What is the end point of your anger? Mine is a state I call “Howling Despair.” Here is how the growth of my anger looks on my personal Feeling Thermometer.
Anger is a signal to right a wrong. How you handle anger depends on your emotional intelligence, what I mean by emotional fitness. As a child, I was taught “If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Wise some of the time, but not always. Eventually, only being nice was part of the end point of my anger what eventually came to call “Howling Despair.”
Only one person can drive me to this state and he knows who he is. No, that’s not true. In fact, it is that he doesn’t know how he makes me so upset that upsets me. We have been together for 45 years, and have had the same fight for 44 and a half of those years.
It is a typical Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus fight. My need is to have my thinking understood, I don’t care if it logical or makes sense. I just want it understood and not refuted. His need is to refute my understanding. He has a very logical mind but one pointed toward winning, therefore, he is not above sarcasm, innuendo, subtle and not so subtle name-calling. And yes, I am guilty of the same.
Here’s another kicker. Every once in a while, he does understand, then he is graciously apologetic and the fight ends. One of his tactics, however, is to make faux apologies. I know when he is doing this, and I don’t accept those graciously and probably that is what I should do. When I don’t as he is quick to say, the problem, is mine. Sigh.
Just typing and remembering some of our fights is triggering feelings of despair. How has our marriage survived? Three ways:
First: Neither of us has resorted to physical violence to make our points. The worse he has done is pound on a desk; my worse was throwing a spoon which missed him. I claim I intended to miss; he claims the opposite.
Second: The good out weighs the bad. We fight, but we laugh more.
As John Gottman, noted researcher into relationships notes “Marriages survive if there are five good moments for every bad moment. “
Third: We work at helping each other become our personal bests. I would never have done all that I have accomplished without his support, pushing, and yes, teaching me to fight back.
Emotional Fitness Thoughts and Tips
These kinds of fights are called “Gotcha War” fights. The main premise is not the issue being discussed but who acts the craziest defending their point of view. As the link discusses, teens are great Gotcha warriors. In fact, it was when I was a foster parent caring for troubled teens that I learned how to survive such wars.
Emotional fitness tip one: The main strategy to come through such battles unscathed is to responde mininally. You make EFTI’s strong body and calm face; self-sooth; listen lot; agree with a nod when you can add shake your head or raise your eyebrows when you cannot agree; even if forced to answer a question you do so calmly and as briefly as possible.
Emotional fitness tip two: Create a personal feeling thermometer. Anger is a sneaky feeling, good at hiding quietly to build strength and then hijack your brain and get you to do something you regret. By being attuned to the presence and growth of anger you stay in control. That is best done by regularly taking your feeling temperature on a personal feeling thermometer
Emotional fitness tip three: Have an anger management plan. For me, staying unscathed means sometimes walking away, other times tuning out, and all of the time using all the self-soothing and Emotional Fitness Training Skills at my command.
Emotional fitness tip: Own your choices and think about what matters. Staying to fight is one choice, walking away another choice. When I stay to make my point, a disagreement can become a deadly war. Better to let somethings go because peace matters more.
Emotional fitness tip five: Be patient with your self and others. All advice sounds easy, and most is not. Which is why I am confessing that it has only been in the past few years of my marriage that I have managed to stay at a 7 or 8 instead of finding myself howling with despair.
Parenting tip one: All of the above.
Parenting tip two: Understand the reasons why. This is particularly true for parents of teens. It is a way to handle their own feelings by making you the bad or crazy one. I remember one of my foster children wanted to go to a party in his home town. His probation officer had said no. He followed me around the house relentlessly, and finally wore me down to the point where I said, “Stop being so stupid.” I said angrily. His response was to run from the house, screaming, “I’m not staying where people call me names.” He enjoyed the party, but was returned to a lock-up. I would have had him returned to our care, but the judge and his probation officer disagreed.
Many teens also pick fights to save face. A father told me of a time his daughter asked to have a beer keg at her sweet sixteen parent. She threw a big hissy fit and walked out on the fight. He yelled at that point making her the victor. He later heard her telling one of her friends about his “temper tantrum” as the reason why she could not have beer at her party.
Parenting tip three: Be prepared for your own tactics to be used against you. My smart sons learned rather quickly to use minimal response as a tool in their Gotcha Wars. I had to work hard not to escalate, and to see that as a long-range positive.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO
Life is rarely easy. Others do the best they can; you do the best you can. As much as we try often the best any of us can do is often disappointing. Solutions: Be gentle on all, yourself included, keep working at what helps, let go of what isn’t working, and as always remember what matters.
Remember’s sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness is to share this post if you found it helpful. Thank you.
This post was inspired by Word Press’ DAILY PROMPT Mad as a Hatter: Tell us about a time when you flew into a rage. What is it that made you so incredibly angry?