It’s natural to feel angry sometimes. You can feel angry when someone cuts you off on the highway, had a bad day at the office or discovered someone scratched your car with their keys. Often times, anger in this form is easily managed and diffused because your self-awareness knows that getting angry serves you very little purpose and usually doesn’t accomplish much, so you instead resort to reasoning.
However, there’s also something called suppressed anger which is something much different and a lot deeper. Suppressed anger is that hidden voice that you can’t readily notice because it’s a form of unexpressed anger that built up and developed over the years, possibly created by a series of traumatic experiences (ie childhood abuse, bullying, family discord).
It’s difficult to recognize your suppressed anger because it’s kind of like that tiny cavity inside your tooth. You don’t notice it getting bigger and bigger for a while until it begins to really hurt! Suppressed anger is usually at it’s most painful point during your adult years…that’s when it ripens.
If not acknowledged and unprocessed, suppressed anger can be problematic. It can lead to aggressive behavior and abusive tendencies. No one likes to be recognized for being abusive. It’s an uncomfortable feeling like someone accusing you for stealing something when you know you didn’t. The truth is, when you’re abusive, you do actually steal something. You rob the other person of their dignity and rights. In an abusive relationship, there’s something called the abuse cycle. It’s a pattern of behaviors that can take weeks or months to complete a full cycle.
Here’s a snippet about the abuse cycle from my upcoming book, Living with the Dragon:
- Tension – For unexplained reasons, tension at home can build up. You become irritable and quick to lash out over trivial things such as laundry, dirty dishes, or noise in the house. The tension builds up and for the victim it feels like he/she is “walking on eggshells” and must be careful of what he/she says and does. There’s an aura of fear and unpredictability created. Good news can easily be drowned out by this tension. Stress builds up and soon the entire household recognizes that they need to tread lightly around you.
- Violence – This is the stage when you pop. You rage, yell, shout, snap, insult, punch, slap, beat, put-down, or show others “who’s boss.”
- Honeymoon – After your storm has passed and the victims concede to the abuse, you feel guilty inside. You feel ashamed of how hurt you made the other person feel and you apologize. You treat the victims kindly, gently, and even laugh with them to lighten the mood. You might even minimize the violence or deny it to convince the victim that nothing is wrong. This is the stage when the abuser promises change, but the promises don’t last.
- Normalcy – During this stage, life resumes to its ordinary state. Dishes are done without complaint, the kids are fed, and laughter once again resumes. However, due to unprocessed thoughts and lack of proper treatment, this stage of normalcy won’t last. Eventually, tension will build up again and restart the abuse cycle.
HERE’S SOME SIGNS THAT YOU’VE BEEN ABUSIVE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP:
- Name Calling – Do you aggressively call your partner names such as “idiot”, “stupid”, “bitch” or “loser?” If you do call her this, do you deny it and say that you’re only teasing when you’re really trying to make the other person feel worthless?
- Use of Imperatives – Do you assertively use the word “should” to your partner? When you use the word “should” to express what you want, you’re really trying to control the other person. (And stop using the excuse that “you want what’s best for them!” – that’s just a statement to convince yourself that you have good intentions.)
- “You should lose weight!”
- “You should listen to me!”
- “The woman should clean the house and cook.”
- “The man should make more money than the woman.”
- “The kids should do as they’re told!”
- “You should make love to me!”
- Use of Aggression – Do you raise your voice to get what you want or to make sure your point is obeyed? Do you slam cupboard doors to make sure people know that you’re angry and upset? Do you stomp your feet and slam doors? Punch the wall or throw things?
- Control – Do you feel insecure if your partner doesn’t text you back? And then do you get anxious and create stories inside your head and start an argument accusing your partner of not loving you? Do you get upset when she goes out with her friends? And do you start disliking her friends and judge her for the stories you make up, then demand that she no longer spends time with them?
- Guilt – After a while of any of the above behaviors, do you treat your partner kindly and lovingly? Do you feel guilty and want to take all the mean things you said back? Do you wish you had a do-over?
These are just merely a few examples of what being abusive is in a relationship. How do I know? Well, I’ve been abusive before. I can talk about it now because I sought support from therapists, but I couldn’t before. I learned I had to address my behaviors if I wanted to live a responsible, happier and more meaningful life.
One evening years ago when I sat down with a buddy of mine over sushi and openly told him that I was abusive to my ex, he looked away, cringed and shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He awkwardly said, “…oh…we don’t have to talk about this…”
I looked at him and adamantly said, “NO! I want to talk about this!”
And remember, you might just have one or a couple of these behaviors but that doesn’t get you off the hook! You still robbed the other person of their dignity. You may not have punched holes in walls or given someone a black eye, but it doesn’t mean you weren’t abusive. Having abusive behaviors sometimes, is still being abusive.
Own up to it. Be courageous and don’t hide from the shame because that just keeps adding to your suppressed anger. Let’s talk about anger and abuse more openly – let’s not hide from it because the more you hide from that discussion, the harder it is to get help for it.
Understanding and acknowledging your suffering is paramount to your healing. But the next steps afterwards are just as critical, and that is taking action and changing your behaviors.
Greatness awaits you when you take ownership of who you are and your actions!
Happy Saturday Readers!