The Destructive Force of Anger

I’m a nerd.  I openly admit it.  Given my nerd-status, I was elated when, last month, I found a few different series of self-help-style cassettes at a yard sale for 50 cents a piece.  One of the titles was Controlling Your Anger and it was a presentation by Dr. Carol Tavris.

Early in the first cassette, Dr. Tavris explained the different kinds of “angry” people she has observes throughout her career.  One such type was the “tiger”.  Tigers exhibit uncontrolled rage and have the ability to cause destruction to those around them.  Tigers believe that their outrageous actions should be forgiven without apology because “anger” is justification enough to break social contracts.  Tigers are scary.

Divorce/separation and its outcomes can bring out the tiger in us all.  When our world has been shattered, when we can’t envision a future, when we question the past… that’s when we are most unstable and at times explosive.  It’s during these spans of uncertainty that we rage against that which we cannot control.  And it feels good.  Our anger makes us powerful because it initiates a reaction from those around us.  And whether they cower in fear or meet us toe-to-toe for battle, we feel empowered.  Broken dishes and burned beds leave evidence of accomplishment.  And such a high can temporarily mute the feeling of impotence that is so often part of the grieving process.

But… is it worth it?  When I think of anger I am reminded of Mother Nature’s fury.  And while we marvel from afar at the awe-inspiring energy of a hurricane or the brute force of a tornado, what do they leave in their wake?  Broken (literally) homes, scarred and scared children and estranged family members.  In fact, amidst the destruction there is greater uncertainty and therefore additional cause for panic.

For some, it becomes a recurring habit to combat uncertainty with rage.  Thus, recovery from the initial destruction is impossible.  Others recognize the unhealthy cycle and seek more effective methods of emotional management.

I believe that part of a healthy divorce process involves taking inventory of one’s feelings and examining their accompanying trends (such trends might apply to your ex’s behavior as well).  Hating and hurting do not equal healing.  Sometimes a new perspective and/or tactic is necessary to rebuild and recover.


9 comments on “The Destructive Force of Anger

  1. backonmyown says:

    I appreciate your comments on anger. I think there is a time for it and then a time to let it go. I’m happy to say I’ve let it go. Unfortunately, my ex is just now expressing his. The sad thing is that he doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s angry even though he’s raging at everyone, including me. He recently threatened to sue me for writing a blog about the divorce. Interesting thing, though, I didn’t reciprocate. I just feel sad for him and wish life had turned out better for him. And I’m not in the least worried about his threat. You’re right about the destruction of unbridled anger. I fear his will finish him off. Sad. Thanks again, Tara. I enjoy your writing.

    • Thank you!

      Anger can be a hot topic and I know there are many who believe it’s a perfectly normal and healthy act to “release” it in an *angry* manner. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and I’ll probably write a lot more about the subject in the future.

      The truth is that I’m angry about something right now. And I don’t have to feel this way… The initial fuse has been extinguished. But… Right now, I like being angry. Part of me feels like I’m punishing the person who “caused the problem”. But, intellectually, I know better. The other party is innocent and it was my choice to react the way I did. I’m not hurting anyone but myself by holding a grudge. And although I know this, I still struggle to let it go.

      “Brain over biology” is no easy task 😉

  2. Lori says:

    What d’ya got about dealing with anger that is caused by dealing with passive aggressives? Just got into another fight with my ex which I started out as a simple attempt to address an issue, he followed by stating he was actively ignoring me, and I ended up rather angry. I JUST WANT TO SOLVE A PROBLEM. I can’t get ANY discussion. I suppose I just make the decisions and shut out his complaints?

    • In my experience, “discussion” can be too much to ask. Can you pare down the interaction to fact-based email? Sometimes it’s necessary to keep the “box” small in order to maintain effectiveness in the communication.

      “I’ve identified problem X and propose solution Y. Does this work for you? Please let me know by 6pm on Thursday. If I don’t hear from you, I will proceed with my backup plan Z.”

      • Lori says:

        I have tried variations on that, and will have to try again. It’s horrific to be in this situation and I’m finding that the inability to solve via discussion really fuels my anger. About not-very-big things. What happens when there is a big thing? And then I worry about the big things, so somehow I have to fix this, right! But I can’t, he will NOT. He CAN NOT engage to solve things.

        • If he won’t work with you, maybe you just need to accept that as the fact and conduct yourself accordingly. There’s no sense raging against the things you can’t control. If he makes a bad choice, it will come back to bite him regardless of how angry you are or aren’t.

        • Lori says:

          The question becomes how to do that when he wreaks havoc on my life by failing to show up or shifting plans. At which point are you doing things for your kids relationship with their father and at which point are you a doormat that is run over. I am a naturally accommodating person who can figure out how to get something to happen, and he uses this. I don’t mind solving these dilemmas, in fact, it’s much of what I do for work. I don’t get the ‘don’t be angry!’ and ‘don’t let him do that!’ because I can’t find a way to stop him and I have to live with the turmoil.

        • There are so many lines that can be drawn: being too aggressive, being too passive, fighting for the kids’ best interest, crossing boundaries, etc. And there is no shortage of opinions and advice to be prescribed on the topic. I think the answer lies in finding a place of peace within yourself and acting from there. If that means being accomodating, then that’s what’s best for you. If you’re in a position to exert resistance and “re-train” the relationship, then that’s the appropriate thing.

          I have a friend who is a ‘doormat’ most of the time, and willingly so. Because that’s truly the best thing for everyone involved.

  3. […] few weeks ago, I wrote about the destructive force of anger.  I find anger to be a rather fascinating emotion to study, yet a damaging one to […]

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