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Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Ragemaker

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 28, 2012

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While it’s never good to act on angry feelings, their ability to distort one’s perspective also make them one of the hardest feelings to ignore; after all, love is a strong emotion, but you don’t often see a large, hugging mob. For most people, the real risk in anger isn’t punching, but picking on those closest to you. So when you feel the rage building against someone you love and you know it’s not for the right reasons, don’t feel guilty (or even more angry), just stick to your usual rules for being a good spouse or parent, acting civil, and doing your job. Usually, anger will pass, clarity will return, and hugs won’t be necessary.
Dr. Lastname

I truly love so many things about my husband, but I’m not happy with myself. I’m overweight, I have hormonal imbalances that I’m addressing with my physician, and I’m sluggish and moody at times, almost feeling like a depressive state. Lately, however I’ve been trying to get healthy physically and mentally by using diet and exercise, as well as engaging in life more (a tennis tournament with family and friends, walking with my teenager, and training for a 15K I’m running in the fall). While my husband says he supports me, and even wants to do the same, his actions are the opposite—he buys junk food, he works hard during the day but then plants himself in front of the TV all night. I’m beginning to feel disgusted and even resentful about his behavior. I know he’s a wonderful man, but I don’t know why I’m becoming so intolerant of his behavior, or even if I have the right to be upset. He is the same man, I’m the one that’s changing, so why am I so pissed off all the time? I just don’t know how to get back to some kind of friendship where I enjoy him like I used to, and it scares me. I love him so much, but I even find myself cringing sometimes to his touch. I just don’t know what caused this kind of shift in my thinking.

Nothing feels more personal than anger, but often, the opposite is true; although we feel angry at someone or feel their anger directed at us, anger often starts with a mood rather than an issue, and then targets innocent bystanders simply because they’re there.

What’s worse is that anger often elicits more anger, thus finding a way to feed on itself. You focus your anger on your husband’s faults (his lack of self-discipline), while feeling angry at him for making you angry, and then getting angrier when he gets angry at you for being unfair.

The sad fact is that sometimes you can’t stop angry feelings, regardless of how undeserved they are, how much pain they cause, or how much you address your issues with friends, loved ones, and therapists. Anger often just happens, particularly when there are hormones and depression involved.

When anger tells you that you have issues, it often lies; in reality, your life hasn’t changed, except for some mysterious hormone-responsive center in your brain that tells you it’s time to fight. When it calms down—sometimes in response to antidepressants, hormone therapy, sobriety, or getting enough sleep—so does your anger.

In your case, the fact that your husband hasn’t changed and your hormones have suggests that your anger is as much hormone- as issue-driven, so learn how to manage it. Begin by not being ashamed of your anger or holding yourself accountable for it, only for what you do with it. Let your husband know he hasn’t done anything terribly wrong and you’ll try really hard not to kill him.

If talking about your anger lets it fly, then don’t talk about it. Use good old 19th century techniques to manage it—stay busy, distracted, and polite—and give yourself credit for your efforts. Remember, keeping anger inside won’t kill you (although, as we always say, un-bottling it might), and being able to smile when you’re ready to explode is a skill that deserves an Olympic medal.

Respect the fact that anger is hard to live with, but that’s what marriage is often about. We’ve said before that a good marriage is one that survives persistent sexual dysfunction; it’s also one that survives persistent, unavoidable anger.

It’s very likely that your anger will pass. In the meantime, learn to contain it so it doesn’t claim any more random victims (or your marriage).

STATEMENT:
“I’m unhappy and I can’t look at my husband without feeling angry, but I know he’s a good guy and that anger is sometimes just a feeling. I’ll try to remember, and let him know, that my values haven’t changed and neither has my respect for him and our marriage.”

My 16-year-old daughter, who has seasonal affective disorder, is also unbelievably argumentative, which makes her exasperating to deal with. If I tell her she needs to take medication, she tells me that someone wrote in his internet blog that he had terrible side effects, so I read that blog and tell her that every medication gives that person terrible side effects, and she cites another blog saying that medication is bad for you, and I read that blog and tell her that the writer has no credentials. It goes on and on until I’m ready to spit. My goal is to stop being so angry with her.

Not only does familiarity breed lots of feelings in addition to contempt, it gives you the means to share them. Speaking spontaneously is one of the pleasures of a close relationship, but when the person you’re talking to is an adolescent daughter who may be irritable as well as motivated to argue with everything you say, spontaneous communication is dangerous.

You might hope to have a pleasant relationship with your daughter, but that’s not the way it is, and false hope will get you into trouble by lowering your guard and raising your expectations. Your goal isn’t to get her to stop being argumentative and reactive, it’s to give her guidance and rules about medication that are not open to argument.

Decide for yourself whether the risk of her untreated depression is worse than the risk of medication, and invite her to do the same. If she’s irrational, urge her to do more research into her sources and their statistics. Pinpoint your disagreements, if any, in a professional way.

In the end, incentivize her to do things your way because you’re the parent and you have confidence in your judgment. Don’t let your disagreement become personal or, on your side, emotional. She can’t help being irritable and irritating, but you can avoid responding in kind if you swallow your irritation and focus on the business at hand.

While she may accuse you of being unresponsive or arbitrary, you need not defend yourself or retaliate as long as you have confidence in your position. You’re simply doing your job and if you put that job first, then getting in the last word is irrelevant.

STATEMENT:
“It feels like I’ve lost my daughter’s trust and friendship, but I know that she’s young and oppositional and that, as her parent, I’m her natural target. I’ll try to put aside my need for a closer and easier relationship and deal with our differences with as little negative emotion as possible. I trust our relationship will become easier someday; meanwhile, I’m doing what’s necessary to take care of her.”

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