Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book,“The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, 2017)
Anger addicts cope with conflict by accusing, attacking, humiliating, or criticizing. Unchecked they can be dangerous and controlling.
Anger can tyrannize relationships. One woman I treated had stopped having any male friends because she was afraid of her partner’s unrelenting jealous anger. If she went to lunch, for instance, with a male colleague from work her partner would barrage her with cell phone messages during the meal. Initially, unable to set boundaries, she appeased him by giving in. My patient told me she didn’t want to “create a war at home” by doing anything to provoke his wrath. Clearly, we had our work cut out for us in therapy. She didn’t want to leave her partner but she needed to be strong enough to assert healthier limits in the relationship.
The common dynamic with anger addicts is that they use anger to cope with feeling inadequate, hurt, or threatened, whether the person acts out occasionally or not. Anger is one of the hardest emotions to control due to its evolutionary value of defending against danger. When you’re confronted with anger, your body instinctively tightens, the opposite of a surrendered state. It goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline floods your system. Your heart pumps faster. Your jaw and muscles clench. Your blood vessels constrict. Your gut tenses. In this hyper-charged condition, you want to flee or attack.