Who has anger made you ?
July 13, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand Anger and its relation to self-esteem, loving relationships, circmstances, and daily life. Are you or have you been and angry person ? to what extend have you been able to spot the causes and / or gotten better ? How did it feel ?

I am searching for testimonies / ressources / podcasts /websites, on anger, but which could be on the theoretical side, not so much as the anger-management aspects, but rather would like to understand my family's and ex partner way of functionning, if such a thing as properly understanding it, makes sense. If you are angry, or close to people who get agry often, I'd be really really glad to hear about anything that would help me see more clearly. Feel free to memail me if the post makes you embarassed. Specifically :

- Angry feelings, angry reactions, angry words, within a relationship of love,
- Anger and self-esteem ( or shame, even ?)
- Anger and sincerity : does anger really make people do and say things they would never have wanted to do or say on other times ? really never ?
- to what degree can anger change a person ?
- Anger and regrets (what is going on ?), anger and the aftermaths..
- Anger and personnality styles (psychological studies ? Myer-Briggs Personality test data ?)
- Anger and addictions (do people who have addictions, be it to cigarettes, weed, or alcohol, have a different relationship to their emotions ? to anger specifically ?
- Anger and (perhaps) general perception of the other, especially the person who is being put down.
- Anger and distance in times of tension: does it help ?


sidenote : I come from a family where anger was a very free thing (lashing out, insulting, putting the other down on a quasi-daily basis, between my parents, and from my siblings towards me). I went on therapy for years, and feel like I have a pretty balanced emotional life nowadays, with general satisfaction of most of my relationships, happy times, and what seems like a healthy kind of "moderation", so much on the difficult aspects of life, as the joyful ones. But I do sometimes fall for men who are on the extravert / intense (in positive, and negative) / angry side of emotional things. Hence my question. Thank you in advance, and I keep going with the therapy :)
posted by Jireel to Human Relations (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at Harriet Lerner's Dance of Anger? I believe it is considered the most accessible and thorough examination of anger and relationships.
posted by saucysault at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Lerner's Dance of Anger. Also, if you are open to a Buddhist perspective, a Google search for "Pema Chodron anger" shows several hits that make for good reading.

I think this is a great question.
posted by Majorita at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2012

There’s a lot you’re looking for. I can add my personal experience, but I don’t have many outside sources to share. Your family sounds a lot like mine. There was verbal abuse and gigantic dramatic fights when we were forced to spend time together. My mother especially converted all her negative emotions into rage that took the form of horrible screaming diatribes. My parents had no positive emotional connection, and I recall from an early age wondering why they had ever gotten married. They never expressed affection to each other. The best it ever got was just on the indifferent side of annoyance. I have always suspected (but never been able to prove) that my mother accidentally got pregnant with me, which led to their quickie wedding , and may have accounted for the unequal levels of abuse and anger I received while my younger brother was treated in the exact opposite manner. Anyway, their relationship was bad, which fed their hostility toward each other. My father’s way of dealing was to either escape into drinking, work and affairs or attempt to fight back verbally which always escalated things. There was no way for my parents to discuss anything calmly; the conversation would always devolve into unrelated accusations, insults, personal attacks and the like. This was also the way my relationship with my mother unfolded for my teen years. There could be no touchy subjects or disagreements unless I was prepared to spend hours being berated, followed into my room, called every insult there was and have to defend myself from all manner of irrelevant accusations.

I learned to avoid anything that might lead to conflict. This is still my way of handling my mom. I have very limited parts of my life I am willing to share with her. I have worked hard to make sure I don’t become her. I learned early on that yes, you can discuss emotionally fraught issues without insulting someone, bringing up a litany of their past sins, saying things that are purposely hurtful. I realize that I have a lot of latent hostility, but I try to make sure I don’t let it affect people who don’t deserve it. I’m not sure I always succeed there, but I try to stick to certain cardinal rules and depersonalize as much as possible. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to detach from my emotions. My upbringing had led me to believe that any negative emotions were like lit fuses inevitably leading to a massive explosion. Not true at all. Having to get along with other non-fucked up people had shown me that just because I have an emotional reaction doesn’t mean I have to act upon it. Seeing people successfully have disagreements without abusive behavior was something that helped me model better ways of dealing with anger. I have never let my mother know what impact her behaviors had on me. She would deny she’d ever said those things and say that I was either imagining things or I was lying in order to make myself sound better. My brother now acts very much like her, having angry tantrums over minor inconveniences like traffic delays, bringing up past events in an attempt to hurt anyone who disagrees with him. It makes me sad to see that he’s emotionally stunted in the same way, but trying to talk to him about it just leads to more of these tactics, which I now refuse to engage in.

Unfortunately, my survival tactic has become detachment and avoidance of any problematic discussions. For example, I am cat-sitting for my mom this week. I went to clean the litterboxes and found them in a state of neglect. I was upset that her cats are being so neglected and it showed when I came home. My partner asked me if I could bring it up to my mom once she returns home. I told him not really, unless I wanted a huge battle involving everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life for daring to “criticize” her. I just cleaned the boxes myself, knowing they’re likely to return to their previous state. There is absolutely no way I’ve been able to say anything remotely negative to my mom without her taking it as a personal attack and retaliating. It did make me angry; my powerlessness over the situation, the way the conversation has been already smothered by her reactions, but realistically, there is nothing I can do to change any of those things.

The free-flowing anger of my family of origin has completely alienated me from having anything but a surface-level relationship with them. My home life led to lots of physical illness that only went away once I was able to leave there. I avoid angry people because I see them as being unable to govern their emotions, and that’s a big negative for me. I do not accept that anger ever justifies insulting or belittling someone you claim to care about. I have also let go of any notion that my family of origin’s behaviors reflect on me in any way. Their problems are their responsibility, and I won’t feel shame for actions they choose to take. And yes, I’ve had to put this in practice many times due to my brother’s arrest record. Anger has changed me in that it motivated me to make sure I wasn’t repeating the same patterns. It also pretty much killed most of the affection people associate with the words “home” and “family.” To me, my family are just a bunch of randos genetics forced me to live with.

If it matters for your MBTI side of things, I’m an INTP.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I found this on the Web a long time ago and I revisit it every so often. It was one of the first things I'd ever read about acceptance of anger and the often undiscussed upsides of anger.

The rest of the site is worth a look too.
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:44 AM on July 13, 2012

I found the book "Why Does He Do That?" to be very eye-opening about this, though I was reading it to try to understand a female relative, not a male one.
posted by cairdeas at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2012

For what it's worth, my therapist said that, aside from issues, a lot of my anger comes from my anxiety. Apparently anxiety--> trying to control environment to feel safe--> realising environment isn't neccessarily controllable--> anger at lack of control (which can then--> outbursts, --> shame/embarrassment--> anxiety).

Other factors include caffiene, rest (huge factor) and hunger. A useful acronym is HALT for hungry angry lonely tired.
posted by windykites at 4:15 PM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Another thought: posture and pain can have a huge effect. Pain is obvious. Posture/ body language is because emotions and body are in a continuous feedback loop, responding to each other's cues.
posted by windykites at 4:18 PM on July 14, 2012

In my experience and therapists confirm it: Anger is usually an expression of fear or shame or anxiety or embarrassment or guilt, a way of pushing blame onto someone else. Usually some form of fear. For what it's worth.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:37 AM on July 16, 2012

St. John Cassian wrote much upon anger, which I would commend to your attention. At one point, he writes to the effect of that while it might be possible to be angry for the right reason, it is very hard to do. And, we would be blind to it because a person rarely admits that he is angry for the wrong reason or no reason. So, don't be angry.

Angry very often has at its root one's pride or self-pity, neither of which is good.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:29 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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