Seeing Red: The Cost of Anger

JENNA WAS SO ANGRY, SHE SAW RED.

After eight years of marriage, despite a child and a home together, her husband Pete was leaving. After only four or five marriage counseling sessions, Pete gave up. Jenna wanted the couples counseling to reignite the romance and intimacy. He still wanted out. After they separated, Pete made plans with their seven-year-old daughter Angie to go camping. She waited eagerly at the door, looking for her dad in each passing car. The ringing telephone abruptly ended the waiting. He was canceling the camping trip because he was sick. Although disappointed, Angie wanted to take care of him. She hoped that if she brought Dad some soup, he would feel better and they would go camping. She convinced her mother to make soup and drive her to his apartment When Angie arrived at the apartment, her dad was not there. A neighbor told them that he had left for the weekend and she was cat-sitting for him.

Jenna and Pete had been separated for only a few months when she discovered that her husband was dating another woman. Her head reeled with the pain of this news. The thought of her husband with someone else made her heart pound. How could he do this? Who was she? Uncontrollable rage began to well up within her. Fists clenched, she pounded the bedroom walls. Photos of their marriage went flying across the room as she began yelling, “How could you do this to me?” Anger consumed her for the next several hours as she vacilitated between rage and sadness. Jenna had no idea of how to defuse her feelings. She felt out of control.

What Is Anger?

Everyone experiences anger, and most of us have found that its outcomes can be both positive and negative. According to anger-management consultant George Anderson of Anderson & Anderson, the first global angermanagementexecutive-coaching training provider, “Anger is a feeling of displeasure, which usually shows itself in a desire to fight.” Anger, a universal emotion, can be an energizer – it can help us fight for noble causes, find solutions to the problems we face, and help us make changes when we need to. Or, unresolved, it can be an “energy drainer,” making us feel listless and tired or creating conflict and destruction in our lives. According to Anderson, the ways we handle anger determine whether it is a positive or negative energy source in our life.

The Price of Anger

For couples that experience marital problems or face separation or divorce, anger is often misused, directed at times abusively toward the other spouse. Often, anger seems the only way of maintaining control in a tenuous relationship. Anger can be used to punish the spouse and to diffuse (or exacerbate) pent-up hostilities lurking under the surface. It also allows someone to maintain a negative, bitter connection to his or her spouse. In cases of unwanted separation or divorce, having some connection with the ex – even an unhappy one – can feel better man no connection.

Anger can seem to have a mind of its own.

It can affect judgment and perception and prevent people from making rational decisions. Couples in the process of a divorce may spend thousands of dollars in legal fees in bitter quarrels over custody time, division of property, or support obligations. Not only are these issues draining to the individuals emotionally and financially, they also can continue to fuel the war for years, affecting the lives of the children and wreaking personal havoc.

Taking Control of Your Anger

How can you take charge of your life if anger is destroying your relationship?
1. Recognize that anger is a normal emotion that arises as a result of not having one’s needs met.
2. Accept that anger can arise as a result of loss of a significant relationship or from grief.
3. If, however, you are experiencing anger regularly, you should seek help.
4. If your marriage is failing or if you are in the process of a separation due to chronic anger or conflict, then consult with a trained and certified anger-management provider.

Remember that uncontrolled anger upsets everyone, especially children. It can alter their performance in school and affect normal emotional development Children become fearful around angry parents. They never know when the parents will lash out which creates unstable and tense feelings internally. Children who are raised by an angry parent-can experience feelings of anxiety and profound sadness. They often describe living with their parents as having to “walk on eggshells.”

If your anger is getting the best of you, consider the Seven Rs of Managing Anger:

1. Recognize that you are angry.
2. Release stress.
3. Relax.
4. Remember to take care of yourself.
5. Recharge yourself by being around people who are positive and loving.
6. Reshape your perception about the situation that is causing anger.
7. Rectify your mistakes and forgive the mistakes of others.

By Sonia Brill, LCSW, CAMF http://www.soniabrillconsulting.com.

Anger Management Classes available 7 days a week in Houston, Texas.

Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers
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http://www.ami-tx.org
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