Dear Neil: Could you address the subject of anger? I have been angry at my wife for years, but I’m having a hard time figuring out why I get as angry as I do at her. Even small things I can escalate into major offenses, and I am angry often at her. But I also love her, and it confuses me why I’m so frequently angry with someone I care about and want to be around. What it my problem?
Lost in Vail, Colorado
Dear Lost: When you feel angry, you feel powerful. You feel charge of your life, committed to your emotions and feelings, and passionate. Frequently, people like their anger, and the power they feel when they express themselves angrily, which is why some people hold on to it and are reluctant to work through their anger or let it go.
Feeling angry makes us feel powerful. If we are otherwise feeling powerless or impotent, anger gives us a feeling of power and strength, and we can easily intimidate other people. Our anger also lifts depression and allows us to feel superior and self-righteous.
But anger also keeps us from feeling our underlying pain or hurt, which are the primary emotions that are causing our anger to begin with. And until we effectively deal with our anger, it will continue to run our lives.
The wisest thing to do with anger is to attempt to uncover the real reasons for it. If you dig deep enough, you are likely to discover that the person you are angry at is really yourself—for allowing you to be in a bad position, for not taking action to address or correct a problem, or for allowing yourself to be taken advantage of or violated in some way.
Here’s what you can do. First, figure out what your main issue (or issues) are. What’s really bothering you about your relationship with your wife? Then create a game plan for addressing the main issues troubling you. The key is to take action so you don’t feel so victimized, and you feel more in charge of your life.
Then it’s time to do some repair work with your wife. Pay attention to what the blessings are in your relationship. What are the loving things your wife does for you? Even if you are in a bad relationship, what are the gifts the relationship gives you? There are always positive things to find in the relationships we stay in, but sometimes we take those gifts for granted, thus failing to appreciate and thank our intimate partner for what s/he gives.
Susan Jeffers in her book Opening Our Hearts To Men offers the following suggestion: As an experiment, right now, put down this paper and thank the woman in your life for all she has contributed to your life. If she isn’t there, pick up the phone and call her or write her a letter. Be sure to do this the next time you are in the presence of your wife.
Honor your anger, but before you express it, make sure you give your wife the gift of your discriminating anger.