You’re angry at your illness and all the changes you’ve been forced to make.
You’re angry at your spouse for not understanding what you need.
You’re angry at yourself for getting sick in the first place.
Your spouse is angry too.
He’s angry that the illness has taken away some of his options and dreams.
He’s angry that a lot of housework, errands and parenting duties fall on him.
He’s angry that he has to walk on eggshells around you for fear of upsetting or offending you.
We all have reasons to be angry when it comes to chronic illness, don’t we?
Anger is not bad
Anger in and of itself is not bad; it is merely an emotion. It is what we choose to do with our anger that often gets us in trouble. And more importantly, failure to understand it can wreak havoc in our lives.
Anger is a signal that something is uncomfortable, wrong, or undesirable. Anger’s basic goal is to protect and preserve.
Though it can motivate us to preserve and protect what’s right, it’s often used in unhealthy ways that keep us from facing the real problem.
Anger is a problem when it:
- is used in the wrong ways,
- occurs too frequently
- lasts far too long, and
- results in inappropriate behavior
Why we use anger
We use anger for a number of reasons that directly and indirectly benefit us such as:
- to control and manipulate others
- to express negative emotions
- to relieve stress
- to keep people at a safe distance
- to avoid having to face our deeper, more painful problems
- to draw attention away from real issues
- to hide deeper hurts
- to feel dominate, powerful, or intimidating
- to take revenge
- to avoid scrutiny
- to avoid conflict
- to avoid change
- to avoid having to face the unknown
- to feel superior to others
Do any of these reasons resonate with you?
When we get angry, we respond in different ways at different times, depending on the situation.
Who we are, where we are, and what we have experienced all affect how we respond to anger.
We generally respond to anger in three distinct ways:
- Spew it
Spewers aggressively express their anger. They spew, spit, and explode their anger on those around them. They are like a time bomb waiting to go off. They yell, blame, scream, intimidate and control.
Out of control spewers let it all out because they don’t know how to control it. They are almost always filled with remorse or rationalizations afterwards.
In-control spewers are more manipulative with their outbursts. They use it as a weapon of power to accomplish their goals.
- Stuff it
Those who stuff their anger bottle it up inside. They don’t want to show their anger because they believe anger is bad. Their goal is to keep a tight lid on it.
Stuffers fall into two categories:
Those who repress their anger. These individuals deny even having the feeling. Anger simply doesn’t exist in their world.
Those who suppress their anger. These individuals know their anger exists, but they try to pretend it doesn’t. Their goal is to contain and control it.
People pleasers often fall into this stuffer category. They will ignore their own feelings and risk losing touch with their own emotions in order to please others.
- Leak it
Like stuffers, leakers don’t like their anger to show. They may acknowledge their anger but work hard at keeping it hidden.
Leakers tend to be critical, sarcastic, withdrawn, late, frigid, and “forgetful” in doing things for people who bug them, and procrastinate as a way of life.
They essentially say to themselves, “I’m not going to stuff this anger inside, because that’s not my style. And I’m not going to spew it out because that’s not my style either. I’m going to do things that bother you and inconvenience you in order to make you hurt like I do. But I’m not going to let you know how I really feel. I’ll just take it out on you in subtle ways.”
What about you? Do recognize your anger profile? What about your spouse’s? If you’re like me, there’s probably a tendency towards all three depending on the day and circumstances.
If you and your spouse struggle with destructive anger in your marriage, please know that there is hope in learning how to deal with it.
Join me next week as we delve deeper into the subject of anger with Part Two - What To Do When You Get Angry.
This post was based on the excellent book Overcoming Emotions That Destroy: Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings That Ruin Relationships by Chip Ingram and Dr. Becca Johnson. I highly recommend it!