Anger interferes with relationships because it affects the way the partners are communicating. Often one or both partners fail to express how they feel when they anticipate or fear a negative reaction from the other person. How often have you heard or thought, “I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d get angry (or be upset).”
Then, when your partner reacts in a way you experience as harsh or excessive, whether expected or not, you feel hurt, confused, disappointed, and angry or a combination.
But what really happens? Are your expectations reasonable? Is he or she aware of what you are feeling or what you want? Perhaps you miscommunicated or he misunderstood. Perhaps the other person's reaction reflects unresolved issues that you thought were resolved. Or maybe they had a bad day. Your partner may walk away because he needs time to sort things out and you read his behavior as rejection.
If you are surprised or disappointed by the other person, what do you do in the moment? You may see the reaction as a sign that your partner doesn’t care about you or what is important to you, that he or she puts their own needs first even when they DO know what matters to you.
Moment to moment interactions, embedded in a gesture, tone of voice or sharp word, can trigger the other person and determine the course of a relationship.
When triggered, you may blow up, and then deal with damage control. You may bottle up, withdraw, shut down, delay or avoid confrontation. You may suffer in silence, until you have an outburst, or the discomfort fades away, and then resume the cycle. Over time, you may dismiss certain triggers telling yourself, they aren’t important, or you don't care, anymore. But this is a defense against what you learned from your experience, that acknowledging them caused upset without resolution or relief.
Yet, unaddressed triggers will reoccur. Over time, the accumulated feelings build up and you become more and more distant from your partner or family or friend. Relaxation techniques that may work at first will eventually be ineffective if the underlying trigger is not addressed.
I can give you tools that will break what becomes a cycle of emotional ping pong. You can learn to take control in moments when you now behave emotionally and feel out of control. You will learn to speak to the other person about issues, even those you now think are impossible, in a new way. You will come away having the confidence that no matter how life challenges you, you will find the best way through a situation. The answer may not emerge immediately, but it will come in time to be effective.
With my guidance, problem solving becomes the go to response that kicks in when you are triggered, replacing automatic reactions that have prevailed for a very long time, do not work and that you do not know how to change on your own.
The trigger affects a deep part of us. By accepting the trigger as an emotional messenger, I can help you learn the language of your trigger reactions. I guide you through the process of addressing your triggers, dealing with them assertively when desired, and above all, of not avoiding them out of fear or resignation.
We can decode the message, and then you can decide whether to take action, when and how to do so, or, whether, in fact, the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, which may imply a different response. This process of change can set you on a new road to personal growth, strength and freedom by yourself or together with your partner.
Carole H. Spivack, LCSW, MBA (t) 212 920-6019 (e) [email protected]