The mismanagement of anger is the REAL cause of most relationship difficulties.
Here, check this out!
Do you find yourself arguing, fighting or contending with your partner?
Do you lash out or get sarcastic with your partner?
Do you find yourself feeling more and more disconnected from one another?
Do you find yourself complaining or blaming your partner?
Do you find yourself thinking that there is something wrong with you?
Do you find that sex is waning in your relationship?
Do you find yourself trying to please your partner but often feel like you are failing?
Do you ever think the only thing wrong with your relationship is your PARTNER?
These are ALL symptoms of the mismanagement of anger.
One of the MOST famous researchers of couples is John Gottman. Perhaps you have heard of his ability to predict couple separation based on what he called the “four horseman of the apocalypse" (p.125). He suggests that there are four behaviors that are destructive to a relationship; defensiveness, criticism, contempt and stonewalling (Gottman, 2008).
What are these four things? ANGER MISMANAGED!
But why is anger so problematic? You see, in our culture, anger has been vilified. Even the Dali Lama has said anger is bad for you. He is not the only one that has suggested this. Many “scientific” reports have agreed with him. But what are they really talking about? They are NOT talking about anger; they are talking about the ways people express it.
You see, many conflate the experience with anger with its expression! These are actually two different things and it is important that they be separated.
Now let me make a differentiation here. Primary anger is NOT the same as defensive anger. Defensive anger is about protecting a self concept or the ego (think Trump!).
Primal anger is a different and important affective experience. It is the energy that protects, asserts and helps establish boundaries. It is the energy that helps us protect the ones we love and It is also a source of your power, presence and passion!
But many are actually afraid of anger (their own and others). They often get very anxious and/or tense when they start to feel it. Some fear being out of control or they fear that they will hurt someone but instead, often hurt themselves.
So what do they do? They try not to feel it. They stuff it, they constrict it, they try to rationalize or explain it away. They often try to use spirituality as a way of bypassing it. This is not sustainable. It often leads to an implosion, explosion or depletion. The implosion leads to feelings of depression or even despair. The explosion makes the environment toxic
Learning how to tolerate, experience, explore and metabolize your anger is a key to effective self-expression as well as helping you connect deeply to your own vitality and energy!
Gottman, J. M. (2008). Gottman method couple therapy. Clinical handbook of couple therapy, 4(8), 138-164.
Eric G. Schneider (c) 2019