Anger, Part 2

A client named “Al” was telling me that he was upset about a family situation. He had originally sought help, because his wife, “Sally”, was unhappy with him. By his own admission, he had made a long series of selfish decisions. The latest one was that, against her wishes, they would move across the country to northwest Indiana.

So, because Sally’s unhappiness was wearing on him, and he was feeling guilty, he wanted to learn to be sensitive to his wife’s needs.

But a more pressing problem recently arose that was causing great distress. Al and Sally had an adult daughter, “Zelda”, who recently died of an overdose. They were having a terrible time grieving her loss. To make matters worse, Zelda’s husband made it hard for Al and Sally to see the grandchildren.

Now, Al and Sally also have a son, “Chip”, who was never close to Al. Recently, Chip told his parents that he wanted some space from them. Al and Sally are angry; they think Chip blames them for Zelda’s death.

I suggested an idea to help them cope with their anger. The idea is this: except in the case of righteous anger, destructive anger is usually a by-product of another emotion. For example youngsters have a hard time describing difficult feelings, like worry and sadness. Even so, those feelings need to be expressed; and so, because young folks lack experience and the emotional vocabulary, they often express sadness or worry in the form of anger. That’s one way in which anger is a product of another emotion.

Another emotion can also lead to anger: that emotion is fear. Regarding Al’s anger about Chip’s announcement, I asked him what he was afraid of. He said, “Nothing; I’m angry that Chip would pull away just when we need each other.” After further discussions, Al realized he really was afraid of something, and he said that this was an “Aha” moment. In reflecting on his life, Al was seeing that so much of his selfish, controlling behavior was connected to fears of one kind or another.

It has been suggested by people far smarter than this writer, that fear is the source of all destructive emotions. You are invited to consider this for yourself. When you get angry, is the anger righteous? In other words, an appropriate reaction to human cruelty or injustice? Or are you angry because you fear something or other? Don’t answer just yet.

If you’re experiencing difficult feelings, the smart choice is to reach out. I’m around, and all you need to do is call 219-309-3928 for a free consultation. I’ll be honored if I can be of service.

Thanks for reading!