5 Things to Do When You are Smothered by Anger
- Dr. David B. Hawkins The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2015 29 Sep
Brett was an angry man.
It’s not like I haven’t seen angry men, because I have many times. Anger seems to be the most common feeling expressed by men. It was the most common, and most accessible feeling, expressed by Brett, a thirty-five year old man referred to me by his wife.
Brett was indeed angry when I saw him. He had been asked to leave his home and two teenage daughters. He left his wife and the home he had worked hard to help create. He left the neighborhood where he had developed deep friendships. He left the area where his children went to school. He left a legacy he had been building. He left hopes and dreams, facing a future of uncertainty.
Brett had many deep and painful feelings, but like many men, could access only one: anger.
There is an old question bandied around about this, though admittedly it isn’t funny at all:
“Why do men get so angry?” the question goes.
“Because they can!”
This is sadly so true. Men get angry because they can. This, however, is a short answer to a much more complex question.
Why are men so angry? I’d like to offer a more complex answer to this question. First, however, I’d like to share parts of Brett’s story.
“How would you feel if you were asked to leave your home for reasons that are bogus?” he said angrily. “She kicked me out because she wants to be in control.”
I asked him to explain, which he was more than eager to do.
“I still love Jill,” he said. “I don’t get it. She is the angry one, if you ask me. She yells and blames me for everything. I know I’m not perfect, but I can’t do anything right in her eyes.”
“How do you feel about her asking you to leave?” I asked, knowing I would probably receive another rant.
“I hate it,” he said. “She doesn’t have grounds to ask me to leave. It’s not Biblical and I think she is the one that needs to be here. She is wrong, wrong, wrong. I hate it.”
“I certainly can appreciate the pain you must be feeling, Brett,” I said. “But, I’ve got to say that I mostly hear anger and fault-finding in you. I don’t hear the sadness that I’m betting is beneath the surface. Can you find some sadness and hurt?”
That slowed him down.
“I suppose I feel hurt,” he said. “But I mostly resent her for what she is putting me through.”
Pressing Brett for his deeper feelings was a difficult task. Helping him to see that rehearsing his resentment only further alienated him from his wife, creating a wider gulf that he would have to span were he to successfully reconnect with her.
Scripture is clear that anger is a disconnecting emotion, if it is even a legitimate emotion. Anger is now generally considered to be a secondary emotion and one that Scripture repeatedly warns us about. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets confrontation.” (Proverbs 29: 22)
Brett is in emotional pain. While resentful of his wife and missing her and his children, he has a lot of work to do before his wife will consider reconciling with him.
Here are a few of the suggestions I gave to him, encouraging other “angry men” to consider using them as well:
First, take responsibility for your anger and your behavior that contributed to your situation. Brett is not the victim he would like to portray and his wife is not the villain he sees. Rather, both contributed to their separation and he must take responsibility for his anger and how it is making the situation worse.
Second, acknowledge the destructive aspect to your anger. Brett must come to see how hurtful his anger is. Anger contributes to seeing the world in the narrowest of ways. Anger fuels limited thinking, blaming and argumentation. Anger causes us to spin our situation out of perspective. Anger, in short, creates more chaos.
Third, explore the feelings beneath your anger. Brett must go on a hunt for emotional pain, discovering emotions such as hurt, sadness and betrayal. He must find his fear and then embark on a journey of emotion regulation. With the help of his faith he must learn to trust again and to learn to soothe himself.
Fourth, share with your mate from a more vulnerable aspect of your personality. Brett must learn to share with his wife from these more vulnerable emotions. His wife will never connect with him when he is angry. She will be tempted to connect with him if he can speak in a gentler, more vulnerable voice.
Finally, practice connecting with your mate in healthy ways. Brett and his wife will need to practice, perhaps under the guidance of an expert marriage counselor, how to connect in an ongoing way. They will need to learn to talk about the difficult issues that led to the separation, but also bridge the chasm that has been created by the destructive process fueled by anger. This chasm is generally bridged with gentleness, kindness and understanding, along with soft, vulnerable emotions.
Brett has a lot of work to do as he comes to see that his anger is very destructive. What he once saw as deserved righteous indignation he must come to see as narrow, self-centered and destructive. As he learns to regulate his emotion, attach in healthy ways and be aware of how he interacts with his wife, he will influence her in positive ways that could, and probably will, lead to reconciliation.
Are you an angry man or woman? Please read more about strategies for emotional growth and explore more about my Marriage Intensives at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: September 29, 2015