Anger issues

When I am tired I can get quite angry and take this out on my partner and this is affecting our relationship. He is not very happy that I take it out on him. How can I manage this?
Asked by Fred

Anger can be one of the more challenging emotions to navigate. If you think about it, many consider anger as a secondary emotion to primary emotions like anxiety or depression. As I often tell my clients, feelings are wonderful advisors, but not so great masters. With this in mind, anger can be a proactive emotion, so long as we respond to it, and not react. When we react, something else takes over, which is typically our emotion mind. Our emotion mind is not based in reason, therefore, it can be very impulsive and one-sided, leading to more arguments and/or disagreements. Luckily, there are proactive steps that we can take to reduce impulsive reactions to emotions like anger. 

First, it's important to identify the roots of anger. What do you find is contributing to anger throughout your typical day? Oftentimes, anger is a secondary emotion that is rooted in feeling taken advantage of, feeling invalidated, and/or feeling upset. Once the roots are identified, we can then convey our emotion to others effectively with use of "I" statements. "I" statements are wonderful because they encourage us to take ownership of our feelings/emotions, vs projecting them onto another person. Let's consider these two examples:

  1. Example 1: "You make me so angry when you don't take the trash when I ask! What's wrong with you!"
  2. Example 2: "It upsets me when you choose not to take the trash when I ask you to do so. I would like for us to work together in ensuring that our house is clean." 

Example 1 is dangerous, because it is a projection statement. In example 2, you're saying the same thing as in example 1, but taking ownership of your emotion. 


Another example worth mentioning is use of the acronym DEARMAN. DEARMAN can assist you in structuring statements associated with asking for what it is that you want, while also saying no to unwanted requests effectively. The acronym stands for: Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, Stay Mindful, Appear Confident, and Negotiate. I will share an example of what this may look like. 

  • (Describe): I have asked you to take the trash 3 days in a row;
  • (Express): When you don't take the trash, it makes me feel angry and that you're not paying attention to me;
  • (Assert): I would like for you to be more considerate of taking the trash in a timely manner when I ask;
  • (Reinforce): I wouldn't hold as much anger regarding this instance if I felt you we're putting forth effort to help me;
  • (Mindful): I hear you saying you're mad about me not cleaning the counters, but I would like to focus on ways we can work together to ensure the trash is taken in a timely manner;
  • (Appear Confident): Chest out, shoulders back, face the other person;
  • (Negotiate): Would it help if I took the trash out half of the days, and you take it the other half? 

All in all, these strategies are useful starting points to practice skills in conveying emotion like anger effectively.

Regarding management of anger outside of communication, I would encourage that you work with your therapist on identifying your triggers and anger warning signs. This will ensure that you're more cognizant of when you're in an anger state, and eventually becoming less reactive to the emotion.

I hope you find these suggestions to be useful!