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The Meaning of Anger in Relationships: Part III
Anger as an addiction

In previous two posts about the meaning of anger I wrote about anger as a stand-in emotion and as an expression of unmet needs.

In this newsletter, I will address anger as a seductive, addictive, and dangerous habit.

Anger is often an expression of failed expectations.  We expect that our loved ones will not disappoint us, fail us, or let us down.  

Apparently anger makes us feel bad, but in reality, it supplies us with an endless amount of energy and it feels better than being impotent to change our partners. At the same time, anger masks our own hypocritical , imperfect, and unpredictable selves.

As we start using anger as a reaction, we may soon become addicted to the seductive illusion of the power it generates.  

Anger is an emotion that we become used to expressing when we feel weak, sad, or afraid.  It is useful, because it can get our partner’s attention and be intimidating.  It works for a while, but it is a dangerous habit: It can backfire and make us physically ill.

From the perspective of brain science and biology, anger is an automatic reaction generated in the primitive parts of our brain, before we developed the ability to think and use logic.

Contrast this automatic reaction with the superior human brain ability to problem solve:  it takes more time, it is more challenging and it involves more effort.

Once your brain becomes used to anger, rage and resentment, it feels like a relief to “tell it like it is”, to “honest about your feelings” and “to say what is in your heart”.

If your expression of anger makes you feel relief, you are hooked.  Like an addiction, it feels good while you are at it, but there are severe consequences with extended use.  As Michele Lowrance says: “The side effects of anger may be devastating, [yet] many of us use it as a drug of choice.”

Your partner as a recipient also begins to exhibit the same reactions and the cycle of negativity now involves two brains connected to each other in mutually stimulating ways. And the more you both repeatedly use these reactions, the more they are strengthened in your brains and the harder they are to change.

With practice, patience, compassion, motivation, and an ability to look at yourself, you can make a plan and change your brain. If your reaction changes, your partner’s brain will change too, and the cycle can be broken.
In the next newsletter,  I will discuss specific strategies to deal with the addiction to anger.
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Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum
Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum,
L.C.P.C.& L.M.F.T.   Founder
Couples Counseling Associates
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