim Drive Podcast, where we explore mental health through the lens of professional sports and athletes, takes a look at Serena Williams + Anger. To access the actual episode:

Anger is an emotion, an emotion that can be momentary/situational, and at times reflect deeper mental health issues. Anger is reflexive, in that it can come from mental health issues, and also cause mental health issues to get worse. Anger is also often a secondary emotion, meaning it comes as a result of a primary emotion, typically shame, sadness, anxiety, or grief.

This episode delves into Serena Williams' experience with anger. We always try to bring light to issues that led to an athlete speaking out on mental health. Ironically, the “anger” episode in question with Serena Williams in 2018 was less an example of problematic anger, and more an example of advocating for self, as she maintained composure and simply asked for equal treatment. We discuss our takeaways from Serena being associated with anger unfairly, anger in sports v. anger in everyday life, anger and gender/race, anger and how it relates to mental health issues, and strategies for how to “manage” anger for those who also struggle to overcome this emotion.

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Serena Williams related links: Purple Purse Project: Other charitable causes supported:

Other article/source links:

Overview of her life:

  • atness

Her dad:

  • e-deceitful-or-perhaps-madbut-be-sure-of-one-thing-he-has-brilliantly-guided-the-careers-and-liv es-of-his-daughters-venus-and-serena-the-hottest-players-in-tennis

Grim Drive Example: Serena Williams herself


  • Main takeaway from the data is that people seem to be getting more and more angry - Anger can LEAD to a lot of physical and mental health issues

  • We are living in time that functions as a sort of “anger incubator”

  • Human brain is already slanted towards negativity 3x to 1 - Social media likely makes this much worse

Anger in sports vs. real life:

  • In sports, a little can help focus, a lot can sabotage (it’s a very fine line)

  • Anger in sports is possibly a sign that self-worth and outcomes are overlapping

  • Intentional/planned use of anger is okay; impulsive use not so much

Some details on Anger:

  • Anger is a secondary emotion, to solve it, you have to understand which primary emotion caused the anger, and what caused the primary emotion

  • Examples are often shame, fear, sadness/grief

  • Anger is also often the result of a cumulative build up, it’s a reactive release (spill over/ pressure building analogy)

  • We discussed reactive v. Proactive approaches to anxiety in the Kevin Love episode

  • Anger can be avoided by proactively releasing the primary emotion build up

  • Reducing sadness, reducing fear, addressing shame, etc.

  • Takes introspection and a lot of work

  • Anger is MUCH more of a male issue, and can be a sign of covert depression

    • Testosterone plays a role in this

    • Modeled/accepted behavior also contributes

    • Anger as a male is often the ONLY accepted emotion in society

Info to help reduce Anger:

Proactive vs. reactive (from past episodes)

  • “Anger management” is often thought of as in-the-moment strategies; which is often too late and not effective; you’re in fight or flight (FIGHT) mode at that point - Need to LEARN about what really drives the anger

  • Introspection; what are the primary emotions?


  • Reactive IS the anger, so that’s out of the question

  • *Exception is when the anger is less impulsive, more intentional - Specific sports situations; for motivation; When standing one’s ground and advocating for self/others


  • Introspection to understand what is actually driving the anger

  • Building self-esteem

  • Set goals (passion, purpose, process)

  • Exercise or another healthy way to release some pressure

  • Humor

  • Meditation and breathing exercises

  • Opening up (therapy or just with another person who you have an issue with; grudge holding leads to pressure build up)

In case you missed our previous episodes, you can access them here:

Kevin Love + Anxiety:


DeMar DeRozan + Depression:


Stay tuned for our next episode on Michael Phelps + ADHD. The Grim Drive Podcast releases a new episode each Tuesday evening. Be sure to subscribe on Apple/Youtube, or follow on Spotify:



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