is an Emotion
Like love and fear, anger is simply an
emotion. When we pay attention to our internal signals, anger tells us
something is not OK with us and needs our attention. Anger is healthy.
Anger provides a necessary signal we need to take care of ourselves.
When anger is used appropriately,
it keeps us from getting into situations that can become toxic if allowed
to advance. One of the stories I tell my clients took place
some years ago when I worked at a drug and alcohol rehab. After group
therapy, one of the residents complimented me on my legs. I suppose he
expected that I would be flattered. Instead, I replied that his behavior towards
his doctor was inappropriate. He apologized and was never disrespectful
Had I been lax in my
professionalism, I might have smiled and thanked him for the compliment -
thereby opening myself up to escalated sexual innuendo in the future,
since my "approval" would have likely constituted
"permission" in this person's eyes. Calling him on
crossing my boundaries prompted me to act in time and nip a potential
problem in the bud.
The first question my clients have
is why am I calling annoyance "anger?" Because annoyance or
irritation or any feeling along those lines can easily escalate into
anger. The goal is to become aware of anger as early in the sequence of
events as possible, while it is still very, very mild.
Why Do Victims
Get Stuck In Anger?
There are two roadblocks victims
typically face with regard to anger:
|They are unaware of their anger
|They lack the skills to handle anger
Codependent individuals are
excellent at being angry when they shouldn't be, and not being angry when
they should be! After all, they have a stake in denying
their anger, especially when their anger is directed towards the
person upon whom they depend for self-esteem supplies. Therefore, denial
gets in the way of awareness.
Once things have gone too far and
the victim begins to wake up, they are faced with piled up, pent-up anger.
This anger may have been "stored" for years with no real outlet.
Double Oppps! We're talking rage!
Victims are in need of validation
at this stage. They need to mull it over with others who know what they
are talking about. This makes it very real. Unfortunately, it's really
easy to get stuck here since validation and agreement feel really
good. Vindication at last!
Codependents don't get stuck here
because they choose to. They don't know any better.
Codependents lack the skills with which to effectively and
efficiently handle their anger. They were never taught to handle
Recovering Victim To Do?
Remember, anger is an adaptive response that signals the
individual that something is amiss and needs their attention. This
requires a skillful, effective, assertive response you need to
learn! Books like Elgin's You Can't Say That To Me! Baer's How to Be an Assertive (and Not Aggressive Woman in Life,
Love, and on the Job: The Total Guide To Self-Assertiveness) Woman and
"cognitive" skills I refer to include blocks many victims fall
prey to - such as irrational guilt. Guilt
and shame can block the appropriate handling of anger.
Sometimes an individual can get in
touch with their anger, but can't seem to drop it despite the necessary
period of cathartic validation. This tends to occur in individuals who
while dealing with anger from the past, are not dealing with their anger today
- in their day to day life. Once these individuals identify and stop
others from taking advantage or imposing on their boundaries, the
anger usually drops away.
Anger management skills give the recovering
victim the personal power to do something about their anger, so
they don't have to get stuck in the semblance of power validation
and blame offer.
For the Abuser
The same set of cognitive and
verbal skills are necessary for the abuser as well. This individual is also
in denial of their anger signals! As an example, road rage is more
often about feeling slighted by a significant other than it is about a
"need" for excitement or anything else.
The major difference between anger
management for abusers and for codependent victims is a greater emphasis
on impulse control skills (i.e., walk away, exercise, when calm
think about it) for abusers than for victims. However, there are victims
who need impulse control skills as badly as abusers!
I want to read the posts.