I am so enjoying being in a relationship with someone where I can have conflict, express how I feel and then see deeper to the truth of so many fears that haunt me when I get close to anyone. The most important thing in our life and to our emotional and spiritual as well as physical health as I see it is the right to protest. We should be able to know when something affects us adversely and express that and take steps to do something about it and if its a case of someone hurting us or being insensitive then try to address it and in so doing we will learn a lot about the regard, esteem and respect the other person has for us and we for them.
If we have anxious attachment too though its important I have learned to be able to express to our partner or friends what it is that makes us anxious. I had an incident with my loved one last night where he said something that triggered my abandonment and then reacted badly when I reacted (or over reacted) and then I felt angry at his lack of empathy to my reaction. Knowing my history its fair enough that I was insecure and I know it is not always fair to take this out on others but a simple ability to say we are being triggered and ask for what we want and need is something very important.
It is something learned from the book Attached : The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love, where the authors recommend we be brave and take the risk to share as well as being aware when we have a ‘protest’ reaction that may not be healthy to the relationship, like cutting of contact or avoiding the issue due to our anxiety or anger being triggered. I have just ordered two other books on attachment and relationships as I find this kind of advice very useful to help grow love. It has seemed to work every time in the new relationship I am in and being able to say something hurt and have someone apologise feels so good as with my parents my Dad would never apologise, just walk away and laugh at my Mum and that would get her all steamed up. I also learned when I was upset or angry not to address it calmly as I was simply never shown or taught how to do this growing up.
In her book The Intimacy Struggle author Janet Woititz outlines some of the myths that adult children of alcoholics or emotionally neglectful families come to believe about relationships : that arguing or criticising others is not a sign of an ideal relationship due often to the way conflict was not handled well in our families and anger repressed there. Children in these families experience an angry climate where such feelings are never openly resolved, according to Woititz. Expressing anger in these families makes things worse. For example like me you may have been sent to your room when you were angry or a parent may just have thrown tantrums or things like my mother (I got hit several times by flying objects!!)
In such families we learn to rationalise away and deny our anger. And sadly repressed anger builds and becomes rage which scares us even more. We then feel both shame and terror about expressing angry feelings and fear we may lose control or even kill someone due to the fact we are sitting on power keg of years of repressed historical anger. Anger tat gets turned inward becomes depression and self hate, like me you may even become accident prone if you have repressed anger and fear of conflict or self expression.
We also tend to then fear others anger. For me the minute someone is angry with me I experience massive anxiety and abandonment depression. As my therapist expressed it a few weeks ago I feel not just destroyed but annihilated. From this position in my last relationship I would do anything to get my partner to not be angry and buckle under to his threats or not take on board things he may have been trying to address with me. Anger also then can lead us to reject or be rejected or say nasty words. We do not realise that love and anger can coexist in the relationship and in some relationships with partners who fear anger or have trouble expressing it we may be cut off and maybe even thrown out or rejected first.
Learning to express and resolve angry feelings as well as frustration and resentment over unmet needs is very important in any relationship, as is the ability to ‘fight fairly’. This means expressing how we feel and what we want and need without shaming or blaming or attacking our partner as well as working to understand their feelings and reactions to us. According to Woititz anger “needs to be recognised, acknowledged, talked over, understood and dissipated. It is important to realise that anger is an ever present, hidden issue in (our) relationships.”
Learning when anger is appropriate is very important to in relationships. According to author Gary Chapman there is righteous and unrighteous anger. At times we can be angry about something someone did when they did no wrong and then we need to own that, it may have been that a wound was triggered and our anger may seem inappropriate to others when they do not know our history. A loving partner should care about that, we should not be just told we need to ‘get over it’.
“Who is to say what is normal? You react according to your history, and when your reactions are put into perspective, you decide what is normal” according to Woititz. “Conflict does not mean if I win, you lose or if you win, I lose. We can respect each other and still not always perceive the world in the same way. We can be angry at each other, and still love each other.”
I read that last sentence and something in me still screams Nooo!!! But luckily lately I am realising it is true. Each time Scott and I have conflict lately we come back from it closer and stronger once we talk it through and own our part. He has never once cut me off or retaliated against me like my last partner used to sending me into the deepest abandonment depression. That same depression has been triggered by Scott at times but by expressing, containing in therapy and working through my feelings I have survived it each and every time and come out of each conflict far happier, stronger, lighter and way more grounded.
2 thoughts on “A place for conflict : on expressing and handling anger in relationships.”
this sounds so good! I am happy for you! Its so good you and scott can talk to one another so openly! xo
I truly is 🙂
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