The High Costs of Anger (Part 2)
Dr. Fiore,' the voice on the phone pleaded, 'I need anger management classes right away. I blew up at my girlfriend last night and she said it's over until I get help.'
As Kevin recounted the first night of class, he and his girlfriend had argued in the car over which route to take home from a party. Events progressed from mild irritation, to yelling and name calling.
Things escalated at home. He tried to escape, but she followed him from room to room, demanding resolution of the conflict. He became angry, defensive and intimidating.
Frightened, she left. Later, she left an anguished message saying that she loved him, but couldn't deal with his angry, hurtful outbursts.
Kevin said that he normally is a very 'nice' and friendly person. But on this occasion, his girlfriend had been drinking before the party. In his view, she was irrational and non-stop in criticism. He tried to reason with her, but it just made things worse. Finally, as Kevin saw things, in desperation he 'lost it' and became enraged.
How should Kevin have handled this situation? What could he have done differently? What actions should you take in similar situations?
Option 1: Time out. Take a 20 minute time-out (but commit to returning later to work on the issue). Take a walk. Calm yourself down. Breathe deeply. Meditate. Do something else for awhile.
New research by John Gottman, Ph.D., at the University of Washington indicates that when you and your partner argue, your pulse rate goes above 100 beats per minute, and you enter a physiological state called DPA (diffuse physiological arousal). Once there, it becomes nearly impossible to solve the problem. You lose perspective. Your reasoning ability, memory and judgment greatly decline.
Taking a time-out allows both of you to return to your normal state of mind.
It is neither healthy nor necessary for you to explode as a result of being provoked by your partner. Our recommendation: Turn the heat down rather than intensify the pressure.
Option 2: Interact differently. Many couples like Kevin and his partner develop patterns of behavior that create miscommunication and conflict. Do you interact in one or more of these ways?
Option 3: Positive interactions. Start by actually listening not only to what your partner says, but what he or she means. Partners in conflict are not listening to understand; rather, they listen with their answer running because they are defensive. Unfortunately, defensiveness is another predictor of divorce.
Dr. Tony Fiore is a So. California licensed psychologist, and anger management trainer. His company, The Anger Coach, provides anger and stress management programs, training and products to individuals, couples, and the workplace. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter "Taming The Anger Bee" at www.angercoach.com and receive two bonus reports.