2. Anger

Our different family backgrounds--how we were treated when we were growing up--likely had a lot to do with our difficulties. However, I think there are other important issues that cut even deeper to the core. WARNING: What I have to say in these next pages--what I think may be some key issues underlying your behavior--may anger and upset you a lot. I fully realize that all of this is mere speculation, since I am not you! I could be partially or completely off the mark. Nevertheless I must put it out on the table and ask, do you think there could be any grains of truth here?? I ask you to please consider it carefully--perhaps it can help you in the future. However, if you donít want to read this, then please skip to section M, "What About Mary?"

Family background aside, I believe that your underlying anger was a huge factor in the breakdown of our relationship. Simply put, I think you have a lot of underlying anger about many things in your life, past, present, and future. I think you are chronically angry and frustrated with being a "victim" of many people and events (further discussion below) as well as with your present station in life. You donít know how to deal with this anger in a constructive way, so it just festers and simmers below the surface constantly--ready to be tipped off at the drop of a hat.

During the first few months of our relationship, when you yelled and snapped at me or expressed hostility toward someone else, I thought you were merely angry with that particular situation. And as I mentioned before, I repeatedly rationalized your behavior. However, as time went on, I began to suspect that this frequent hostility was not so much situation-dependent, but that it had more to do with you--that you had a well of underlying anger that had to find an outlet every so often. I was a convenient outlet, simply by being there.

Another thing I grew to suspect, was that any bad or negative feeling you had, was translated into anger. For example, not feeling physically well, being tired, having a bad day at work, feeling hurt by somebody, being frustrated with not being able to do something, being anxious over your health or financial situation (these are all real and valid feelings)--all of these myriad feelings were immediately translated into and expressed as anger, at a convenient target which a lot of times happened to be me! As our relationship progressed, these themes--an underlying well of anger, a need to vent this anger periodically at me and others, and the masking of other emotions as anger--all became more and more supported and solidified in my mind.

To give just a few random examples: 1) That time you felt hurt when I didnít do something in bed, before the blizzard. This precipitated a chain of events, manifested by your unexpressed and expressed anger. But what was the underlying feeling? 2) That time you felt understandably hurt when my parents didnít want you to come when my relatives visited (although I wanted you to come). Was it appropriate to direct your rage at me? 3) That night we were at Dave and Busterís with Marilyn, and you yelled at me for putting a quarter into a skeeball machine you thought wasnít working. Were you really that concerned about the impact of my possibly losing a quarter? Or was this just an excuse to yell at me?? 4) As recently as the day before we left for LA, we were at the rink to pick up my skates; we were playing pinball and it appeared that I had tilted the machine on your play. That instantaneous rage flared up in your eyes as you wheeled around to yell at me! Luckily, I was able to "calm you down" (the ball suddenly going back into play also helped). What on earth is going on in your head, if you become so enraged over a stupid pinball machine tilting?? How could I ever stay with you, if any little thing becomes an excuse to yell at me??

I am not saying that your underlying anger was directed only at me. Indeed, it seemed like sometimes it was unleashed at anybody and everybody. No one was immune--family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, strangers. Again, it seemed that any unpleasant feeling that you had could be translated into anger. Even what I think were genuine positive feelings of concern--e.g., concern about your friend taking drugs, or about your mother being sick and refusing to go to the hospital--even these became opportunities to snap at others or give them the seething silent treatment.

I would like to know, why were you so angry all of the time, and why did you feel the need to criticize, attack and blame me and others, on such a frequent basis? What does this tell you about yourself?

There is a difference between a person who releases appropriate anger when injured and a person who seems to be chronically angry and venting most of the time. A chronically angry and bitter person often feels short changed in life and blames others for his problems. This is using anger as a defense and is a rationalization for blaming others.

--From Learning To Love Yourself

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