I HAVE TO PROTECT MYSELF
at all costs!
PREVIOUS: Anger Categories (#4)
SITE: “Anger, Integrity & Cooperation” (scroll to 6/5/12)
3. OTHER Anger-EXPRESSIONS (cont)
DIRECT cause: When we’re suddenly attacked, a primitive reaction is triggered of either fight / anger (need to be quick & hit hard) OR flight / fear (need speed & agility), with a boost of adrenaline giving power to muscles. When cornered, running away or giving in us usually judged by others as cowardly, so the initial fear reaction often becomes anger, allowing the defensive person to turn into the aggressor.
EXP: If Joe uses aggressive anger on a colleague & Sam reacts with
defensive anger, a loud argument is inevitable. Them if Sam switches to attacking Joe as a way to distract or get back at him, we get a see-saw effect, where the back-&-forthing becomes personal & the original point of the dispute is completely lost.
INDIRECT cause: On the other hand, wounded people who grew up being accused wrongly, made fun of, bullied…. tend to be automatically defensive, as a matter of course. Defensiveness (verbal or physical fists in the air) is used when feeling attacked – whether intended by someone or not – & comes from not being internally safe. It means we don’t experience the environment as benign & therefore react, as when:
• we feel compelled to protect our ego by justifying ourselves, as a way to push away feeling of guilt, insecurity, shame, or the fear that we really are wrong
• we take offense – too easily, too often – using anger to protect a ‘precious’ sensitive subject we have a vested interest in (a favorite person, prejudice or project….)
• we have an angry reaction to a button pushed, such as being accused wrongly, being ignored or made fun of, frustration, unfairness….
• we react to all communications are potentially ‘dangerous’ to our well-being (a bit of paranoia)
BTW: There is a climate of entitlement among many young people today, which some people assume represent self-esteem – but is not. An article by Fung Ming Chan notes: “….there are two variations of high self-esteem: one that is pure high self-esteem, & one that includes defensive behavior with an unrealistically positive manner. Researchers argue that it is defensiveness, not high self-esteem that was the cause of the negative behaviors,” referring to the talk given by Kathleen Hoffman and Traci Mann: “Understanding Negative Consequences of High Self-Esteem: The Role of Defensiveness.”
REALISTIC: This is when things are out of our control, such as when:
• a promise made to us is broken (we don’t get the raise)
• a hope that’s dashed (rain on the day we plan a picnic)
• there’s endless delay in reaching an important goal or need
• when something we looked forward to turns out not to be as good, attractive or satisfactory as expected…..
If any of these happen too often, from people or situations we depend on, we can become very depressed &/or angry. As children many of us were stuck with continually disappointing parents, so we’re more sensitive to even slight losses now. Unfortunately, ACoAs with this background tend to find & stay with PPT which repeat this patterns, instead of walking away & looking for more reliable options.
UNREALISTIC: This anger comes from an unmet expectation or wish:
— which was never verbalized & therefore not agreed to (Maria pictures & plans for a romantic event, assuming the Juan will fulfill the fantasy without having any idea what she’s hoping for! so he doesn’t, because he’s not normally romantic & legitimately not a mind-reader. That makes her very angry – at him, instead of taking responsibility for not asking.)
— which was verbalized but not agreed to (person A says WE are going to do or not do something, but person/group B is silent, which leads A to assume they agree, when B actually doesn’t, & so they don’t do it – or sabotage – what A expected)
• Unrealistic disappointment-anger can come from making judgments or assuming rules about how things should be done or not done, that are not met by a specific person or group we’re involved in. Judgments come —
— from a sense of moral superiority, as if we know what’s best for someone else (“No daughter of mine will even marry a ___ / Of course you’ll be better off going to that ___ / Our family only votes ____”)
— from a need to control our environment to feel safer (“Al-Anon meeting should always be helpful / the speaker should stick to the topic….”). Either way, it causes trouble for everyone.
This is a cold fire that started as accumulated anger toward someone or something the hater feels is totally evil & totally undeserving of compassion or forgiveness. They see themselves as innocent victims, & there may have been a time when they were – but may not be any more.
Their rage has never been processed & resolved, & in the form of obsessive resentment, it can go on forever. They vow to despise the offender, often thinking about ways to punish him/her, & sometimes they do.
If they can’t revenge themselves on the original perpetrator, they find other opportunities in the world to vent their bitterness. They create a world of enemies to fight, attacking with great vigor & enthusiasm. However, this hatred causes serious damage over time. Haters can’t let go or get on with life. Their become hard & miserable, in a narrow, rigid existence.
NEXT: Anger Categories (Part 6)