How do you have healthy boundaries around anger? This slogan was brought to my attention the other day, "It's okay to be mad, but it's not okay to be mean."
They likely have childhood experiences around injustice or being treated unfairly. For example, childhood abuse or trauma doesn't have to go to a certain extreme. It could just be that you grew up in a house where you always felt things were unfair. Maybe you felt like your sister always got all the attention in the family, and you got so preoccupied with thinking about that that you have a "trigger" around things like justice. It all changes the lens through which we view things.
Another thing that can cause us to be angry is if we have a lot of anxiety. When people have a lot of anxiety, they get into a fight or flight response quicker than others. If you tend to go toward the fight response, then you might find you have an anger management problem. That's stemming from the fact that you have a considerable amount of anxiety. You might obsess over things, or you can't let things go. Or you're constantly in this fear state and it doesn't take much to push you over the edge.
A third situation where you might be dealing with a lot of anger either in yourself or in someone else is if you or they have a lot of entitlement. If you feel that you're entitled to certain things, or you always feel like the only solution is your own, you're likely to have more anger than others. When people don't abide by the way you think things should go, you get angry.
Remember what I said, it's okay to be angry. It's okay to be mad, but it is not okay to be mean. A little word of advice, we have all justified bad behavior like this once or twice before, including me, so this isn't a beat you up session. I want you to learn and understand this, so you can identify when it's happening to you. On a subconscious level, sometimes conscious, we feel like if someone has hurt our feelings or upset us, it's okay for us to hurt their feelings or be mean back. We all know in our heart of hearts that's not true, and whether it's okay or not okay, morally, I have to tell you it's just not very effective.
In most cases, it doesn't usually get you the result you want.
Here are the top three ways that I hear people justify their angry outbursts:
"I'm just telling the truth! Sometimes the truth hurts". Here's the deal, you can tell the truth without being mean and without being hurtful. If you think, "I'm in the right because I'm telling the truth." If you are using the truth as a weapon, then you're probably out of bounds.
The second thing that I hear people say all the time is, "Well, that's just me, take it or leave it" or "What you see is what you get. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything for anyone." When you're saying things like that, you're saying, "Hey that's just who I am. Whoever gets hurt in the process, whatever, they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
If you are frequently being hurtful to your relationships and causing problems, even if you feel like that's just who you are, it doesn't mean that it is okay. Even if you've had trauma in your past and you know that you get angry related to your trauma, it still doesn't make it right to be mean to other people. When you do that, you're causing trauma to them and the cycle continues. If you're going to claim that you are behaving in a certain way for the other person's benefit, I need you to stop and think. Is your being ugly and mean the best most effective way for them to "learn a lesson"? When someone angrily comes at us, regardless of whether we were in the right or the wrong, we immediately get defensive. That is the least effective way to get them to hear you.
Maybe you don't show out and act crazy but, you do little passive-aggressive things. Like a little "get back at you" or "I'll show you" or "I'll make you feel what I'm feeling." Those are not okay behaviors and they're not effective. Passive-aggressive is the worst way of all to try to get through to someone. If you find that you're struggling with anger because you're dealing with someone who's got a major problem like a substance abuse problem or they're in a toxic relationship, maybe it's time to learn a more effective strategy. The only way you're going to get someone to listen to what you have to say is if you develop better communication skills.
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