Dr. Wall continues his series of blogs on communication by cautioning about using anger as an everyday communication tool. It’s better left for emergencies. For the first in the series click here, the second click here and the third, click here. For the entire series click here.
Be angry and sin not.
Anger’s gotten a bad rap. It’s destroyed so many families and individuals and marriages and careers that it’s easy to think we oughta just chuck the whole thing. But be careful. Anger is a great motivator.
On an international level it’s why Hitler’s cronies aren’t running the world right now and on national level it’s why we don’t have slavery in slave states anymore. We still have slavery. It’s just not legal. Sex slave traffic is a worldwide problem. If we ever got rid of that, it would be because enough people got mad about sex being used outside of marriage as an object for one’s personal desire. The porn industry is running billions and billions of dollars in profit with no end in sight, so it’s going to take more than a few bloggers, ministers and counselor types to squash all that. We’d pretty much all have to get mad enough to say freedom does not mean license to do whatever. Unfortunately, we’ll probably self-destruct before anything is done about that.
On a personal level anger can motivate you to study for a test instead of flunk, stop drinking, lose weigh or get out of debt.
It’s also very handy if your child is in danger and you yell to get his attention so that he doesn’t hurt or kill himself. Very handy.
So, hey, anger’s not all bad. But use it wisely. If you yell at your kids everyday, they will learn to tune you out and when a dangerous event is about to occur and you yell to warn your child, he may very well ignore you and plunder on and get himself killed. Wouldn’t that be ironic that your lack of self-control on anger caused your child’s death? Don’t worry, anger lies and will tell you your kid just never listened to you. You probably will never figure out that your misplaced anger taught your child to ignore you.
Anger as an everyday, normal, communication tool is a complete waste of time and just sucks whatever love you have left out of your marriage and fills your soul and your brain with a slurry of resentment and hurt and confusion and self-righteousness and a bunch of words on the other side of slang to boot. Pretty soon you are spouting threats of divorce and leaving or cheating or looming over her all threatening and imposinglike. It ain’t no marriage enhancer.
And when you use anger as a tool to defend yourself from your spouse’s suggestions or to attack your spouse for not heeding your suggestions, anger changes the subject to whatever it is that the two of you were talking about to you causing your spouse think to herself that “I’m married to an ass.” If you had a sane point you were trying to convey, it got totally lost in the meanness and hurtfulness and despicableness of all the cruel things you said and the threatening and imposinglike nonverbal cues you were sending with your puffed up chest and your curled up lip and throwing your hands in the air in superiority and smashing your fist against whatever is handy and hopefully what you are smashing is not your spouse or your kids, but you better watch out, because anger will tell you to cross boundaries and once boundaries are crossed it’s hard to differentiate between smashing a teacup and smashing a loved one’s face. But anger is also very subtle and you hear about people who only smash their loved ones’ faces once because it leaves marks that the public can see, so then after that mistake they only smash their loved ones in places that are covered by clothes so that no one else will know. This is the kind of self-control that will land your loved ones in the psych ward at the hospital or worse. You communicated all right. Anger did help you communicate. The message that you communicated is that you are mean, and hurtful and despicable and your loved ones are thinking you are an ass.
And then, later, of course, you are sorry you said and did all those things and you didn’t mean them and you were just so angry and you were pushing my buttons. When anger gets this insane it is really good at passing the buck and making your own stupidity and selfishness and cruelty someone else’s fault. Your spouse is going to have a hard time believing you didn’t mean those things, because she just heard everything you said and you sounded pretty believable and sincere to her. Your face was red while you said it, for heaven’s sake. That’s pretty passionate. And how is she supposed to believe you now when you take it all back? And now you are crying on bended knee that you didn’t mean those things. Is she just supposed to have a switch that goes on when you say you are telling the truth and turn off when you start saying (yelling!) those things? How is she supposed to sort that all out? The good and the bad came out of the same mouth. Are you purposely trying to make her crazy? It’s a good plan. I’m sure our mental hospitals are full of people who were on the receiving end of misplaced anger. Then when you divorce her after she’s a ward of the state rocking back and forth saying to herself “he didn’t mean it, he didn’t mean it” and “it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault” you can tell everyone you divorced your first wife because she was crazy! What a plan!
So whose life are you going to destroy next? Here’s one way to do it: Divorce your spouse because you are just so mad at her making you so mad. No one else makes you mad like her and you don’t like yourself when you are mad. If you divorce her, you think, you won’t be mad any more! Another great plan! Right.
Do you know what happens to you when you divorce somebody because you are trying to escape resentment or anger or an inability to forgive or a cold heart because you’ve shut your spouse out of your heart and refuse to reach out and love your current spouse anymore and you say to yourself you love him, you just aren’t in love with him? Do you know? Do you know?
You’d think you’d have figured this out by now: Whatever negative spirit you have when you willingly dump your spouse, that negative spirit gets set in cement in your heart. You will carry that into all your future relationships. You’ll turn into Jesse James and leave a wake of Sandra Bullocks wherever you go.
Keep in mind I’m referring to the dump-er not the dump-ee. If your spouse dumps you, in my view, you have a much better chance of overcoming negative hurt in your previous marriage than if you are the one that casts your spouse to the curb and cinches up his pants and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” A lot better.
Marriage, by the way, is a great place to learn self-control, but if you didn’t learn self-control on anger or choosing to love and giving and forgiving and sacrificing and bucking up and going the second mile in your first marriage, you won’t have a clue where to start in your second marriage and marriage will not survive unless you learn to develop these things. When you divorce you shut off your ability to learn these things in the crucible of marriage, short of some miracle. Now I believe in miracles, but I also don’t believe in borrowing trouble. Divorce borrows trouble. It tests God to see just how big of a jerk you can make yourself before He intervenes. I suggest you don’t test God to see how far He will go before He steps in and saves you from your insanity.
Anger is fine if it tells you you need some help and you can’t figure this out and we seem to be doing the same things over and over again and it just doesn’t seem to get anywhere or it tells you maybe you should get a book about this or bone up on that or maybe read your Bible for a change and seek the Lord and grow spiritually and become a bit more patient or the two of you sit down and brainstorm solutions and come up with some pretty creative things to try to solve whatever and over time you figure things out. Anger is really good about motivating people to change. It’s really good for that.
But if you don’t listen to the constructive side of anger, pretty soon the destructive side of anger will rear its ugly head and it’ll tell you to get even, to hurt back. That’s when you shut down anger. Enough already. Ain’t goin’ there. No way. When anger tells you to hurt your loved ones that’s a boldfaced lie and it’s time to say no, to stop it already. Don’t use anger as a communication tool unless your plan is to leave a trail of tears wherever you go.
Just stop it.
For a humorous look at this check out the link my son Brandon sent me with a comment that my education was all in vain. I just needed Bob Newhart’s therapy technique. The clip is six minutes long. Hang in there. The punch line doesn’t come until the end:
Check out the other blogs in this series on communication:
In this first blog on a series on Communication Dr. Wall looks at the current research about how we can read (or not!) each other’s minds. He probably lets his mind wander just a tad too much.
In this second blog of a series on communication Dr. Wall ponders the messages we convey to our spouse when we shut down and won’t talk. Communication is occurring in spades, but it might not be the message you intend to send.
In this third in a series of blogs on communication between husbands and wives Dr. Wall gives advice to the partner that tends to want to talk about issues more than the other and suggests using the indirect approach. The direct approach usually escalates things.
In this fifth blog in a series on communication Dr. Wall piggybacks on a cartoon by his son, Marty, on the importance in marriage of being able to work through your problems.
Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.
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