The Damage of Anger in Our Relationships

When I was a camp counselor, various stories were told at the end of meal time. These stories were meant to stimulate conversations for later, when kids and their counselor returned to their cabins for the night.

The following story hit me hard, so I’ve never forgotten it.
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“There once was a girl with a very bad temper.

The girl’s father wanted to teach her a lesson, so he gave her
a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper
she must hammer a nail into their wooden fence.

On the first day the girl had driven 25 nails into the fence. “This is kind of fun”, she told her father. “But by the time I’m done hammering, I can’t remember why I was so mad!”

Over the next few weeks, as she began to control her temper,the number of nails she hammered into the fence gradually dwindled.

Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all. She became so proud of herself and she couldn’t wait to tell her father.

Pleased, her father suggested that she now pull out one nail for each day that she could hold her temper.

The days passed and the girl was finally able to go back to her father and tell him that she had pulled out all the nails.

Very gently, the father took his daughter by the hand and led her to the fence.

“You have done well, my daughter”, he smiled. “But look at the all the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.”

The little girl listened carefully as her father continued to speak.

“When you say things in anger, you leave a scar, just like these that have been left by the nails. Even if you say you are sorry, the wound will still be there.”   ~anonymous   

Later, I came to realize why it had special meaning for me. Unlike the girl in the story, my anger was used as a defense-mechanism – to protect me from my critical family. I learned, unconsciously, that anger made me feel stronger – People backed off!  It became so automatic that I didn’t even notice the damage I was causing.

But like so many of our childhood coping skills, I couldn’t even turn it off in circumstances that didn’t involve my family.

So when I heard this fable, I woke up.  I had to become aware of anger’s purpose for me.  I learned that my defenses were not who I was – they are coping skills. I had to decide that I didn’t want to be that way anymore – after all, I was no longer a child – and I learned, instead, to cope with the underlying feelings. I taught myself that being sad, confused or scared, were “okay”.

If anger is expressed without awareness, it will damage all of your relationships. Take the time to learn to communicate effectively; journal to learn to understand your feelings; get a book about Assertive Communication.

Things to Know About the Teenage Brain

Worth Reading – From Off The Web!

dreamstime_m_211796Behavior makes sense when we understand what causes it, and the most effective adult responses become clearer when the nature of adolescent development is revealed.

The brain is a great place to start. Adolescence poses unique neurobiological circumstances that can help to put teens’ behaviors into perspective. Understanding these aspects of adolescent growth will help us maintain an open stance so that we can build effective, authentic relationships with our teens.
Fortunately, adolescent brain research continues to evolve and give us answers about why teens do what they do.

So why do teens act the way they do?

dreamstime_m_41026164Reason #1: Their prefrontal cortex is still developing.

Longitudinal studies on adolescent brains tell us that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until at least age 25! The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, organizing, and synthesizing all the information coming into our brain and figuring out what to do with it in goal directed behavior. Many of the behaviors most typically associated with teenagers –  poor judgment, lack of planning and foresight and ineffective problem solving—are heavily influenced by the prefrontal cortex’s immaturity.

REASON #2: Their mastery of emotional-interpretation is just starting to develop.

Continue reading

Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.

 

Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (www.lifelinecounseling.org).

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert

Creating Trust in a Relationship

Worth reading! From Off the Web!

“I never dreamed he would cheat on me!” 

AngryCoupleSilloeutte

Love may be intoxicating, but trust is what makes it safe. Trust is based on a shared understanding about what each person in the relationship expects of the other.

The wise couple develops an explicit, concrete agreement about what is and is not okay in terms of interactions with, and especially attractions to, people outside their relationship. When they have absolute confidence that the other person will stick with the agreement, they each relax and trust.

Here is How to Negotiate a Healthy Couple Contract:

  • Be Open About Your Expectations
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Read the rest HERE:

Creating Trust in a Relationship  By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.