Anger is an emotion that usually gets a bad rap. It is often the most misunderstood of all the emotions and one of the major complaints most couples have preventing them from communicating effectively. In a recent study, 50-60 percent of couples that present for marital counseling have had an episode of violence. On intake, only 6 percent of women reported violence. When followed up with direct questions, 44 percent of this population admitted to it. This leads to the question: why do we let our anger get so out of control? How do we stop our anger before it ruins our relationships?
We all have Anger Scripts-beliefs we have about ourselves that impact anger. For example, “I am powerless to change the situation I am in,” or “It’s my fault when my partner gets angry.” These thoughts are dysfunctional in that they are very black and white. Identify these thoughts quickly so that your emotional arousal will be reduced.
Have you mentally said this to yourself? “He/She is much stronger and will overpower me,” or “If I do not do what he/she expects, I will be abandoned or unloved.” In my practice, I hear a variety of anger scripts. And until you start to separate your beliefs from your emotions and begin to take an objective look at your anger (and underlying emotions), you will not be able to understand how dysfunctional these thoughts can be.
What about “I must live with things as they are; nothing will change,” or “everyone has problems like ours; I shouldn’t complain.” When one is not assertive in how they feel, then the emotions build up, and all it takes is a spark to ignite the anger.
Believe you are confident, and practice being assertive. It is a skill that takes a lot of practice!
Expectations, emotions, and behaviors all contribute to the outcomes of anger, but I strongly believe if one only looks at the self-talk, then that’s your bang for the buck or your “ah ha” moment (as my clients like to say). You will receive the most change within the quickest amount of time with this new self-awareness.
Take a moment to look at your expectations so that you can think more calmly. Anger is elicited when our expectations are not met. So choose realistic expectations.
How are things going in your world? Are the children not acting appropriately? Are your rules in the household not being followed? What are the expectations about how marriage/family life “should” go?
It is important to address one’s beliefs or self-talk in therapy. The stronger the belief, the harder it is to see how dysfunctional it is—especially when we have carried it along with us like heavy luggage for the longest time. Anger is like the scaffolding on a building. The emotion feels like protection, but with it, the light (of our true self) has a hard time breaking through.
You can get help with managing your anger. The first step is to make an appointment with a therapist who specializes in Anger Management. What a great way to work on becoming a healthier, more assertive you in the New Year!
Lawson, D. (1995). Family Violence: Explanations and Evidenced-Based Practices. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.