Anger and frustration are emotions commonly shared among most (if not all) parents. From time to time, your kids, spouses, co-workers and relatives will drive you nuts!
How do you express your anger?
Hidden Styles: Some keep their anger to themselves almost entirely. You may have met these people who are commonly referred to as a "push-over" or a "Yes man." These are the types who are so afraid of confrontation that they avoid it by any means necessary. They don't want to hurt the other's feelings, escalate the disagreement or have that uncomfortable "we need to talk" conversation. The inward-anger personality does this act of holding it in at a pretty high cost to themselves: stress, tension and anxiety.
Explosive Styles: Others erupt. Their anger comes out in strangely short-lived but intense bursts. This might come out as physical aggression, yelling, shouting and making your presence and anger be known within a five-mile radius. These types see inconveniences and injustices as threat to themselves, often taking things personally whether something was directed at them or not. Exploders tend to also be the kinds of people who internalize most of there frustration only to let it build up and eventually, to erupt.
Chronic Styles: Chronic anger personality styles are individuals who have developed a long-term general emotional state of being bitter and resentful. Their triggers are common, frequent and habitual. Similar to the explosive style, these are the types who take things personally more often than not and usually have some way of moralizing the reasoning for their frustrations. Cases like these are extreme, and likely fall under the umbrella of having an "anger disorder."
Whether justified or not, your tendency to get angry is directly influenced by your level of acceptance or in-acceptance with your childrens behavior. Upon first being introduced to the Confrontive I-Message, some parents go home eager to confront their children, feeling entitled to spew out their pent-up frustrations. It can be difficult to discern a Confrontive I-Message from what might actually be a hidden You-Message. It's hard for children not to feel as though they are the cause of your anger, no matter how you word it.
But taking a closer look at anger, we see that it is only the "tip of the iceberg" of other more primal emotions. Although our anger can be very real and very unpleasant, what's really going on beneath the anger are feelings of helplessness, fear, anxiety, hurt and sadness to name a few.
P.E.T. teaches us an effective alternative to letting our anger and blame out on our children.
Dr. Thomas Gordon put it best:
"Parents learn in P.E.T. that if they frequently vent angry You-Messages, they had better hold a mirror up to themselves and ask, "What is going on inside me?" "What needs of mine are being threatened by my child's behavior?" "What are my own primary feelings?" One mother courageously admitted in class that she had so often been angry at her children because she was deeply disappointed that having children prevented her from going on to graduate school to become a schoolteacher. She discovered that her angry feelings were actually resentment because she was disappointed at having her own career plans interrupted."
-P.E.T. Book p. 146, F.E.T. Adult Resource Book Session 3, p. 45
With a good amount of self-awareness and asking ourselves these questions, we will all be able to decipher our most primal emotions and take a step back before reacting in unproductive ways.
by Selena Cruz George, Program Manager