Dealing with Anger in Relationships

Aggression seems to be a part of human nature. Identifying the origins of aggression is complicated by the unmeasurable impact of the aggressive social/political and economic forces in society. It certainly is a part of modern societies. If we lived in a world where we easily received everything that we needed or desired, perhaps we would not experience it as often. However, we live in a world where many people are aggressive because they are forced to struggle daily for their survival and it seems that even if we no longer have to struggle for material survival, a certain amount of aggression is needed to facilitate everyday living.

Being the Victim of our Own Anger

Unfortunately, our egos are capable of generating large amounts of aggression with very little provocation. If we have not learned how to regulate our aggressive tendencies in our early relationships, we become victims of our more reactive aggressive emotions such as anger. It becomes an automatic reaction and we react impulsively, acting it out in various ways. Unable to control our anger, we have difficulties in relationships, both with others and with ourselves.

Unconscious Anger

There are two common psychological mechanisms for handling the unregulated emotion of anger. The first is to project it on to other people and experience others as feeling angry towards us, not realizing that we are viewing our own anger coming from the other person. Or our aggression (anger) is repressed and we unconsciously turn it against ourselves. Turning anger against the self is one of the primary causes of depression and also of developing self-hating narratives that cause various forms of social anxiety.

Are Babies Aggressive?

Some babies seem to be more aggressive than others even as they seek nourishment from their mothers early in life. Mothers try to "tame " their infants by reinforcing less aggressive behaviors. Some psychologists theorize that the young child's mind generates aggressive fantasies as a normal part of the unconscious mental processes.

Learning to Regulate Anger

It is in our early relationships that we learn to regulate our impulses, most particularly our aggressive ones. In the parent/infant relationship aggressive impulses are related to and contained, i.e., by helping the infant or child re-direct their impulses, self-regulation can develop. Both by modeling self-regulation themselves and by providing the baby the experience of being regulated, the parent guides their infants impulses into more directed behavior.

If a parent helps their child recognize and express their anger in words or more social behaviors, their aggression becomes integrated. This does not mean that the anger response goes away; it means that by learning to regulate emotions, the child learns to contain their impulses so that they can be channeled in more productive ways. Feelings can be thought about and not acted out. The child no longer needs to project anger outside into monsters in the dark, or develop negative feelings towards themselves. They learn to say that they are angry and talk about what is happening for them that is causing it.

Regulated Anger in Relationships

As adults we are also better off when we do not have to impulsively act out our anger, project it on to others, or turn our anger against ourselves. We can learn to communicate our feelings directly in our relationships, making it possible for the other person to hear and receive our feelings. When we are able to talk about what is angering us we are brought back into connection with others.

Copyright 2011 TruceWorks