Synopsis: This mini-love-lessons looks at what anger does to love; love constructive, destructive and neutral anger; internalized, suppressed and repressed anger; the Teakettle understanding; anger’s deeper dynamics; anger’s big secret; and ends with “love over anger” and other things you can do about anger problems.
What Anger Does to Love
Anger can destroy your love relationships! It can and often does bring an end to what otherwise could become healthy, lasting love. This happens with marriages, families, lovers, parent and child relationships, truly love-filled friendships and all other forms of love relationship. Furthermore, it can sabotage a person’s healthy, constructive self-love. Those love relationships which are not fully destroyed by anger are often damaged, reduced, made more limited, hobbled, slowed, wounded, made more emotionally distant and generally made less than they could have been, at least for a time, sometimes for a long time.
On the other hand, there are love relationships which handle episodes of anger quite well and even make improvements in the relationship by way of anger. Sometimes, in anger, things are brought out that need to be dealt with which would not have been revealed but for the participants getting angry. Sometimes the venting of anger leads to a useful reduction in stress and strain in a love relationship. It is anger that sometimes gives people the power to face and deal with the hardest and most difficult problems effecting a love relationship.
Even in those cases where anger is assistive, it still can be harmfully tension producing and dissonance causing. Some people think there are almost always better ways to handle difficulties than with or through anger. Learning and practicing non-angry, powerful and productive ways to handle difficulties, solve problems and make advancements in a love relationship usually takes a concentrated and sustained mutual effort. Most of those who make that effort are very glad they did because they appear to get far better results in their love relationships than do those who behave with frequent or intense anger.
Love Destructive, Love Constructive and Love Neutral Anger
Ask yourself these questions. When you get angry with a loved one, do you aim your anger at that person? Do you do anger by way of demeaning, degrading, denouncing, condemning, putting your loved ones down, calling them derogatory names and otherwise acting to undermine their sense of worth and value? If you do, you are likely to be engaging in strong, anti-love and love destructive behavior. When you are angry with a loved one, do you engage in threatening behavior? All forms of threatening usually are very love destructive. When angry at a loved one, do you become physically hurtful, harmful or controlling? If you do, the result may be extremely love destructive. A general rule is ‘never touch a loved one when angry’ and, therefore, ‘make all touch love constructive’.
Love relationships only can withstand so many strong, anti-love actions. Are you aware that showing intense anger at a loved one is, more often than not, an anti-love action? Are you also aware that frequently showing anger at a loved one, and infrequently showing love, can be just as destructive. Both the frequency and the intensity of anger must be considered. If the number of anti-love actions exceeds the number of pro-love actions for too long, the love relationship is likely to be seriously damaged or destroyed. With each anti-love anger episode, relationship recovery become less likely. Anti-love actions, born of anger, can be among the most destructive of all anti-love actions. If the anti-love actions, born of anger, are more powerful than the pro-love actions the love relationship is almost sure to be badly damaged.
Not all anger is love destructive in a love relationship, but a much more of it is destructive than most people realize. There are ways for anger to be love-constructive in love relationships, and also for anger to just not have much effect on the love in a love relationship. Actively demonstrated anger against a loved one often can easily become one of the most love ruining kinds of behavior a person can do. Some people vent their anger at the universe, or at substitute targets, but do not use it to attack or act against a loved one. That type of active demonstration of anger sometimes can look quite frightening, but might not be otherwise harmful to the love relationship itself.
Most acute anger in a love relationship means that, prior to the anger, someone experienced strong, emotional hurt, possibly considerable fear and probably mounting frustration. One or both people also may have a desire for those feelings, and the things that brought them on, to go away or change and for things to be better. Contradictory though it seems, it also is likely the angry person hungers to receive a dose of well demonstrated, healing love despite their current anger. That can assist the ‘making up’ process.
Internalized, Suppressed and Repressed Anger
Outwardly expressed anger, frequently causes or triggers arguments, fights, retaliation, desires for vengeance, emotional distancing or debilitating fear and physical distancing and escape. Does that mean that you should hold your anger in and not let it show? No, because repressed, suppressed and internalized anger can be even more love destructive than outwardly expressed anger. Anger held in can turn into or exacerbate stress illnesses like strokes and heart attacks, or cause neurochemical imbalances resulting in irrational swings in mood, irritability, sleep and appetite disorder, and even serious depression and anxiety problems. Anger held in also tends to result in anger leaking out in the form of passive/aggressive retaliation. That tends to insidiously poison love relationships. To not let anger damage or destroy your love relationships it helps to understand how anger works and what can be done about it.
The Teakettle Understanding
One way to understand anger is to think of a teakettle full of increasing and expanding pressurized steam. If the steam does not vent the teakettle will explode and be destroyed. People who do not vent their strong anger may one day blow up and spew their anger in all directions, and then break down and be very dysfunctional. If people hold in their anger to well, for too long, it may turn into serious depression. That is something like the teakettle blowing out its bottom and collapsing. Another thing that happens to people who hold in there anger too much and too long is they develop a stress related, physical illness. That is a little like a teakettle developing metal fatigue and structural failure at the molecular level.
Arguing with an angry, venting person often is like feeding the fire under the teakettle. It just makes the teakettle have more to vent. Frequently trying to reason and explain to an angry, venting person also just can feed their fire.
Another thing not to do is go stand in front of the venting teakettle spout. If you do you just will get scalded and, therefore, hurt a lot. Likewise, getting right in front of an angry, venting person just may get you hurt or even harmed.
Of course, lots of people faced with an angry, venting person let the teakettle dynamics take them over, and it becomes like two teakettles venting at each other which, of course, does nobody any good.
The best thing to do is to stay out of the stream of steam, and see if you can find a way to turn the fire off, and let the teakettle cool off. Getting the teakettle away from the fire and then cooled off also can help. Then you may be able to deal with it. To help an angry person get away from a ‘fire’ source, let them finish their venting and after that cool down which usually works pretty well. Until then they may be like a teakettle that’s too hot to touch. Loving listening, and not adding anything but supportive caring words may help them cool down faster.
Anger’s Deeper Dynamics
When you get angry it means you felt powerless or insufficiently powerful first, if only for an instant. That triggered your emergency power system which gave you the emergency power we call anger. If you were sufficiently powerful in a situation from the start, you would not get angry. You would handle the situation in an ordinary way, using an ordinary amount of your powers and methods for handling situations in which you desire some change. It is only when you perceive your ordinary powers, skills and methods as insufficient to make something change, that your emergency power comes on and gives you the power of anger.
The power of anger can be very big and incredibly quick. The problem is that it often is very clumsy and full of backfire potential, plus it is not useful for fixing things that are intricate and delicate. Anger is somewhat like a sledgehammer. You would not want to use it to try to fix a broken watch. Thus, anger frequently is counterproductive for fixing love relationship problems which often are intricate and delicate.
Anger’s Big Secret
Did you know that the more often a person feels angry the more powerless (weak & inadequate?) a person feels in their own life. The truly powerful seldom get angry because they just don’t need the clumsy, emergency power called anger very often. Sometimes the truly powerful use fake anger because it is much less clumsy and more manageable than real anger. Otherwise, the truly powerful use their other strengths to get things done and to make the changes they desire. Thus, it is that anger can be seen as indicating pre-existing or underlying weakness. The samurai warriors knew this when they put forth the principal in their code “first to anger, first to die”. They understood that excellence in fighting required being free of the clumsiness and blindness that occurs with anger.
Love Over Anger
The more you develop your skills in using the incredible power of love, the less you will need anger to provide power in your life. The more you develop any and all other skills for human relating, the less you will need anger. Anger will always be there, available if you really need it, sort of like a spare tire, but it best not be something you rely on or use frequently.
If you have a chronic anger problem make an act of healthy self-love and get yourself into an anger management therapy program with a good therapist. If you and a spouse or other loved one keep having destructive, anger episodes interacting with each other, get to a good couples or family therapist who can help you with the teamwork that replaces anger interactions.
There is a lot more to learn about the relationship of anger and love but hopefully this will give you a good base. Other mini-love-lessons having to do with love and anger can be found at this site. You might want to look at “Bull Wrestling, Bull Dancing and Love Quarrels”, “Destroyers of Love – The 7 Big D’s”, “Difficult Topics: A Love-Centered Way to Approach and Broach Them All” and “Touch Only with Love: an Anti-violence Tool”.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
♥ Love Success Question
Who taught and/or modeled how to be angry for you, and do you really want to be like them?