Anger and I are old friends. I remember once I was doing a panel discussion several years ago about what motivates and informs my writing and I answered without even thinking, “Anger.” At the time, it was a true statement. There was a time in my life when I carried so much anger that it almost seemed a part of me, like another arm or leg. As is usually the case, though, most of the time, my anger hurt me more than it helped me. Nowadays, it seems there are a ton of angry people who actually wear their anger like a uniform.
I tend to want to understand my enemies. I like to know how they operate. And while acceptance of a situation goes a long way towards reducing its impact, I still try to find hard resources that contain data about my enemies. So, I stumbled upon an article in Psychotherapy magazine from 2001 called, “Anger Disorders,” by a Psychologist named Raymond diGiuseppe that I have found to be very useful in understanding the inner workings of my frenemy: Anger.
While Mr. diGiuseppe establishes a whole bunch of good points, the three (3) that I find the most relevant are:
- Most angry clients seek treatment for their anger after they have failed to change someone else in their lives
- Angry people tend to seek out situations and relationships that make them angry in order to extend, rather than reduce, their anger
- Most who struggle with anger tend to target their anger episodes upon people they like or love very much
I think these three points are important to consider because I believe that bad juju creates bad juju. Mr. diGiuseppe’s research and data suggest that my belief does have some data to support it. Most of the time, in my life or in the lives of people I treat, the frustration that builds into ripe anger when we are unable to make someone else behave the way we want them to behave becomes so strong that we fail to see that our own desire to change the other is the problem. If we can strip away the “others” in a situation and focus on the reasons we want the others change, I bet we’d find the root cause of the problem and then be able to solve it.
The need to reinforce anger is strong, according to the research. It’s almost like people want and need their anger in order to cope with the situations they face. The trouble with that coping strategy is that it can build into a way of life. If we want to reduce our anger, then, I think it’s important to remove ourselves form our triggers, emotionally, so that we can see the root cause without an emotional filter. I think that’s why we shouldn’t make decisions when we’re angry: We’ll end up making a decision to do something that will make us angrier, per Mr. diGiuseppe.
And unfortunately, the research suggests that we do place our anger on those we love the most. The reason for this is that our loved ones are extensions of ourselves and because ultimately we are angry about our own lack of power, we place our anger on those who are closest to us. This cycle of misplaced anger places strain on our relationships and, once again, reinforces the anger we fee.
Mr. diGiuseppe’s article really resonated with me. He says that people don’t like to hug a porcupine and I can see that in my own life. I recommend that anyone who is angry about their lives remember the three points above and try to apply them. As usual, I think that in naming the real source of a person’s anger, then deciphering its meaning, and then changing behaviors associated with that anger, people can be free from the shackles of his or her anger. Then, he or she won’t be a porcupine and maybe he or she can get a hug once in a while.