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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

How to Safely Express
Safely Anger!

by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

One of the most challenging relationship skills for anybody to master is how to safely and effectively express their anger. For most people, even acknowledging that they’re angry is hard enough. But to actually express their anger, well that’s even more unimaginable. So without the comfort or the skills to express one’s anger, many people have no other alternative but to swallow their anger, deny their anger, or turn their anger against them in one form or another of such destructive emotional states or behaviors as depression, alcoholism, affairs, or any other form of self-sabotage.

Because people are more comfortable stifling rather than expressing their anger very few people are practiced at how to directly express their anger. As a result, most people deal with their anger by: 1.) Denying their anger, 2.) Disowning their anger, 3.) Projectile vomiting their anger on another person, and/or 4.) Acting out behaviorally their anger.

I’m sure you recognize the first method of coping with your own anger—denial. Your partner comes up to you and says, “What’s the matter, is anything bothering you.” And of course you reply through clenched teeth, “No nothing at all. Why do you ask?” And so it goes, your partner probes and prods but you don’t budge an inch. You’re mad as hell, but, for whatever reason, you’re not going to talk about it!

The second method of coping, disowning your anger is much less obvious. Disowning your anger is a form of denial where you aren’t even connected to feeling angry but somehow, someway it gets expressed indirectly through one’s tone of voice, facial expression, sarcastic manner, or as a hidden message embedded in a seemingly innocent comment. So how can you tell that you’re expressing angry feelings if you’ve disowned the feeling? Does your partner ever feel like they’ve been cut off at the knees but claims they never saw the weed whacker with which you cut them down to size? Does you partner look in the mirror trying to figure out how to pull the knife out of their back that you have surgically implanted but don’t know how you put it there? Does your partner feel beaten down by you, no matter how calm and serene you appear on the surface? When those conditions exist between two people, it’s an easy bet that if one or both of you are feeling the target of the other person’s anger, then it’s likely that anger is leaking out into the relationship.

The third method of coping with your anger—projectile vomiting, is something that we all recognize. This is a style of expressing anger whereby the person expressing their feelings does so by dumping them on the object of their anger. When one projectile vomits their anger they mix in to the batch judgment, disrespect, blame, demeaning, diminishment, and shame. The goal of projectile vomiting is similar to that of scorched earth policy where nothing is left standing, no prisoners are taken.

The fourth method of coping for expressing anger—acting out behaviorally, is also known as passive aggressive behavior. This form of expressing anger takes the form of just joking or forgotten promises that are never kept or practical jokes that feel more mean spirited than funny.

The question that you must be asking yourself is what is the best way to express your anger. Although anger is a feeling as normal as love and joy, it’s often treated like a three-headed monster. It’s likely that you’ve been taught that anger is an inappropriate emotion. As a result, it’s likely that you’re most comfortable when anger is kept out of your relationships. But it’s important that you give you and your partner permission to express your anger rather than act it out or suppress it altogether.

Let me offer you the following suggestions. Just remember, although expressing your anger is never easy it can be easier for you if you follow some simple do’s and don’t’s.

Bridge Builder’s Checklist
1.) Commit to having clearly defined limits that distinguish the expression of anger from the acting out of rage and violence.
2.) Commit to honoring your partner’s dignity.
3.) Commit to focusing on how you were affected by the event or circumstance that precipitated your anger.
4.) Commit to focusing on behavior rather personality.
5.) Commit to expressing yourself in I statements rather than You statements.
6.) Commit to not blaming your partner.
7.) Commit to not attacking your partner.
8.) Commit to not belittling your partner.
9.) Commit to not throwing old history at your partner.
10.) Commit to not editorializing about the quality of your partner’s character.
11.) Commit to not interpreting your partner’s motivation.
12.) Commit to not analyzing your partner’s character.
13.) Commit to not using the words of your partner against them.
14.) Commit to not issuing ultimatums.

For more information about how to resolve conflict in your relationships read my free online book, Making Molehills Out of Mountains.



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