Here is another chapter of my book. I hope you all enjoy.
I know we don't need another addiction to worry about in our society. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and so many more. The list seems to go on and on. So I really hate to add another addition to that mix. I think it is necessary, though. I have found there is a difference between people who get angry sometimes and people who have an addiction to their anger.
Of course, we all get angry from time to time. This is not a book for the guy who gets mad, expresses what is wrong and is able to move on. There are a plethora of those books available. They are all wonderful and helpful. I should know I have read almost all of them.
Instead, I want to talk to the anger addict. It can be difficult to know if you have an addiction to anger. After all, anger is a natural and necessary emotion. When it is healthy anger it is not harmful to us or to those around us. But, when it is not healthy that is when it will destroy us, our family, and even our career.
How can we know if we have normal, healthy anger or an anger addiction? It can be difficult to see our anger as an addiction. I have a few questions that will help us uncover if you are that addict. First how quickly do you get over your anger? Anger at a healthy level will dissipate fairly quickly. You will get aggravated, express how or why you are agitated, then move on. In most cases, this whole process might take an hour or so. If you are an anger addict it will last for hours, days, even weeks. You will not be able to let go of the feeling of anger. It will sit just below the surface waiting to bubble up at the first sign of agitation.
Second, are you often told that you get angry from out of nowhere? Anger addicts will often start a conversation being calm and understanding. Then with seemingly no provocation they will be yelling, throwing stuff, or slamming doors. This will even come as a surprise to you. I can remember many times when I would feel calm or even tell myself I was not going to blow up this time. Only to be angry and violent the very next second. After I would calm down I would not feel bad about it after all I only got angry because the other person pushed me to it.
That is another trait that is shared amongst us, anger addicts. We have this almost superhuman ability to find a way to blame other people for our anger. We are never at fault. If my wife had only done what I asked I would not have gotten angry and yelled. If the guy in the car ahead of me could only learn to drive the correct way I would not have flipped him off while hanking my horn. If the stupid cashier had been just a little bit competent I would not have had to get so angry at her. No matter what the situation it is always the other person's fault.
The last clue you might be addicted to your anger is you enjoy being angry. People with a healthy relationship with anger will not enjoy it. They will see it as being harmful to getting what they want. The addict will have no feeling towards their anger or may even enjoy being angry. When we get angry our body releases a chemical cocktail. This will cause us to feel better when we are angry. We start to enjoy that rush we get from anger. At some point, we will find ourselves seeking out reasons to become angry.
A Definition Of Anger
So far I have talked about how to tell if you are an anger addict. But we have not really talked about what anger is. I think this would be a good time to introduces a definition I have for anger. One that I use to guide myself as I have taken this journey to understand my own anger. It is not your typical way to view anger and this is kind of the point. I want us to start to see our anger in a new light.
Anger is a belief that things should be other than they are.
I know you are looking at that definition and thinking I am crazy. Maybe I am but follow me for a moment. Take a look back at the last time you were angry. If you are reading this book my guess is you will not have to look too far in the past. Try to take a moment and really remember what was going on for you at that time. What were you telling yourself? What did you believe the other person was telling themself.
If you can be honest I will bet that you wanted something to be different. You want your wife to have dinner ready when you got home instead of going out for the evening with her friends. You wanted the neighbor to cut his grass and not blow the trimming into your yard. You wanted to know that your family values your options instead of just leaving you out of the decision.
Whatever it was you wanted it to be different. It is this desire that is at the root of our anger. As we continue to tell ourselves that this situation should be different or that we deserver something different that anger grows. As it grows it starts to take over our mind. It becomes like a self-fulling prophecy. Let me give you an example of what I mean from my own past.
My wife and I had only been married for about two years. I am very much a homebody. I can be very happy just getting off work coming home and relaxing for the evening. She is not. She has to have some kind of interaction with other people. Be they friends, family, people at the gym, whatever. She just needs that social outlet.
Now I know it is hard to believe but there was a time before social media and this story takes place at that time. When I would come home Chrissy would not be too far behind me. As she would walk in the door I would hear her on the phone with someone. I would have no idea who it was, nor did I really care. All I knew is I wanted her full attention at that moment. I wanted her to be home and spending time with just me. I would get angry and at first, just slam cupboard doors. Then If that didn’t work to change the situation I would let out a sigh and go into our bedroom while slamming the door behind me. After about five minutes or so I would come back out to see if she had gotten the hint.
If not then it was time to up my tactics of anger and control. I would just start getting angry at her directly. I would accuse her of not wanting to spend time with me. I would say that she didn’t really care about me or enjoy our time together. Basically do anything to change the situation to meet my expectations of what I needed. I would beloved the situation should be other than it was.
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of this belief. It is so simple to think that things should always be as we want. That we should never have to deal with something that does not meet our needs at that moment. If you are like me and an anger addict this is the perfect excuse to bring out the anger and try to change that moment. One of the anger addicts’ favorite methods of trying to force this change is through violence.
A New Way To See Violence
When I say violence I am sure it congers up a very specific image in your mind. The vast majority of us think that violence is a very specific action or set of actions. We think that violence is the act of harming another through physical means. While this is true and is defiantly violence it is not the only form of violence.
I want to tell you about some actions and see if we can agree that they are violent. Of course, I think we would agree that punching someone in the face is a violent act. How about calling someone a name? What about belittling them and making them feel inferior? Would we agree that giving someone the silent treatment is violent? By the way, I am a master of the silent treatment. I use to be able to go for hours or days not talking to my wife if she pissed me off. Anyway, I would definitely call all of these actions violent. I am willing to believe that you will as well when you read the definition of violence that I use.
Violence is any action that separates us from our empathy and compassion for another person.
Given this definition, I now believe that we can see all of the actions above as violent. I think that we could see how not only those but many more things now fall into the category of violence. Why would I want to use this as my definition of violence? I think it is incredibly valuable to have a much broader view of what violence is. I also think that it is important to do this in a book about anger management.
Anger is quite often a response to the violent actions of others. When we as anger addicts use violence to try to get our way it will be met with a predictable response. That person will get angry. In their anger, they will push back against our control. This will now be the justification for our own anger. We will be able to tell ourselves that we only got angry because the other person was angry. This is not the case. If we take a deeper look at it we can see that we were angry before the first violent act was used.
Before we lease this section I want to make it clear that I am not trying to make it seem like we are all just violent people out there hurt each other. I don’t think that at all. I don’t use this definition to try to make more acts of violence. I use this to help us gain a better understanding of why people react the way they do. If we are able to see the violence in an action we can better understand the response to it.
I can remember when my wife would go out for the evening with her friends. I would use all sorts of violent acts to keep her home. I would first try to use guilt on her. I would try to make her feel bad for wanting to leave me home all alone on a Friday night. This of course was met with the reply of well why don’t you go out for a guys night? This was not the reaction I wanted so I would step it up.
My next go-to was to say that I was worried about how other guys would react to her. I said I was not concerned about her but that some random guy would come hit on her. I claimed to be concerned for her safety an that I thought it was best if we just stayed home so this would not be a problem for her. Once again she was able to see through this and just brushed it off.
After she would leave I would use my last trick to get her home sooner. I would call and text all the time. I would ask where she was. I would ask when she was coming home. I would use guilt to make her feel bad by telling her I was going to bed and needed her home so I could sleep better. All in an attempt to make her do what I wanted.
All of this can easily be seen for the violent acts they were. I was not trying to be compassionate and empathic to her need for social connection. I didn’t care about how she felt as long as I get what I wanted. I would use shame, guilt, or fear to get her to submit to my needs. All, of course, are very aggressive in nature.
Aggressive Or Assertive
Aggression could very easily be placed in the same category as violence. In fact, it is just one specific form of violence. I want to give it some special attention though. In the mind of an anger addict aggression is something that is more. It is our power. It is our weapon. It is necessary to be able to use anger effectively.
Aggression is defined as a forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of our aims or interests.
There is a great deal to that definition. It is for this reason that I think many of us fail to see the aggression in our behavior. We mistake it for assertive or persuasive behavior. I want to help distinguish between assertive and aggressive actions. It can be very difficult to see the difference if we are not careful. Each action will get a very different reaction from people.
Our behavior is assertive if we do not impose a consequence if someone does not meet our request. This is best done by not being attached to a specific way of getting what we need. If we can be open too many options assertiveness is easy.
Well, maybe to say it is easy would be somewhat misleading. It will be easier when compared to the use of aggressive behavior. Aggression has this way of misleading us. It makes us think that we are getting what we want. In fact it can help us get what we want for a while. Sooner or later it will stop working. People will get use to our angry outbursts. They will not be worried about our reactions. After all they have seen them all.
This is why I say aggression is difficult. We must keep stepping up our aggressive tactics. We have to keep using more and more agressive ways to get what we want. All this leads to our anger building. Until we get to a point that we don’t even recognize ourselves anymore. We have become something that is not what we set out to be.