Has anyone ever said to you “can’t I even get mad?” Have you ever said that to someone else?
Well, is it OK to be angry?
There is such a thing as a healthy expression of the emotion of anger, and something that seems like anger but is really just abuse.
Dr. David Richo shares excellent guidance in his book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships, about many aspects of what healthy relationships do and do not look like.
The following summary, from Dr. Richo may be extremely helpful to anyone that is experiencing anger in their life.
Abuse: The Shadow of Anger
Authentic self-expression: the hero’s way
Theatrical display: the villain’s way
Is always mindful [Conscious]
Is ego-driven and caught in mindsets [Unconscious]
Expresses a feeling
Becomes a tantrum
May be expressed with a red face, excited gestures, and a raised voice
May be expressed with a red face, menacing gestures, expletives, and a screaming voice
Is a form of assertiveness that shows respect
Is aggressive, an attack
Shows tough love that enriches or repairs the relationship
Explodes in rough and damaging mistreatment that endangers the relationship
Arises from displeasure at an injustice
Arises from the sense of an affront to a bruised, indignant ego
Focuses on the injustice as intolerable but reparable
Focuses on the other person as bad
Informs the other, creates rapt attention, draws a mindful response
Is meant to threaten the other and drives him or her away
Is meant to communicate, to report an impact
Is meant to silence, intimidate, put down, bully, or dump
Desires a response from the other but does not require one
Insists the other acknowledge how right or justified one is
Asks for change but allows the other to change or not (desires change)
Masks or expresses a controlling demand that the other change (demands change)
Asks for accountability and amends
Blames the other* and takes revenge
Is about this present issue and is expressed freshly from incident to incident
Is often a build-up of past unresolved issues and displaced rage, gathering intensity from incident to incident
Is always direct
Is often displaced
Has some perspective, can distinguish between minor and major issues
Is trapped in the heat of the moment & explodes vehemently no matter how minor the issue
Relates to the feeling
Is possessed by the feeling
Coexists with other feelings
Occludes other feelings
Takes responsibility for one’s own distress
Diverts the blame for one’s distress onto the other
Is nonviolent, in control, and always remains within safe limits (manages temper)
Is violent, out of control, derisive, punitive, hostile, and retaliatory (loses temper)
Releases lively energy and leads to repose
Derails lively energy & creates continuing stress
Is brief and lets go with a sense of closure (a flare)
Is held on to as lingering resentment, hate, grudge, or bitterness (a smoldering fire)
Includes grief and acknowledges it
Includes grief but masks it with feigned invulnerability or denial
Believes the other is a catalyst of anger
Believes the other is a cause of anger
Treats the other as a peer
Treats the other as a target
Originates in and fosters a healthy ego
Originates in and perpetuates an arrogant ego
Aims at a deeper and more effective bond: an angry person moves toward the other
Wants to get the rage out no matter who gets hurt: an abuser moves against the other
Coexists with and empowers love: fearless
Cancels love in favor of fear: fear-based
These are all forms of addressing, processing, and resolving.
These are all forms of avoiding one’s own grief and distress.
*Blaming (from the Latin word for blaspheme) differs from assessing accountability:
- Blaming is censure with an intent to shame, humiliate, and show that someone is wrong.
- In assessing accountability the intent is to right a wrong and restore a balance.
- In mindful adult living, no one is to blame and everyone is accountable.
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