Saturday, December 22, 2007

Anger and Codependency - Or - "Anger Sucks" Part 1

Anger can be a sure sign of codependency at its tipping point. The codependent person will use anger like the kettle uses steam when it has reached a boiling point. Anger is a release mechanism. It is not the right tool to use, but it is a result of not using the proper tools ahead of the slow boil we go through.

We all have heard of the story of the putting frog in a hot pan - he would jump out. That's us. We would not get angry. We are fun people, nice people. But put a frog in a cool pan and put the pan over a fire and slowly turn up the flame the frog adjusts to accommodate for the rising in temperature - to a point.

Slowly, the frog continues to adjust, he sits and continues to adjust. Until he cannot adjust for the heat any longer, and he boils from the inside out.

That can be us. And we boil from the inside out and anger rises until it has to be released in the form of lashing out verbally, perhaps physically, perhaps with silence, perhaps uncontrollable crying.

We - unlike the frog - can be taught the warning signs of heat being turned up, and make moves to avoid anger all together.

ANGER - Its 3 Components
Anger is a thought, that as a codependent comes about when we feel "unappreciated" or feel we are "sacrificing" and "why doesn't anyone else see what I am doing to keep everyone happy."

Does this sound like anyone you know?

These thoughts have the underpinnings of "I am being trespassed against." Often, these thoughts occur very quickly, and they create a reaction inside of us, a "fight or flight" reaction that stems from our ancestral background (from the cavemen days) - where we have this in-built - a reaction that is instantaneous - attack the attacker or flee the attacker.

This is the bodily reaction. The sympathetic nervous system and your muscles tense to mobilize for a physical assault. Our blood pressure skyrockets. Our digestive processes stop.

Brain centers are triggered and our brain chemistry signals attack.

These are accompanied by subjective feelings of anger.

The third component - which has been introduced, is attack. The first two phases ready you for attack. Your attack is directed toward ending the trespass - as quickly as possible (if not immediately. So - you lash out.

With codependency, the attack may be misdirected or the attack may come about from a small trigger - it may be the slightest of slights; a small remark taken as rude or hostile, for example.

The attacks may come at various points and we may mute them - suppress them, because we are better socialized than our caveman ancestors. We may turn the other cheek.

What happens to the anger is of debate among psychologists. Some think it is bottled up and results in high blood pressure. Some believe it gets bottled up and explodes in time in the most unlikely of places (in a supermarket line or talking to a child).

Proactive Treatments
Tool #1 REFRAME: How do we stop anger altogether? We stop it, by immediately not allowing the thoughts to enter our minds. Instead of the thought "we are being trespassed against" - we can revise the thought to fit a better - more positive perspective. When we do this - we reframe the data coming into our brains from hostile to one of more sensibility - to something like compassion.

Start with asking yourself: "Is the person trying to harm us? Really?" Forcing yourself to stop through questioning, allows us to see the other person's perspective. What is she trying to do? Provoke us? Bait us? To these;

- I wonder if she's having a bad day?
- I am not going to take this personally. (from "I am not going to take this!")
- Don't be a jerk because he is being a jerk.

These is a Murphy's Law that says; "Never argue with an idiot, because an on-looker may not know who is who.

Tool #2 USE HUMOR: When you are "attacked" - see the person looking like Bozo the Clown in your mind. Think about the attacker in complete and vivid detail. Play music in your mind like you heard at the carnival, or the circus (you know the music?). See the Clown doing somersaults. Laugh and let it go.

Or if you see them as acting like an "ass," see a big donkey with big buck teeth and large ears. Put a straw hat on the donkey, a corncob pipe, going "heee haw, heee haw!".

Now, do something outrageous. Decorate the visualization with feathers, pink feathers. Give them wings. Big wings. And let the person "fly away."

Tool #3 GO TO THE BALCONY: This is a negotitator's tool. Visualize yourself in balcony, looking down at the play. See all the actors, yourself included. But dis-identify from yourself. See the actors from the balcony and you are in the balcony watching the scene unfold. You are removed from the feelings.

I hope this information helped and provided you some useful tools


jennifer said...

Thank you thank you thank you! I can completely relate and I can use all of the help you outlined! I feel so much better after reading your article; like a diffused bomb rather than a pot about to boil over. I'm so grateful you wrote this!

Anonymous said...

thank you this was very helpful.

Anonymous said...

I have just started this long road to understand who I am today.I need to stick with this till the end some thing I have never done.This site has started the healing I so need.

Anonymous said...

Why not just sit with the feeling of being angry instead of trying to flee, or dissociate. Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. That's why people continue in their codependency, they never learn how to properly accept that anger is sometimes very appropriate. They suppress"reframe". Dissociate " pretend you are on a balcony watching yourself" ??

If you really want to heal from codependency read Pete Walkers writings.