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Anger & Relationships: Calming the Flames

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Anger has such a bad reputation in our society, yet, it is a fundamental human emotion experienced and shared by all people. Just like any other emotion, anger can be a productive and protective natural measure when used in the right way. It can teach you about what you need or it can be a destructive force that ruins relationships.

Anger has different faces in close relationships. It can look like a partner who is very critical, demanding, and who displays his/her anger openly though yelling and shouting.

Alternatively, anger can also show up in a passive aggressive manner, with your partner giving you a silent treatment or withholding affection or sex.

And a third face that anger might have is probably one of the most toxic for the person who experiences it and least visible to anyone around. It is anger turned internally and it may look like depression.

These three different styles represent three different ways of coping that we develop as an adaptation to our early childhood environments. If no one listened to you in your family unless you raised your voice and made some noise, you would feel that is the proper way to communicate with your partner.

If silence and withdrawal was how you got attention from your parents, it would feel natural to use this same style of interaction in your adult relationship. And if any form of anger was forbidden in your family, your might disconnect with that emotion completely. It becomes much safer to repress your anger to feel accepted by those around you, but that can come with a price of feeling trapped and helpless. Becoming aware of your own relationship with anger and how it was influenced by your early environments can enlighten you as to why you are doing what you are doing in your adult relationships.

And we can also take this awareness to the next level of recognizing that anger itself is often very purposeful as it alerts us to perceived danger. It is a protective mechanism built in to our genetic makeup in response to threat and fear. This helps us understand that our or someone else’s anger is a secondary response and that moments before we start shouting, accusing or treating someone silently, we feel threatened and hurt. We feel that our safety is shattered and we are compelled to get it back.

So often, as adults we are completely unaware of this first initial response of fear and hurt and yet, if these feelings are not addressed we might continue to feel angry and unhappy in our relationships.

Counselling offers a safe space to explore what is hiding behind your anger. Most of the time, we only see the tip of the emotional iceberg and overlook the real reasons for our behaviors. Becoming aware of your anger patterns, your triggers for not feeling safe and secure in a relationship, and learning how to express your needs and wants in an effective and receptive way can transform and blossom your relationship.

Connect with one of the Vida’s Relationship Counsellors to put out the flames of anger and ignite the flames of passion instead.

Victoria Ivanova, M.Ed, CCC - Certified Canadian Counsellor

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