In my work with partners of sex addicts, I always want to look at the role that anger has played for the partner.
Anger is a normal response to the traumatic experience of having been betrayed by your mate.
But it can also be a feeling that is difficult to tolerate. Some people dive into anger fully, while others avoid experiencing feelings of rage, and sometimes, people are afraid of their own angry feelings.
As a force, anger can be put to positive and constructive uses, and it can also be very destructive.
An important piece regarding anger is the acknowledgement of the emotion. Being in touch with your feelings and identifying that you are angry is crucial toward this process of releasing the anger. This is followed by an examination of the underlying issues.
Some have an easier time expressing anger. But the anger can become out of control, and we may find ourselves engaging in explosive, irrational behaviors that we later may regret.
Others fear expressing anger and avoid it. Perhaps they fear losing control. Regardless, if anger is not appropriately acknowledged and expressed, it can be turned inward, and there is a risk of engaging in self-defeating or self-destructive behaviors, such as blaming oneself for others’ inappropriate or hurtful behaviors or actions.
Anger in and of itself often is a coverup for other painful feelings, such as embarrassment, shame, humiliation, fear and sadness. When not expressed in a healthy way, anger can come out “sideways” as being distant, expressing sarcasm, or creating ruminative thoughts and fantasies about the object of one’s anger having bad things happen to them.
Sideways anger often simmers just beneath the surface and can be very vengeful and destructive. While the revenge may provide fleeting moments of satisfaction, indirectly expressing anger can lessen one’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Some helpful techniques to deal with anger are: journaling or writing down emotions; engaging in exercise or physical activity; calling a trusted friend; and talking about the feelings of anger openly. It’s important to be able to sit with the anger, and not brush it under the rug or ignore it.
At the same time, healthful expression of anger means knowing we are angry. Make the choice to examine what the consequences of acting out in anger are prior to engaging in hurtful behaviors that could potentially damage our relationships and self-esteem.
Anger can be positive. It can protect us from threats, and mobilize us to act. Anger also can be negative. It can create more chaos and destruction, and keep us in toxic cycles of retaliatory behaviors. Learning how to harness our feelings of anger through acknowledgment, validation, and integration of positive coping tools is crucial to keeping our lives in balance.