Chapter 4: Anger, The Drug That Medicates Hurt
Principle #4: Anger is the Drug that Medicates our HURT
In the last chapter we talked about how our buried hurts can create "Land Mines of Destruction" in our hearts. As we overlook "the little hurts", and neglect doing what it takes to "work through our issues" with people (as the issues come), our "Land Mines of the Heart" will grow stronger and stronger, literally causing our lives to become shipwrecked. Then one day, when all the "Stars" are lined up (being tired, hungry, stressed, frustrated, etc), that "somewhat innocent" person comes along, and accidentally triggers your "Land Mine of the Heart", then "Kaboom", it explodes!
One thing to note ... is that the people that we usually explode on, are often times the people that we are closest to (the ones we love), and are the people that we feel "Safe" with. In other words, we think that if we go off on them, that they will love us enough to stick around and put up with our Explosion (Hurting people, hurt people, and they often times hurt those closest to them).
So before we get into the Vowels of Conflict Resolution we must first look at the drug that kicks in, shortly after, our "Land Mine" goes off. It is the Drug called "Anger".
Each person as they grow up in life, will learn different ways of coping with the hurt feelings that come their way. We learn these coping mechanisms through our life experiences, through education, and especially through the people in our lives that model behaviors that we naturally absorb and adapt as our own. Then when something happens to us and we feel hurt by it, our “default coping mechanism” gets triggered, and we react.
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Anger is the DRUG that makes our Hurt Feel Better
One of the biggest "instigators" to our conflicts with other people, is anger. Anger is a defense mechanism that helps to protect us from “feeling” the hurt. If you look back on experiences you’ve had in the past, where someone did something or said something that hurt you, you can probably remember going through a process similar to this…
The Four Stages of Hurt
1. Re-Living the Incident: Our mind quickly processes the details of the incident in our mind, and we start to "Re-Live" what we think happened (our side of the story).
2. Ruminating: We start Ruminating. Ruminating is when you use "Self Talk" to verbally repeat key details of what we're offended by (I can’t believe they did it ... I can’t BELIEVE they did it AGAIN ... They "Always" leave the toothpaste cap off!)
3. Rushing: The adrenaline starts rushing, the heart rate increases, the blood Boils.
4. Rage: We then release the build up of anger, by blowing up on the person we are mad at (extrovert), or we shut down internally so that we can start to “think everything through” (introvert).
You will also remember that the feelings of anger most likely “took over” the feelings of hurt, but please note this ... the root issue usually doesn't have much to do with the details of what "you think", someone did to hurt you (as you "Re-live" the incident in Your one sided Mind). The root issue is the hurt that is being "masked" by the drug called "Anger".
Anger is like a Tylenol for our pain, it’s like taking a pain pill, one that goes straight to the pain, and takes it away (or masks it)! And the way to get the pain pill to work better, is for us to get really quick at Re-living the incident in our mind, Ruminating with Self Talk, then letting the Blood Rush to the Boiling Point, then Kaboom, we release with some good old fashioned "ANGER"!
Blowing Up or Shutting Down
When the anger starts rising, our personality also starts to kick into gear. If we are extroverted people, we naturally want to talk about what we are feeling. Talking is the main way that extroverted people process and work through their hurt. If we tend to be more introverted people, we naturally want to “stop talking”, and start thinking it through, which is the way that introverted people process, and get rid of, their hurt emotions and feelings. Then after they have had time to think things through, and they have calmed down, they are then able to talk things through (hopefully you both get to that point).
I remember growing up and learning that if I’m upset, or hurt about something in my life that all I need to do is talk about it, and work it out with the person who offended me. Little did I realize, that the person that drilled that thought into my head was my Mother, and can you guess what personality she had? You guessed it, my Mother was an extrovert, so she naturally wanted to talk about her hurt feelings, this was her way of processing and releasing the hurt feelings.
So throughout my life, I always thought that talking about my hurt feelings was the best way to work through the feelings of hurt, frustration and anger (which is true for me). This works out fine when you are dealing with another extroverted person. But you know what they say, “opposites attract”. So people often times are attracted to people that have opposite qualities, and one of the most common of those opposite qualities (that can cause conflicts in a relationship), is extroverted-ness and introverted-ness.
So several years ago when I got married, because I took lots of relationship classes in college, I thought I was an expert in marriage (LOL). So I decided in my mind that I was going to educate my wife on how a person should deal with hurt feelings. Each time my wife did something that hurt my feelings, or offended me, I would naturally do “the right thing”, which was to come to her so that we could "talk things through". And the more I would try to get her to open up and talk about her feelings, the more she would “shut down”, so that she could “think everything through”. This was her natural introverted process for working through the hurt. Each time this happened I would get more and more, angrier ... I couldn’t believe that she could actually communicate to me, in a matter of words (or in no words), that we were “not” going to talk about the issue any more, we were done talking. My hurt feelings and the “anger drug” that masked my hurt feelings, went from a 3.5 (out of 10), to an 8.5, in 0.5 seconds.
Little did I know it, but her method of dealing with her root issue of hurt, was totally right "for her", and my way of dealing my root issue of hurt, was totally right "for me". We were both right, based upon our personalities, but it wasn’t "the right way" to be successful in dealing with our conflict for "both of us", because we have opposite personalities (extroverted and introverted). This cycle of destruction would happen again and again. The more I tried to get her to talk, the more she would shut down. Round and round we would go, again and again and again.
Eventually we learned a few things about how to better communicate when we were hurt and angry. The most helpful thing was for us to both realize that our ways of "Processing" hurtful emotions, were different. Down below you will find a few principles that are very helpful when the "Hurt starts turning into ANGER".
Your homework for this chapter is to set aside time to discuss the principles below. You may not both agree on all of them, but I feel confident that just the process of "Starting the Discussion" will help you, as you Grow in your Relationship Skills, "together".
1. Understand the Root Issue: If you both realize that your anger is nothing more than "Hurt on Drugs", and that the real issue is your avoidance of working out your "Little Hurts", then when the Anger Rolls in "Like A Wave", you will be able to catch yourself, and calm yourself down before you say or do something that will cause more pain.
2. Agree to take a Time-Out: Because Extroverts process by "talking things through", and Introverts process by "thinking things through", it is important for the Extrovert to give the Introvert time to "Think". During the "Thinking Time", or the "Time-Out", it's a good idea to not bring the subject up, and to "Table the Disagreement" until you are both ready to discuss it. One important element, is that you have to agree on how long the "Time out" is going to be. Example: Can I have two hours to process this, then we can talk?
3. Stop Yourself from "Re-Living" and "Ruminating": With some practice you can nip it in the bud, and catch yourself quicker and quicker. The best antidote for a negative thinking mind, is a positive thinking mind. If your mind is telling you negative things about a person (because you are hurt and trying to cope by using anger to medicate), then all you need to do is to start thinking of positive things about the person, then saying them out loud to yourself, this is positive self talk, and it does well to "Quiet the negative self talk voice".
4. Agree to Disagree: There is nothing wrong with two people having two different opinions on something. If you both feel like you are right, let it go, shakes hands and end the conflict right there.
5. Give the Other Person the Benefit of the Doubt: As Dr Emerson Eggerichs talks about in his book Love & Respect, "If you married a Good-Willed person, when you said 'I Do', why is it that we are so quick to believe that they have become 'evil in their intentions', when we get hurt and angry"? We need to remember that we are married to a "Good-Willed" person, and that if we could see things from "Both Sides", that we might feel different about the situation.
6. Work Harder at "Understanding" than you do at "Being Understood": Most of what drives a disagreement is not necessarily the desire to "Be Right", as it is in our struggle to not "Be Wrong". If you are both trying to prove that you are right in a matter, that means that the other person is wrong, this becomes very degrading, because most of the time, we believe in our hearts that we are right. A good phrase to master is "You know, I could be wrong".
7. Don't go to Bed Angry: Going to bed angry is always a bad idea. This is true because our minds do not rest. When we are Hurt & Angry, and we lay our head down on the pillow to go to sleep, our minds continue to Re-Live the Situation & Ruminate the negative Self Talk, in our minds ... all night long! Then when we wake up, we are even more angry than we were when we went to sleep.
Here are few things that I want you to remember from chapter 3 & 4.
1. When you don't deal with the little hurts that come your way in life, those little hurts will build up and eventually become "Land Mines" in your heart (Category 1-10).
2. The Land Mines get triggered (causing an Explosion of Angry Emotions), when someone does something "similar" to the thing that caused the "original hurt" in the offended person to begin with.
3. The Anger that comes out of the offended person is nothing more than an Adrenaline Drug that our bodies use as a Self Defense Mechanism, to help us avoid feeling the pain which is caused by the build up of HURT (which is our own fault for not dealing with our little hurts, as they come).
4. The problem is usually not "the details of what we think" happened to us (the thing that someone did to offend us). The real problem, and the Root Issue, is ...
"Our Avoidance of Dealing with the Little Hurts that come our way in Life".