I get a lot of calls from the spouses, partners and parents of people who need anger management. People are angry and rageful and loved ones search on the net for help and ring my phone. I wish it worked. It doesn’t. I learned it the hard way by trying and failing and trying and failing again.
I’m not talking about calling for a child or young adolescent. Of course a parent would place that call. I’m talking about adults calling for other adults. Here’s what to do instead.
- Take off the cape. There are no superheroes when it comes to dealing with anger and rage. This is tricky, because loved ones can and do make a difference in the lives of the angry and rageful. You are only allowed to make a difference if it doesn’t hurt you to make it. Mantra that.
- Encourage your loved one to see a doctor. Physical illness–heart trouble for instance or thyroid problems can all contribute to outbursts. This comes at the problem from the side, and can be effective, because you are beginning to teach your loved one that something is wrong, there is hope for help and no shame in asking for it.
- PTSD, substance abuse, depression and anxiety are usually in the mix. One common feeling threading through all these problems is shame. To be out of control is to be ashamed. A person who is not ashamed of his/her outburst is of a different and more difficult stripe. Leave that to professionals. I’m not saying there’s no hope for that, only that it will take more time, care and skill than a civilian has.
- Protect yourself. Go to another room. Leave the house. Take a break. Tell someone you trust. Dare I say it? Have some fun. Go to the park. Take a walk. Take a breath.
- Your “trying” takes the place of your loved one’s trying. When you stop “trying,” you will leave an empty space your loved one might then fill with his or her own effort. This is what we want.
- For court-ordered folks, one of the first things I do is to try to find out what they want out of their sessions with me. If it’s all in service to the court, our work won’t amount to anything and I won’t take the person on.
Here’s some Theodore Roethke for your Sunday afternoon. He learned slow too.
To receive my blog posts as I write them, leave your email here.