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Understanding and taking responsibility for our anger

Goldstream Gazette

Dear Paul

I’ve been married several times and I admit my anger has caused lots of trouble in my prior marriages. I’m now in my third marriage. I love my wife, I’m committed to our marriage, and I want to know - can someone really change something like this?


Dear David

Can someone learn to live with and manage their anger?

Of course, they can.

You’re already making a big step towards change when you take responsibility for your anger, when you are on the look out for it and aware of the trouble it can cause in your relationship life. Certainly, that you are wanting to take responsibility this way is a great starting place.

Furthermore, you’re right, anger can produce real mischief in a relationship. Unchecked anger can bring fear, distance, protection, and resentment - forces which ultimately make trust, openness, and intimacy, near impossible.

To master our feelings and expression of anger there’s lots to understand.

Anger manifests itself in various ways. It can be projected externally; it can be held or stored inwardly. The outward dumping of anger on another is blame. The inward holding of anger is often depression or resentment. Both these states can be damaging to our sense of ourselves and/ or the other in our relationships.

Many people see anger as wrong, dangerous or destructive. However, looking closer, one can see it isn’t being or feeling angry that creates problems. Problems emerge when we use our anger in attempts to control, blame, or punish another.

Further, we can be furious or out of control when we express our anger. Or we can be quietly logical and reasonable. It doesn’t matter. Attempts to blame, control and punish, however grand or subtle, always leave their mark.

When we attempt to control, we cross personal boundaries. We do harm to the other. We refer to this harm as “violence.”

All violence comes from the belief that other people’s actions are to blame for making us feel as we do and the other person deserves our judgment and censure. All of us have been taught to think this way. However, if you get quiet enough to inquire, you can see this simply isn’t true.

So, here is the first point, David.
Others do not cause our feelings.

All feelings we experience are based upon our unique history and particular views of reality, the personal meanings and interpretations we bring to life. No one “makes” us happy or sad, or angry. We do that.
This is good news actually. Because when we view being upset as our responsibility we begin to take back our power to manage our inner state. We can see our feelings are caused not by another’s actions but by our own thoughts, our own “story”, by what we are saying to ourselves, what we believe to be true about what is happening.

This is our access to some power in the matter. You are responsible for your anger AND its expression. This can be said to be true for everyone.

Accepting this David is the beginning of mastery over anger.
We’ll explore more regarding this topic next month.

Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist on the West Shore. He may be contacted at 250 721 2477 or through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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