Tuesday, February 26, 2008

displaced anger

This week for class the assignment is to read the chapter titled Dealing with Emotions. It's a fairly simple chapter and mostly skims over several main emotions and how we deal with them. But one point that was made about anger really stood out for me.

First let me say that there is nothing wrong with being angry. The text defines anger as "a feeling of extreme displeasure, usually brought about by intereference with our needs or desires." Obviously we all have different needs and desires. so what may make one person angry wouldn't necessarily bother someone else. How we express anger is when we can get into trouble.

One expression of anger that can cause problems is when we displace anger. For example, let's say your spouse comes home from work and is angry at their boss for some reason. But throughout the evening they say and do things that directs their anger towards you. This is displaced anger.

The most interesting thing mentioned in this chapter was that we displace anger toward those with whom we have the strongest relationships. We do this because in these relationships we "subconsciously trust they will accept us the way we are." Unfortunately, it's because of this displaced anger that we destroy our closest relationships. Hubby comes home mad at the boss and takes it out on the wife. The wife has been dealing with rowdy kids all day and takes it out on the husband. Each gets sick of the other and the relationship spirals downward.

What if one or the other or both realized that, though the anger is displaced, it's because their relationship is strong enough and they trust them enough to be themselves? In other words, if RL came home obviously angry about something, taking it out on me, instead of getting upset and defensive myself, I could help him place the anger where it belongs. Recognizing that I am his closest ally, I could respond with a more understanding attitude and help him work through his anger, instead of escalating the problem further with my own.

I'm not talking about tolerating abusive behavior. I'm simply suggesting that maybe one of the things that destroys so many relationships could be turned around. Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Maybe if we knew our relationship means so much to our spouse and they trust us so much to be themselves, we could show them the patience and understanding they need to help them work through their anger in ways that build our relationships rather than tearing them down.

12 comments:

XI Summit said...

Quite appropriate, Queenie and I have been spectators to a marriage that will soon desolve because of a verbally abusive husband who displaces his anger (and boy does he have anger!) on his wife. Has done so for over a decade. And freely does it in front of the children and other family. And he's unapologetic because 'she deserves it'. Nasty stuff.

Phyllis Renée said...

XI, that sounds a lot more severe than what I'm talking about

Scarlett Wanna Be said...

Big Daddy gets mad at objects. He is one of those that will kick the bed right after he stubs his toe on it. One time, I saw him tying to break some wire cutters, I said, "Big Daddy! Count to 10!" He collected himself and went about his business. He never NEVER puts my in front of his anger, but I have from time to time, encouraged him to use his words instead of just breaking something.

I do find it funny, but I think it needs to level out if we have kids. Not everyone learns how to cope with anger efficiently. Big D's family was very laid back and never complained. I can see how it is hard for him to understand that you can verbalize your frustration. If we have kids, I want them to be able to express any issues and not just kick a pillow or something.

Scarlett Wanna Be said...

I should add...since I am talking about Big D...I have been know to....well...twist his nipples when I get mad. I guess we both have issues.

Desmond Jones said...

I think you're right on target here, Phyllis.

I've had my own anger issues. I don't know that our marriage was ever seriously endangered because of them, but I do know that I needed to change. And my life, and my family, went a lot better once I did. But I still wonder what role my anger 'back in the day' had in a couple of our kids' struggles. . .

Eph 4:26 has been one of the big keys for me - "Be angry, but sin not." The anger isn't the problem; there are times when anger is the completely appropriate response to a wrong situation. But the trick is, in my anger, to keep from sinning - don't get abusive, don't do violence (whether physical or psychological) to another person, out of my anger. Anger can be a great motivator, but the thing is, to let it motivate me for good and not for evil. . .

FTN said...

Phyllis, it sounds like you are able to deal well with your husband's anger in a very kind manner.

I'm not quite that sensitive about it sometimes. If my wife is directing that "displaced anger" at me just because she's had a bad day or is moody about something else, I call her on it and tell her to quit it. I tell her if she can't think of a reason to be mad at me, to stop treating me like she's mad at me. I can be understanding if she's upset about something, but I don't put up with her treating me badly for no reason.

Maybe I'm becoming TOO assertive in my old age.

And this is the third blog today where I've written about assertiveness. Weird.

Phyllis Renée said...

Scarlett - I'm glad Big D doesn't take his anger out on you and that you are able to calm him down. But, yeah, breaking things isn't the best way to handle things. That could get expensive, not to mention a not so good influence on children. Twisting nipples, though? Ouch!!

Desmond - I'm thinking the older I get the better I am at handling anger. It's always difficult, though, looking back and wondering what if.

FTN - Oh, I absolutely agree. I don't stand for mistreatment when RL is mad at someone/something else. But it does take some patience, gritting my teeth, and biting my tongue to approach the situation in a way that comes across as firm yet understanding.

The Silent Male said...

I think its great of you to see this and spread the word. I think you are absolutely right about the damages of displaced anger and what it really means.

Sailor said...

Very interesting, and I think you're on target. I personally probably go to much the other way; I bottle up, and it comes out rather sideways, at least as far as the family is concerned; I get quiet, and tend to withdraw.

I'm thinking maybe a bit of explanation? "I'm pissed at XYZ, not you, so don't take my quietness personally."

hmmmm.

Thanks Phyllis, for a thought-provoking post.

XI Summit said...

Not nearly a severe as you'd think. My tolerance for such things is, shall we say, exceptionally low so perhaps this came out as worse than reality. Having experienced verbal abuse for much of my formative years and having studied studies on the effects I'm a bit militant on the subject. Just ask the in-laws about it (then again, it was two decades ago and perhaps they've forgotten).

Unfortunately while verbal abuse can leave scars just as deep as physical abuse there is no way to police it. You know, the old sticks-and-stones lie. Thus it is that the verbal side lives and thrives unless checked somehow which is kinda difficult to force unless the victim leaves.

What was the topic again? Displaced anger? Oops, skirting the topic again. Sorry, I'm done ....

for a different kind of girl said...

I believe I can count myself as very lucky. My husband honestly never gets angry. I can't say he doesn't get frustrated or harbors some anger about situations in his day or whatever, but he never comes home and displays that with me and the children. He's so very mellow, and, I think, realizes that we're not the root of whatever is bothering him.

That being said, however, he's not the best at simply talking things through with me if he is having a bad day. He does carry some things internally longer than can be healthy.

Now as for me, I'm quite laid back as well, but I'm not entirely innocent of keeping frustrating experiences in check. If I realize I'm displacing my anger in the midst of some rant, I try to take it back into check, because my husband isn't likely to call me on it, and I know I don't owe him the rant I'm laying out. In the end, I really try to think of it in a 'big picture' scope, and find that most of what I deal with on a daily or weekly basis really isn't worth the anger it could generate if I let it stew.

Your class sounds very interesting. I loved this kind of stuff when I was in school.

Melissa said...

Oh, this is good!