Assessing Anger: How Anger Can Become Addictive in Relationships
Part 3: The Meaning of Anger in Relationships
In two previous posts about the meaning of anger, I wrote about anger as a stand-in emotion and as an expression of unmet needs.
In this post, I will address anger as a seductive, addictive and dangerous habit.
Fueling the Fire of Anger
Anger is often an expression of failed expectations. We expect that our loved ones will not disappoint us, fail us or let us down.
Apparently anger makes us feel bad, but in reality, it supplies us with an endless amount of energy and it feels better than being impotent to changing our partners. At the same time, anger masks our own hypocritical, imperfect and unpredictable selves.
As we start using anger as a reaction, we may soon become addicted to the seductive illusion of the power it generates.
Anger is an emotion that we become used to expressing when we feel weak, sad or afraid. It is useful, because it can intimidate and garner attention. It works for a while, but it is a dangerous habit. Anger can backfire and make us physically ill.
Anger as a Reaction and Reacting to Anger
From the perspective of brain science and biology, anger is an automatic reaction generated in the primitive parts of our brain, before we developed the ability to think and use logic.
Contrasted with our ability to problem solve, anger is easy and efficient. Problem solving takes time, effort, commitment. It’s a challenge.
When your brain becomes used to anger, rage and resentment, it feels like a relief to “tell it like it is,” to be “honest about your feelings” and “to say what is in your heart.”
If your expression of anger makes you feel relief, you are hooked. Like an addiction, it feels good while you are at it, but there are severe consequences with extended use.
Your partner, as a recipient of your anger, also begins to exhibit similar charged reactions and the cycle of negativity now involves two brains connected to each other in mutually stimulating ways. The more you both repeatedly use these reactions, the harder they are to change as they only serve to reinforce one another.
With practice, patience, compassion, motivation and introspection, you can make a plan and change your brain. If your reaction changes, your partner’s brain will change too. The cycle can be broken.