Anger Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships by Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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going round in circles trying to avoid being angry

Byron tried hard to please but his anger got in the way

Byron’s anger terrified him. He did everything he could to avoid feeling it and showing it when it washed over him. He wanted to die of shame every time he saw his girlfriend’s fear and distress. He didn’t intend to hurt or scare her. She was the one good thing in his life and he would do anything to keep her. Byron’s anger was inexplicable to him. He didn’t feel it coming on and by the time it was evident, it was too late. Beverly was already anticipating something awful. Anger turned to shame and self-castigation. Byron flogged himself with unmerciful comments resulting in bleeding sores all over his self-esteem.

He longed to make her smile at him the way she used to when they first got together. Making her happy was the only thing he lived for. To please her meant he was worthy of living, breathing the same air and being loved. The greater the focus on taking care of Beverly, the greater the anger, fear and despair that it wasn’t working perfectly.

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Anger about being angry put massive pressure on Byron to be unselfish

Byron was angry with himself for not being able to make Beverly happy all the time. He was angry that he may be responsible for the fate of the relationship. He was angry that he couldn’t shoulder the burden without his own feelings getting in the way. Byron was being squeezed like a concertina. There was pressure on one side to be the ultimate performing act, giving solid entertainment like a movie that could be replayed for the same laughs over and over again. The other source of pressure was to be unselfish, have no needs, and live only on Beverly’s smiles.

The greater the pressure to be nice the more angry Byron got

Imagine Byron’s pressure valve having to be put to these unrealistic tests day in and day out. They literally squeezed the life out of him. His very existence was at stake. When the pressure reached it’s limit, it gave way, and he would feel angry and disappointed in himself. He would try even harder to control it, by denying his feelings and needs. That just made the pressure rise even more quickly with every new cycle of denial and suppression, making his worst fears become imminently predictable events – the dreaded loss of a loved one. No amount of alcohol, music, or slavish work could soothe him or take the pressure off.

Byron’s anger was born of past guilt and helplessness to protect loved ones

Byron grew up having lost a great many family members and friends. No one ever spoke about the death of his brother from a random gang shooting. No one supported him or helped him deal with the loss of his best friend from cancer, or his class mate who took an overdose. The passing of grandparents whom he was close to never seemed to be spoken of. An aunt was killed by a hit and run driver, but once again the family just observed the funeral rites and kept silent about their anger and grief. Byron’s sense of helplessness and lack of control got turned into anger. That anger was the driving force behind taking steps to prevent other loved ones dying on him. He decided that he would protect loved ones by becoming their saviors and guardian angels. It would go some way towards alleviating the guilt he felt for not having done the same for those who died.

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Failure to save his loved ones made Byron turn the angry gun on himself

When Byron couldn’t be the ideal savior and guardian angel he turned his anger towards himself. Full of self-loathing he tried to focus the anger on himself rather than let it spill out and destroy important relationships. If he could suffer and martyr himself to the cause of making Beverly happy then he may deserve and gain her approval, love and acceptance. If he could absorb all the badness and evil around them, she would be clean, light and happy. Killing off any signs of his needs and desires would make him saintly and worthy. The sacrifice would be worth it.

Anger at himself was Byron’s way of trying to do penance

There was one flaw in his plan. Trying to live up to sainthood was impossible. He was a human being with a right to have a life. Ignoring that right made his life force unhappy. That unhappy part of him wasn’t going to just lie there and take it. The life force in Byron protested. The protest came in the form of anger and resentment about the severe nature of his sacrifice. A full scale war broke out between his survival instinct and the saintly path that threatened to destroy his life.

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Dealing with his grief helped Byron let go of anger and be a good partner

Byron’s internal war stirred up anger and jeopardized his relationship with Beverly. He was afraid that his careful plan was going to fail despite his best efforts at self-sacrifice. Fear brought Byron into therapy. He worked on all the anger and grief that he had stored up over the years. He let go of the guilt that had driven him to unreasonable sacrifices which didn’t fulfill his hopes. Byron learned to forgive himself for not being a savior. He now had room and permission to see himself for the lovable person he was. The pressure he put on himself was lifted, taking away the cause of his outbursts of anger. Byron and Beverly are well on their way to a comfortable connection that is mutually rewarding.