Summertime and the livin’ is anything but easy. In the heat of the moment many of us are looking for a rumble hurling thunderous words while lightning bolts flash from our eyes. The person we live with runs for cover waiting for the storm to die down. Anger has shattered the balance of the day. Few of us live with a clone who can read the mind. Therefore most people in a close relationship disagree in order to communicate their feelings paving the way for compromise and change. However, when anger is always present during a “discussion,” did you know that anger could signal sadness?
It is important to know the difference. Anger can choke off communication. In addition, anger can hide or disguise a lack of personal empowerment as you try to compel the other person to adhere to your way of thinking. Note: If you possess true power, you do not need to use force. On the other hand, sadness can signal that it is time to climb that slippery slope of self-esteem and assume responsibility for personal happiness.
Sadness in a relationship is often easier for the other person to cope with than anger. The person you live with, who cares about you, will try to remedy the situation by empathizing with what you are experiencing. On the other hand, anger often degenerates into a shouting match and the person you are with can’t even hear you anymore. You are out of relationship rhythm and therefore lose the common ground to work things out.
However, many who feel angry along with a simmering resentment don’t realize that they are really sad according to Dr. Keith Sanford’s study in the Journal of Family Psychology, “The Communication of Emotion During Conflict in Married Couples.” Sanford explains, “If a couple falls into a climate of anger, they tend to continue expressing anger regardless of how they actually feel . . . It becomes a kind of a trap they cannot escape.” How difficult to deal with two emotions one layered on top of the other! Anger makes sadness more difficult to perceive.
The next time you are angry, try this checklist to distinguish what is truly bothering you:
• Are you really angry, or do you feel sad that you allowed yourself to be hurt?
• When you feel angry, do you feel so angry that there are tears in your eyes?
• Do you find yourself always criticizing others? Is it always their fault?
• When you fail at something do you feel inadequate?
• Do you feel if you say no to a friend, you will not be well-liked?
• Do you speak on the phone to a family member, or friend, even if it is not a good time for you?
• Do you experience vague physical aches and pains that come and go?
• Do you feel if you revealed the truth, for example, that you are being taken advantage of, that you are showing weakness?
Love has low points. If you have too high expectations for others, they will inevitably disappoint you. Love has to change – it simply can’t stand still. Allow for more flexibility in your relationship. Everyone changes throughout the years. You need to be conscious of the change in yourself and your nearest and dearest to keep writing new chapters in your life story. I suggest a romantic comedy.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul and a stress-management specialist. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com