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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Leading With the Anger (going in circles)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Leading With the Anger (going in circles)

One of most common concepts that comes up here in the office for couples is this:

Leading with our anger affects the relationship. Usually negatively.  I know I've written about this before, but it bears repeating.

Here's the dilemma: If we are hurt, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, we want a few things, usually from our partners.  We want to be understood.  We want our feelings and our opinions to be validated.  We want to be in sync with him/her.  We also, if things are super bad, want to punish, frustrate or hurt our partner.  Usually we come to this when we cannot communicate our feelings or don't feel they are received in any other way. 

And here's the problem:  When we don't get what we want - what we feel we need -  we tend to  - depending on our own individual character - lead with the anger.  Some of us explode, curse, yell, name call, bang around.  (I'm not addressing physical or emotional abuse at the moment).  Some of us retreat, ignore, avoid.  Either way, it's leading with the anger.  And it has a devastating effect on the relationship.

It seems at times like its a chicken and egg thing, meaning:  she gets hurt so she yells, so he backs away so she yells so he doesn't respond so she insults him so he ignores her so she gets more hurt so she threatens so he gets mean so she gets hurt so she gets mean back..... Or he feels disrespected and loses it and she gets hurt so she loses it so he gets hurt and feels like a failure so she nags so he gets frustrated so he yells at her so she gets hurt again so yells at him so......

You get the picture.  So where do we break out... or break in?  What do we do with the emotional pain?  How do we release our anger without damaging our relationships?  How we get understood when we feel there is no one listening?  How do we live - can we live - without being understood as much or as deeply as we feel we need to be?  How we stay in sync or with good feelings when it hurts so much, when we feel we are right?  When we believe that we have a point, more than a point and we can't seem to make headway or live with the day to day distance, fighting or fallout?  How do we feel safe, protected and good about ourselves?

One thing we can do, just to start, just to try, is to not lead with the anger.  Yes, we do have to look deeper, I do believe this.  Its never about just one thing, or just one angle and we have to be willing to take a real and longer look at ourselves and our responses.  And take good care of our anger and our pain.  But we if we lead with the anger, no matter how right we are, no matter what we believe we deserve or how much love we think is there, or what that love should mean, we are just keeping the circle going. 

We can lead with something better.  A wish, a need, a real acknowledgement of the other's feelings or perspective, a feeling, a kind word, a pause before we charge and react.  Even if we are right, even if we are hurt.  When the feelings are so deep and wide it's hard, but if we don't change what we lead with, or be open to the effect it has, no matter how right or justified we are, we will (as the 12 step folks like to say) only always get what we only always got.

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