(Disclaimer: If you are
living in an abusive relationship, you need more
help than this article can give you. Get professional
help immediately. This article is not meant to provide
all the help that you need to deal with an abusive
partner, but gives you information about options.
If you cannot see these ideas about creating equality
working in your relationship, then you may need
to get professional help.)
Also note, the ideas in this article reflect my
opinion which is based on my clinical experience,
the research literature and my understanding of
how best to have a happy life. My opinion comes
from my philosophy that people should take responsibility
for their actions. I recommend a tough approach
with confronting others about their inappropriate
behavior. This strict approach may not be correct
People from all over the world write to me, mostly
women but sometimes it is a man, asking about what
they can do to help their family member, loved one
or partner "control" his or her anger. Or how they
can help "diffuse" their partner's anger. They say
that their partner is "such a good guy" and his
only flaw is his "anger problem." Or they feel sorry
for their out-of-control child or abusive parent.
The intention to help is good but it is misplaced
as it enables the angry person to stay as he is.
This article is my response to the letters I've
received where one person wants to take responsibility
for another person's problem of anger.
I use the pronoun "he" in this article as research
shows that men are more angry than women. The research
shows that men are angrier than women. Women have
structural differences in their brain that work
with emotions, so that women can more easily inhibit
the anger response. The higher testosterone level
revs up in men and sets the stage for more aggression.
In addition, aggression is considered to be more
acceptable in boys and men and is modeled for them
by Hollywood through violent movies. Boys usually
like the more violent computer games. Women typically
take the peacekeeper role, although recently more
and more women are acting in aggressively angry
ways. Women are typically the care takers of the
relationship. Most men are notorically lacking in
The theme of this article is that people will get
away with whatever you let them get away with. Anger
can be used as a destructive emotion that too many
people get way with. When you allow bad behavior
to go unchecked, it increases whether it comes from
your child, partner or parent. You teach how to
treat you and if you put up with abuse, then that
is what you will get.
Most people do not know what to do with anger other
than exploding it or stuffing it. Anger is the most
complicated emotion, because it is so complex with
many aspects. There are thirty-plus sub skills of
anger and few people are even aware that they exist.
You may have grown up in a household where people
were unkind to one another with their anger or one
where the adults avoided conflict. Most of our parents
did not know how to do anger well. You learned what
your parents modeled in their actions towards each
other and the children. Now you probably play out
your parent's patterns of submission or dominance
and exploding anger in your own relationships.
Patterns are Learned from our Parents
Children learn how to be in relationships from their
parents through a process of social learning,
and especially observational learning.
They adapt the behaviors they see their parents
do. The children in the family watch their parents
and learn positive as well as dysfunctional coping
styles in dealing with stress and threat. Research
studies show that there are three social skills
that create happy marriages: problem solving, emotional
distress regulation and conflict management. Expression
of positive words, maintaining a pleasant attitudes
and the avoidance of conflict and negativity are
other major skills in creating happy unions. People,
who have poor coping skills in handling internal
emotional distress, often become anxious or angry.
Aggression is learned behavior. Children raised
in families with above average in rates of violence
are at greater risk for being physically aggressive
toward their romantic partner. Violence is passed
down through the generations. Parental physical
punishment of the adolescent has been associated
with later dating violence. Increased risk for overall
antisocial behavior in general in turn increases
risk for aggression toward a romantic partner. Children,
who aggressively fight with their siblings, can
carry this destructive fighting pattern over to
their adult years.
Parents who discipline their children by emphasizing
positive interactions and inhibiting negative behaviors
promote skills in conflict management. Parents who
do not monitor their children's behavior or give
inconsistent discipline create children who do not
have the social skills to succeed in happy relationships.
Achieving emotional intimacy is a necessary developmental
task of young adults. Close social ties promote
personal well being. The failure to establish or
maintain positive relationships sets up physical
and emotional distress in the individual.
is Catching and Causes all Kinds of Nasty Side Effects
in the Family
The energy of self-indulgent anger is contagious
just like a nasty virus. It can infect your family
though one member and be passed on to the others.
Each person is affected by the anger in their social
system and acts it out in their own unique way,
whether they cower in silence with resentment or
act out their anger on others.
Anger is a major side effect of the chaos in the
home and vice versa. The research on Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder shows that the survivors of traumatic
events are left with anger. The universal desire
to survive during situations of threat are linked
with high physiological arousal and anger. The hormones,
increased muscle tension, and pounding heart are
all activated to produce the resources to "fight
or flight" to deal with the threat.
Children learn this survival mode of reactive stress
and hyper alertness when they are traumatized. Anger
can become an automatic response and a protective
mechanism, which "revs" up the body to deal with
threat or perceived threat. Even when there is no
emergency, the person can go into full activation
of anger and become ready to fight.
Children from angry families most often pick up
anxiety, frustration and agitation that flavor how
they see life. The research on Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder shows that early trauma in life interferes
with the ability to regulate emotion, which then
leads to excessive anger, fear and rage. This inability
to deal with frustration and anxiety can lead to
extreme out busts of aggression. Or it can surface
as icy cold hostility as a means of controlling
other using looks of disgust to convey displeasure.
An insecure childhood is often a set up for needing
to control others. The person who was traumatized
as a child by family violence often feels anxious,
keyed up, on edge, irritable and tense. He has trouble
learning the tools to release pent-up emotions of
distress. The child learns to vent his anger because
one of their parents acted that way.
Some of the children in the family learn to identify
with the aggressor because the parent who yells
the loudest gets his way. Belligerence and hostility
become a way of life. They can even justify their
yelling or hitting saying, "I was raised with my
dad's yelling and using the belt, and it didn't
hurt me." They cannot see that their current behavior,
which seems normal to them is a direct result of
being raised in an angry household.
A second pattern that happens in other abused children,
(particularly girls) is freezing in response to
loud voices and anger. This is a dissociative response
where the person becomes numb and spaces out instead
of fighting or fleeing. Dissociation can be a normal
response to trauma to keep form experiencing the
pain. This behavioral pattern, learned in childhood,
then carries over to the adult life where the woman
literally gives up her voice to keep the peace.
A third pattern in dealing with stress that is also
more prevalent in girls and women is "tend and befriend."
Women are more likely to band together and try to
keep the peace. Tend and befriend is connected to
the female brain and maternal behavior associated
caring for others is due to a hormone called oxytocin.
This evolutionary adaptation of trying to soothe
the waters and keep others happy backfires on women
who live in abusive relationships.
Prolonged, excessive chaos in the child's home lead
to brain and hormonal changes resulting in withdrawal
due to fear and acting out. Later in life the earlier
stressors show up in eating disorders, promiscuity,
codependency and alcohol and drug abuse. Anger becomes
an unwelcome generational gift that is passed down
is a Normal Reaction to Loss, Threat or being Traumatized
Anger is a normal human response when our well being
is threatened. We all have anger when we feel betrayed
and are unable to express the pain that we feel.
Anger is made up of feelings, thoughts and physiological
reactions, which includes adrenalin and cortisol
release to prepare for action. While the feelings
and physiological reactions cannot always be controlled,
the thoughts and the behaviors can be modified and
expressed in more acceptable ways.
The research shows that anger is a normal response
to betrayal and loss of basic trust in others. Anger
also is a normal reaction to injustice, terror and
feeling out of control. The innocence of the child
is broken by acts of betrayal. What takes its place
is fear and anger. The hurt child resolves not to
trust again and creates barriers to further connection
All anger is not bad. Sometimes anger is a legitimate
response to an injustice, which is used to bring
momentum, which allows the person to make, needed
changes in their life. At times anger is justified
given an unfair situation where the energy that
anger provides is needed to leave a bad situation.
Anger can be used to protect yourself when you are
terrorized. We need the energy that anger brings
to get us to act and do something differently when
we are stuck in bad circumstances.
Other times, anger is just a bad habit to deal with
the feelings of frustration because things are not
going as the person wants. This article addresses
the habitual type of destructive anger that harms
family members and friends.
Twenty percent of people have an anger-prone personality.
If you choose to be around someone who easily gets
frustrated and express anger freely, the quality
of your life will be affected. It is best to find
out how a person expresses anger before you become
emotionally involved, hop into bed of have a child
with them. Your life will be drastically changed
by living with a habitually angry person. During
the honeymoon period of new relationship, people
put on their best behavior. Later the person's true
coping mechanisms come out.
Check out a new partner's coping patterns of dealing
with conflict before things get serious between
you. Observe his reactions to daily stressors to
life, and how he does anger. See how he treats the
significant others in his life when he is upset
with them. If he treats others badly, chances are
he will treat you badly when the bloom of new love
fades. See how he acts when he is upset and threatened.
Pick a fight if necessary to determine what type
of fighter he is-mean or constructive. If the person
drinks or uses drugs, see how he reacts when he
is drunk-is he an angry drunk, a raging drunk, a
melancholy drunk or a sleepy drunk?
Do not be foolish enough to think you can change
another person's anger patterns. After all, he has
had many years to practice them before meeting you.
Anger coping patterns lie deep within the psyche
and do not change unless the person makes a strong
commitment to become a better person. They need
a structured program of anger management or therapy
to learn how to break into their destructive behavior.
Anger is made up of increased physical arousal,
emotions and accompanying behaviors that comes up
when a person feels a threat or a loss or a perceived
threat or loss. The threat may be to their self-esteem
as they feel challenged or discounted by what happened.
The person responds to the threat by producing adrenalin
to "fight or flight." How they respond is due to
how they have been conditioned as a child or later
in life if they are exposed to abuse. Everyone has
triggers that set off anger. Here are the most common
reasons people become angry:
body or property is threatened
values are being threatened (disagree with what
someone is doing such as kicking a dog or not
following the rules)
insists that they do something they don't want
someone hurts or betrays them and they feel a
loss of trust
are guilty about something and they do not want
to feel or admit their guilt
feel discounted and their sense of self esteem
expectations are not met and they don't get their
way (their expectations may be unrealistic)
Shoulds, Ought Tos, Musts and Have Tos
Most adult anger is about expectations and values
not being met. We build up strong belief systems
of how things should be or should not
be and then expect others to behave in ways that
we deem best. Expectations can be realistic (I expect
you to be faithful to me in marriage) or unrealistic
(I expect you to keep a perfect house all the time.
I expect you to let me indulge in my addictions
such as alcohol or shopping.) The shoulds are the
irrational ways we make our self and others crazy
by insisting that small, insubstantial things be
Don't believe everything you think! The mind can
make wrong assumptions and make up things that are
just not true. The shoulds are the rules that we
make for our self and others that are based on our
personal history and way of doing things. Anger
is often the result of a person's need to control
someone else and tell them what to do based on his
own view of how things should be in life.
Perfectionists usually have a big list of shoulds
that they try to impose on their mates and children.
Perfectionists are usually made so by their parents.
People who had critical, perfectionistic parents
learn to be judgmental themselves. They often become
angry when their own needs are not met.
People who are critical and controlling of others
usually have high anxiety and irritability within
and try to keep their nervous feelings down by trying
to control the environment and the people in it.
They harbor irrational beliefs that certain people
are stupid, evil, or do things wrong and it is their
moral duty to correct them. They try to impose their
standards on others in order to keep their nervous
feelings at bay. For more information read my three
articles on the AngriesOut web site: The
Big Game, The Right Man
and Right Woman Theory and Projection,
Blaming, Grudge Holding Doomsday Thinking, Revenge
Thoughts and Black and White Thinking.
Constant criticism is a bad habit that will sour
any relationship. Virginia Satir called this habit
the "Bony Finger of Blame." Here are some examples
of shoulds that are irrational to try to control
another person. Note that each statement starts
with the word "You" followed by an accusation and
the insistence that the person is doing something
wrong. They are all a form of "I get to tell you
what to do."
should not use so much butter on your toast.
should brown the hamburger the way I do.
should take the dishes out of the dishwasher my
should wear your hair long (or get your hair cut).
should not make noise. Children should be seen
and not heard.
are dong the vacuuming wrong. You should do it
should not be calling your friends so much.
Shoulds are those beliefs that are absolutes that
make us crazy and keep us from achieving closeness
with others. For information on how to break into
the rigidity of the shoulds and make them preferences,
see my book The Doormat
Mature Ways of Dealing
with a High Level of Internal Frustration
Some people are easily provoked and have a hotheaded
temperament, yet they take responsibility for their
responses to irritation. They live with a high level
of inner frustration but try to keep their aggravation
under control. They accept their overly emotional
temperament and take responsibility for dealing
with it. They learn techniques to deal with the
cues and triggers that bring up the inner arousal
that will quickly turn to anger. They do stress
management techniques regularly and use physical
exercise to work off their strong emotions of irritation.
They minimize venting their anger at others by recognizing
the beginning signs of anger and take a time out
to chill out,
Mature people seek better ways to deal with their
anger in an argument. They make a contract with
their partner that they can leave during a fight
when they feel that they are getting out of control.
They remove themselves to a private place for time
out. In private they do damage control techniques
to bring their anger level down and then return
to deal with the problem.
So, how do they learn these ways of keeping their
cool? They understand that they have an anger prone
personality. They recognize that they must work
an active program of anger management in order to
live a happier life. They study and take parenting
classes to seek more effective ways of disciplining
their children. They take anger management classes
and do couples counseling to learn better ways of
being with the people they work and live with. Mature
people with high degrees of frustration keep tabs
on themselves and work at diffusing their anger
There is a new breed of angry men and women who
are motivated to change their inappropriate behavior.
They choose to go to therapy and couples counseling
to work through their excesses of anger. Some agree
to get help due to their conscience telling them
that their outbursts hurt others. Some come because
their partner is threatening to leave them if they
don't get help. Some "macho" men recognize that
they are doing their father's anger and sending
it down to their own kids. A few get help only after
they lose their spouse and families. And sadly,
some never do.
Courageous men and women choose to learn to be different
from their own angry parents. They stop denying
that their anger causes problems for others. They
take responsibility for their unjust actions. They
experience a significant boost in self-esteem when
they admit their wrongdoing and seek other ways
of dealing with their anger. Their spouses and children
are extremely thankful to them for taking this important
step of deciding to grow and learn anger management
techniques. They learn and practice the following
healthy ways to deal with their aggressive impulses.
As they grow in maturity and loving kindness, they
become role models for others in their family.
Approaches to Dealing with and Expressing Anger
feelings of threat and distress to cue yourself
that you are beginning to be angry
sweating the small stuff and heading off anger
before it escalates (This is no big deal)
humor to defuse the tension in the situation
movement or exercise to drain anger away
more flexible and accepting of things others do
about the anger (Use size 24 print and a bold
type on your computer, then delete it.)
pictures about anger
for and admitting your part of the problem
feelings and discussing the issue from an emotional
level Gently confronting the irrational ideas
of yourself and the other person
solving the issue using conflict negotiation
Time Out to cool off, and then come back to address
and calming to talk your anger down ( I can handle
this. I'm cool. etc.)\
your physical reactions, thoughts and feelings
the errors in your thinking that triggered anger
to see the issue from the other person's point
constructive action to make changes about the
situation (MAD-Use your anger to make a difference
relaxation techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitization,
Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique,
Tapas Acupressure Technique and Progressive Relaxation
to release anger.
It is better if both partners in a relationship
where there is anger are willing to acknowledge
their own dysfunctional coping patterns and make
the necessary changes in how they deal with conflict.
Once learned, these skills are a positive investment
that will serve the entire family. If your partner
refuses to learn and grow, focus on yourself.
People Do Not Take Responsibility for their Aggressive
A few decades ago there was a myth that it was healthy
to blow up to keep it from being bottled up in the
body and causing physical problems. Unfortunately,
this erroneous idea sticks around today despite
the evidence that blowing up does not solve the
problem and creates trauma for others. Still some
people feel justified in exploding and then forgetting
about the incident while those around them are left
Some people who are typically angry believe they
have the right to vent their frustrations on others
or to break things. This self-indulgent attitude
is entitlement and is a form of self-righteousness.
Outbursts of anger do not solve the underlying feelings
of threat, fear and sense of betrayal, which are
hiding under the anger in the person. Angry people
block vulnerable feelings such as hurt, sadness,
guilt and vulnerability. The emotions have to go
somewhere so they turn up as anger. Anger becomes
the substitute emotion for the others that are not
allowed. (See my articles on Narcissism,
Repressors and Children
of Entitlement on the Angries Out web site.
The person who believes that he has the right to
vent anger on others never quite grows up emotionally.
He is stuck in a child-like reaction when he feels
frustrated and responds with a temper tantrum. Tantrums
increase the anger by revving the body up to a heightened
Screaming does NOT purge the anger impulses. It
may give a temporary relief but makes it worse overall.
Name calling and swearing do not solve the problem.
Continued yelling breaks down the inhibitions that
most people have about not acting out their harmful
impulses. Any habitual verbal thought pattern such
as yelling creates a well-worn pathway in the brain
making it easier for the pattern to happen again.
Dealing with irritation with constant expression
anger can be a harmful habit that takes over a person's
Expression of hostility results in more hostility.
Impulsive anger such as yelling, throwing things,
cursing, and blaming the other person takes its
toll on the person expressing it and harms those
in its path. Frustration and anger may temporarily
go away with the venting, but the rage remains within
because it is not addressed directly. The anger
remains there unchanged until the next time an expectation
is not met or there is disappointment, threat, or
People who cannot stand feeling helpless get angry
instead. Anger and the adrenalin make them feel
that they are more in control of the situation.
Getting angry instead of feeling ashamed or anxious
helps the person manage those emotions they do not
want to feel.
Violence has a way of getting out of control. Rewarding
a person's verbally abusive behavior by allowing
it, excusing it and returning to things as usual
WILL increase their screaming behavior. When family
members indulge the aggressive person, their violent
tendencies remain. The person learns that there
will not be consequences for inappropriate behavior
so continue his tirades without fear of reprisal.
Children in the family learn that when they are
stressed, it is okay to blow up and hurt others
Some angry people feel anxious and guilty about
blowing up. They feel a decrease in their self-esteem
with feelings of remorse and guilt. They talk about
how bad they feel (some will even cry) to "hook"
their partner feeling bad for them and allow them
to return to grace. This is one dynamic in abusive
relationships called the "fight and make up" syndrome.
Some people who get angry cannot talk about the
problem the next day. Talking about the issue stresses
them and they get angry all over again. This type
of person emotionally distances to take care of
his anxiety. while you need closure to deal with
your own anxiety and need to talk. Emotional Distancing
and Emotional Pursuing when anxious and upset are
common ways to cope with conflict in most relationships.
Read my article on the Angries Out web site on Repressors
to understand the need to withdraw from conflict.
Behaviors of Expressing Anger that Hurt Others of
The negative ways of dealing with anger are harmful
to life. Harmful anger negates others or your self.
Self harm such as hitting or cutting
Physically assaulting others
Raging and screaming
Throwing and breaking things
Cursing and name-calling
Holding grudges and plotting revenge
Using excessive addictions to calm down
Displacing anger on weaker people or animals
Criticizing and beating self up
Blaming others instead of taking responsibility
for one's own actions
Giving others the silent treatment and using pouting
or cold rage to show disapproval and control others
Using anger and raging to manipulate others to
Using sarcasm and negative humor to put others
Denying anger and stuffing feelings, which may
then turn into depression
Shutting down and dissociating when threatened
Running away and not addressing the problem
Going into battle alert over small things
Just Trying to "Control" Your Anger
It is a fallacy to think that you can just "control"
your anger. The energy that anger generates has
to go somewhere. Too often people think they are
"controlling" their anger, but they are just stuffing
it down and it comes out later with disastrous results.
Anger cannot be controlled, but it can be expressed
more appropriately and then released. Anger can
be understood, analyzed and channeled into higher-level
responses. Blasting it out, giving the cold shoulder
or squelching anger are not realistic goals. The
healthy goal regarding our anger can be to learn
better ways of expressing it that do not harm others
One simple question to ask when angry is "Do my
actions celebrate life or harm life?" Another good
question is "What am I saying to myself to make
myself angry today?" Here are some of the necessary
skills for people who have frequent outbursts of
for Containing Excessive Anger:
To learn to discriminate between big and little
deals. (Don't sweat the small stuff.)
To realize and accept that you don't always get
what you want. (Break into entitlement)
To identify irrational thoughts and statements
that fuel anger.
To break into self-angering thoughts and use cool
To analyze and correct mistakes instead of beating
To address anger directly with the person you
are angry with instead of displacing the anger
on family members.
To use Thought Stoppage to interrupt intrusive,
negative thinking. Thought Stoppage techniques
are anything you say or do to break into self-angering
To keep cool when others are trying to push your
To take Time Out when overheated during an argument
and return to problem solve.
To break into tirades when correcting others.
(Read The One Minute Father or The One
Minute Mother by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer
for Learning to Feel Empathy and Respect Others
To listen to others when they are upset and try
to understand their point of view.
To recognize and refrain from actions that are
hurtful to others.
To stop blaming others when you are stressed.
To take responsibility for one's own actions and
To refrain from sarcasm, name calling, egg ons
To see things from the other person's perspective.
To observe the effect of one's actions upon others
and express sorrow for hurting them.
To treat others with respect and caring even when
feeing upset and frustrated.
Damage Control During Your Partner's Anger Attack
Making changes in your way of dealing with an angry
person may bring about consequences both good and
bad. Only you can decide if these ideas will work
for you or not. Some angry people will cut you off
if you try to confront them. The more rigid people
might become estranged from you. Do not attempt
these ideas if you think the angry person will hurt
Do a cost-benefit analysis of what the after effects
of your changing the rules to increase respect for
all involved. Be aware that challenging some angry
people about their inappropriate anger may create
an atmosphere that is hostile and distancing. Some
people use anger to exit from a relationship. Think
of several likely bad case scenarios that might
happen and ask yourself, "Can I live with this?"
If so, go ahead and rock the boat a little. Some
boats need rocking.
When you interact with an angry person, watch your
own level of anger when your partner is upset. Some
people inadvertently "egg on" the angry person with
derision or disgust. They use verbal and nonverbal
language that encourages the other person to escalate
their level of anger.
Some people nit pick at their partner which provokes
them. Watch the type of complaints that you make
that threaten his self-esteem such as statements
of blame that start with "You always…." Criticism
and sarcasm about another person's behavior is not
productive. Save your energy for problem solving.
Make a list of his triggers and then observe how
you set him off. Don't be a button pusher on purpose.
Do not feed the anger beast as it can turn and devour
Another form of setting up an angry response is
to promise something and then not follow through.
Agreeing to do something and then dropping the ball
is passive aggressive behavior. This is related
to fear of confrontation and the need to look good
and agreeing up front, then doing what you want.
The passive aggressive person is aggressive in their
passivity. See my article on the Angries Out web
site on The Boomerang Relationship.
Timing is important when trying to settle problems.
People are more irritable when they are tired or
already frustrated. If either one of you is rushed
or upset, anger will escalate. Try to find a time
for problem solving when you both have the inner
resources to deal with the issue. Schedule discussions
ahead of time and ask that you both start thinking
See if you can get an agreement to talk about ways
the family is being stressed by anger. Try a bargaining
approach. Without anger in your voice, try to negotiate
for changes. Take responsibility for your own unhealthy
way of reacting and ask your partner if he will
work to change his outbursts. This concept is behavior
exchange-"I'll stop doing this if you will stop
doing that." Sometimes just agreeing not to use
cuss words or name calling can make a difference
in the stress in the home.
See if the proverb, " A soft voice turneth away
wrath." works with your partner. The research shows
that people who start a potential disagreement with
a "soft, non-blaming startup" are more like to get
the problem solved. Blaming and sarcastic remarks
typically increase the anger output. .
Read my article on Fair Fighting
on the Angries Out web site and insist on practicing
the steps to keep tempers down during arguments.
Take notes on how to fight fair and review them
to get agreement on what you will try to avoid.
Post these notes between you and your partner when
you try to resolve differences. Watch the process
of anger eruption between the two of you. Learn
all you can about how you and your partner set each
other off and how you each back off to calm down.
Stick to one problem only. Do not bring in other
examples of the problem, old history or past grudges.
Think of what you want or ways to compromise. If
the topic of conversation goes off in a different
direction, bring it back by saying, "We were talking
about …." Label the issue at hand and put it on
a piece of paper between you and keep bringing the
topic of conversation back to what you are trying
to resolve. Keep bringing the argument back to the
issue you are trying to solve.
Develop an anti-venting policy for your home. Some
people still believe that it is necessary to get
their anger out by screaming and yelling. This is
an old fashioned ideas that has not been proven
by research. Venting only makes the person feel
more justified in their anger and does not solve
the problem being addressed. There are at least
twelve other anger responses that can be made instead
of yelling. Increase the behavior repertoire by
practicing other ways to deal with anger.
Know that some arguments cannot be solved. People
have strong value differences that they dig into
and they cannot see the other person's point of
view. John Gottman's research shows that 60% of
arguments cannot be solved. Pick your battles wisely.
Let the little things go. Stand up for what you
really believe. Do your best to avoid silly arguments
that can never find resolution such as "My childhood
was better (or worse) than yours" and "I get to
tell you how to run your life."
Define your limits with unhealthy behavior such
as, "I can't allow you to yell at me. Yelling hurts
me and it hurts you. I'm not willing to watch you
scream and yell. I've got to go. We can talk about
this later." Be straight forward about this. Look
the person in the eye and show a quiet strength
as you set them straight. Role play saying the words
with emphasis with a friend if necessary.
Of course, some people will deny they are yelling
in a very loud voice. They may have been screamed
at as a child and think the level of anger they
are expressing is minimal. Some people are so accustomed
to raising their voice in anger that they do not
even know they are yelling. Call them on their bluff.
Have a tape recorder nearby and record their voice.
Say, "Since you don't think you are yelling, let's
record it and play it back."
If you are super sensitive about loud voices, do
some exercises to deflect negative energy. Imagery
can be used to shield against negativity while letting
needed information come through. Sometimes even
though the person is yelling, there may be a message
you need to hear, despite their loud volume. See
my book The Doormat Syndrome
for more information about how to shield against
Don't try to reason with someone who is raging.
They are too flooded with hormones to hear your
point of view or to problem solve. Their hormones
of adrenalin and cortisol are ruling them, not heir
common sense. People who are flooded go for the
jugular vein rather than try to resolve differences.
Save your breath and energy. Wait until they are
calmer and can agree to problem solved instead of
Some angry people have the strong need to be seen
as a good guy or girl. They modify their behavior
when others are present to present a nice face to
others while they are cruel at home. If your partner's
public behavior is appropriate and his private behavior
is angry, avoid bring up sensitive material when
you are at home. Talk about volatile topics in a
park or in a restaurant. Social convention says
people usually keep their voices down in public
and not air dirty linen. Of course, this will not
work if your partner brings the problem up again
with increased anger when you return home.
Don't go it alone. Get a mediator who is neutral
such as a therapist or an older neutral levelheaded
friend or relative that you both respect. Continue
to educate yourself on how to live healthy. Help
is there for free or for low cost in all kind of
forms if you want it.
with an Angry Person who has a Drinking/Drugging
Anger that comes out when a partner is drinking
or high on drugs can be extremely destructive. DO
NOT TRY TO TALK, REASON OR AGRUE WITH SOMEONE WHO
IS DRUNK. Inebriated people cannot hear information
correctly through the haze of alcohol. They often
lose their inhibitions when under the influence
of alcohol and lose patience with their partner
easily. Leave and talk to him only when he is sober.
Make this a steadfast rule for yourself: You will
not stay and be abused by someone who is out of
control with alcohol or drugs.
If you do not have support at home from your partner,
get it from friends and self help groups. Get yourself
to Al Anon or Codependents of America Anonymous
meetings to get some support. Learn from the experts-those
people who have angry partners with addictions.
People in the twelve step programs have been on
the front line of your problem. These self-help
groups offer your free education about the types
of problems that you are facing. Warning! Not all
self-help groups are created equal. I recommend
checking out several groups and seeing how positive
and supportive they are. Choose the one where you
feel the most supported.
Some partners have gotten good results by videotaping
drunken partners to show them how out of control
their behavior gets. People often do not remember
what they did when they were drunk. Seeing videotaped
evidence of the stupidity of their actions can embarrass
the person into seeking help. Of course, you should
not try this if your partner might attack you.
The Person on His or Her Stuff
Relationships have their own subtle set of checks
and balances built in to keep people from going
too far out of control. In some relationships, however,
one person is allowed to do what he wants, and others
are taught to comply with his demands through hot
anger or cold hostility.
Some caring partners accept the negative behaviors
of others and do not give them sufficient reason
for making changes. If you have felt helpless in
your childhood with an angry parent, you may think
that anger in the relationship is the way life is
supposed to be. Living with constant anger may be
familiar to you, but it is not the norm. Constant
expression of anger over little things is not the
way life is supposed to be.
Put "checks and balances" in the areas where your
partner's behavior gets out of control. This may
work if your partner has some voice of reason within
and a willingness for justice. A person whose behavior
is continually disturbing to others can be told
about it during a time when he is calmer. He needs
feedback as to how he hurts others so he can evaluate
the consequences of his actions. Calling a person
on the consequences of their behavior helps maintain
the moral order of the relationship. Loving firmness
is the best way to talk to a person about his unacceptable
behavior. Remind him that fair is fair, and you
expect him to be reasonable with his anger.
NOTICE: Calling someone who is physically abusive
on his misbehavior will probably cause him to become
physically violent. Only you can decide whether
the following information will be of help to your
relationship. The following ideas may work for people
who live with a reasonably sane, somewhat angry,
partner, but do not try them with an out-of control
abuser. Have a calm voice and be centered when you
suggest the following ideas.
What is good for the goose is good for the gander
and all the little ducklings. One way to maintain
fairness is to insist on having a correction technique
for all members of the household. Correction is
a behavioral technique where the person who messes
up the environment is required to clean it up as
an offer of restitution. The correction procedure
holds people responsible for their misbehavior by
requiring them to undo, as much as possible, the
damage they have done. Correction of what has been
disturbed in the environment gives practical penalties
for disturbing the home and the people who have
You have probably used the correction technique
with young children. With correction, the person
who throws things must pick them up and return them
to their proper place. If he breaks things, he must
pay for them and replace them. If he yells and screams,
he must apologize to those he has disturbed.
Just like two year olds, grown up temper tantrums
last longer when the person has an audience. You
need not stay in the same room with a raging person.
Warn him that you will leave when he is yelling
and go take care of yourself. The take the children
and leave quietly, saying that you are giving him
some space to cool off and you hope that the next
time he will take his own time out. Go to another
room or get in the car and leave for a while. If
he is fearful of left alone and gets angry, level
with him to show that his actions will create his
being left. You are not abandoning him but you are
removing yourself form his anger.
Challenge the destructively angry person when he
states that he can change all by himself when he
has not been able to do so for a number of years.
Keep your voice calm while you level with him.
angry behavior is no longer acceptable. I will
not tolerate it any longer. You are in denial
about your ability to stop getting mad and hurting
others. You've tried to control it for many years
and haven't met with success. Your way of trying
to deal with it has not worked. You do not have
the right tools to stop your outbursts. You need
some new skills to deal with your anger. You need
a professionally trained person to help you. This
means going to an anger management class or addressing
the issue in counseling. Which plan is preferable
to you? Classes or counseling? "
Keep coming back to his making better choices for
his life. Have the phone numbers of resources available.
You have a choice to deal with this or not. You
can choose to walk away and calm yourself down
or continue yelling which traumatizes your family.
We expect you to make the best choice for your
family. We can become a closer, loving family
again if you take this step."
Bring the issue up several times when he is calmer.
Look him in the eye and tell him that his behavior
was unacceptable. You and the children deserve better.
Remind him that he is being unfair and his refusal
to learn and grow affects both you and him. Tell
him that you are changing the contract or the deal
that you made when they two of you came together.
He has changed the contract through repeated anger,
and now you must change it for the mental health
of all involved. He may not like your standing up
for fairness and healthy interaction, but on a deep
level, he knows that you are right.
Get What We Put up with not What We Deserve: Finding
Your Bottom Line
We get the relationships we are willing to put up
with. We were not able to choose the family of our
childhood ,and how they dealt with stressors. We
can insist on open communication and treating everyone
with respect in the family we have now.
Watch how you enable your partner's bad behavior.
Do you make excuses for him? Do you feel bad when
he is upset? It is not your job to try to get your
partner to "diffuse" or "control" his anger. It
is the job of each angry person to take care of
his anger and find appropriate ways to express it.
An angry person may not have the motivation to do
so. If you allow, excuse or forgive him repeatedly
for his outbursts, why should he be expected to
Angry behavior that harms you or the children should
not be allowed to continue and get worse. Limit
setting is necessary for adults, just as it is for
angry two year old who is yelling and flailing.
Virginia Satir described people finding their Bottom
Line and stating it emphatically. Your Bottom Line
is those behaviors that you will NOT tolerate. Determine
which behaviors will cause you to leave the relationship
if your partner continues to do damaging behavior
that creates chaos in the home.
Physical abuse and continual verbal abuse are common
Bottom Lines for most people. One older woman cried
as she said, "He hit the kids a lot, but when he
started in on me, I left. Now I feel ashamed for
allowing him to be violent with the children. I
should have set my Bottom Line higher and then stuck
State your Bottom Line loud and clear to your partner.
Then stick to it. Bottom Lines that define health
and safety are one place where you are allowed to
be stubborn. Know what you stand for and how you
expect to be treated with respect. Here are some
Bottom Lines that people have described to show
their partner that there are limits to bad behavior:
can't be with you if you provoke fights with others
in public and endanger my life.
won't take your lying and cheating on me. I refuse
to live that way. Don't step over that line.
won't stay if you continue to swear and call me
names. I do not deserve to be called ugly names
just because you have an anger problem.
can't take your screaming at the kids. Screaming
insults at them is harmful. Don't cross that line.
Walk away when you feel your temper rising, and
you want to yell.
drinking is damaging your job, our marriage and
the children. I refuse to live with an alcoholic.
physically ill and can't handle your constant
criticisms of me. If you want to live with me,
you have to stop judging me and making nasty comments.
Some people have a high Bottom Line-"I can't stay
because you don't hold me when I'm upset. I can't
be with you because you are not romantic." Others
have an almost nonexistent Bottom Line-"So he hits
me and sends me to the hospital every other week.
That's not a reason to leave a man." You have to
decide what you will allow and will not allow. You
have your own conscience and sense of self-respect
to live with.
If you find yourself allowing the Bottom Line behavior
to happen without your doing anything about it,
your line is slipping lower and lower. Your partner
will lose respect for you and continue to act out.
And your self-respect will slip also. If you can't
set limits and boundaries (and many people cannot)
get into counseling yourself to learn how to be
more assertive." Assertiveness behavior is a set
of skills that you can learn with some coaching.
Talk with your friends and get ideas about how they
expect to be treated by their partners. Do something
different than you have done before when you are
bombarded by someone else's anger. Don't just hope
that the situation will change by itself. Why should
it? Angry people get to stay in charge and threaten
others by their explosiveness. Set your Bottom Line
and stick to it.
are Only as Oppressed as You Allow Yourself to Be
If there is abuse in your situation, you need more
help than this article can give. Find a professional
to help you who is trained in abuse. Get into anger
management classes, take an assertiveness training
course or go to counseling. Go get help before your
stress, anger and depression increase. Couples counseling
is NOT recommended when there is physical abuse
in the relationship. You need individual help to
learn how to strengthen yourself if you live with
an abusive partner. Read my article, Violence
in Families listed on the Angries Out website
You get the life you choose. Keep studying about
anger and how it affects you and your loved ones.
It is important you keep learning and growing and
increasing the options in your life. Your life is
yours alone. And you only get one life. Only you
can make it happier. You can choose to keep studying
and learning about anger and about living more harmoniously.
Expect more for yourself. You do not have to live
with the misery of constant anger.
Namka, Lynne. How to Let Go of Your Mad Baggage.
Talk, Trust and Feel Press, 1996.
Namka, Lynne, The Mad Family Gets Their Mads
Out. Talk, Trust and Feel Press, 1997. Just
found out that my book is in the list of the 100
best sellers on domestic violence and abuse. My
book was number 23 out of one hundred. Go to http://human-nature.com/odmh/dvb.html
for the entire list.
Real, Terrence, How Can I Get Through to You?
Connecting Men and Women. Scribner, 2002.
Women and verbal abuse bookstore http://www.cyberparent.com/abuse/femalemental.htm
For more information on mind control, see www.freedomofmind.com.
My favorite website, written by a man who identifies
himself as an ex-abuser to help you learn about
abuse is http://www.blainn.cc/abuse/
If you give yourself away in relationship, read
my article Why People Stay
in Relationships with Angry People listed on
the Angries Out web site.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
(NCADV) is at http://www.ncadv.org/
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a national
data base and is staffed 24 hours a day by trained
counselors who can provide crisis assistance and
information about shelters, legal advocacy, health
care centers, and counseling. 1-800-799-7233.
The State Coalition phone numbers for domestic violence
can be reached at http://www.ncadv.org/resources/state.htm
The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN)
can automatically transfer you to the rape crisis
center nearest you, anywhere in the nation. It can
be used as a last resort if people cannot find a
domestic violence shelter. 1-800-656-HOPE
Do a web search with the words domestic violence,
anti violence, batterer, and as Muslim, Hispanic,
Native American, Asian, etc. to find specific information
for different ethnic groups."
Resources for women are give at http://www.feminist.org/gateway/vs_exec2.html
A web site dedicated to stopping domestic violence
is at http://www.peaceathome.org/
Dr. Irene's Verbal Abuse Advice Site has many articles
on personality dynamics and abuse: http://www.drirene.com/abuserpages.htm
Silent Tears is a support and referral group which
offers a chat room to those who have been abused
The American Psychological Association has an 86-page
curriculum on relationship violence giving topics
such as effects of abuse and violence, community
interventions, legal issues, prevention of violence.
Recommended reading and research articles. It is
available as a pdf file at http://www.apa.org/pi/iparv.pdf