Greetings and welcome to the exercise in Chapter Two of Anger-Free: Ten Basic Steps to Managing Your Anger by W. Doyle Gentry, PhD. Today when I finished the second chapter I felt like I should answer the questions at the end. I didn't want to write them out, but I know that if I don't deal with this now, I won't ever be free from some of the hostility and resentment that is holding me back from becoming a less angry person. 


1. How would you define toxic anger?


1. Toxic anger is anger that does not subside or is out of proportion to the incident responsible for it. My ex-husband is an only child. I am the oldest of five. I learned very early on that if I didn't grab what I wanted when it was available, it would be gone later and my parents would not be empathetic. He gets very angry when he comes home and sees that an item he wanted to eat or drink is gone. The example of the executive who was angry when his kids drank the orange juice was my life until I got divorced this past June. Before I read this book I didn't understand the sense of entitlement that accompanied the angry outburst. Why is it a crime for someone who is thirsty to drink the last of the orange juice as long as greed is not a factor? 

2. Are you emotionally liberated or are you just pretending? How does your anger express itself? Make a list of the physical, emotional, and behavioral consequences of your anger. 


2. Today I am more liberated than I was before. For a long time I was so depressed and despondent that I didn't feel angry. I had learned to supress it so it stayed inside hurting me instead of letting it out and letting go. It wasn't okay for me to express how I felt so I became very confused and dejected. My mother and husband both like to deny themselves and brag about skipping meals or not using the bathroom when the need to go is there. Neither of them is empathetic so if they aren't hungry or thirsty or cold or tired or lonely, they can't understand how anyone else could be either. I've told this story before, but we were at a soccer game with my mom when a woman next to me asked if I was okay. My hands were so cold I couldn't feel several of the fingers on my right hand. Before I could respond my mother spoke up and said: "She's fine. She's fine because she's made up her mind that she's going to be fine." After that I walked back to her van wondering how I could convince my bloodless fingers that they were fine because I willed them to be. 

I remember one trip we took to see my mother-in-law. We had stopped at a gas station and asked the girls if they had to go. About ten miles out my oldest announced that she had to go to the bathroom. There was a rest stop coming up and I would have taken her, but my husband started yelling at her in a manner that reminded me of my parents and told her that she should have gone when she had the chance. I believe my daughter was about six when this happened. I told my husband that I also needed to go to the bathroom as we had a lot to drink and reminded him that I had used the bathroom at the last stop and still had to go. My daughter was not being bratty or willfully defiant. A child's body doesn't always understand the connection between being at a convenient rest stop and there not being a bathroom nearby later. When my daughter was learning how to use the bathroom she told me she had to go while we were on our way home. When I asked if she could hold it she said no. I said we could pull over and she could go on the side of the road and then she was scared to do that so she made it until we got home. A couple years ago my daughter would tell me she had to go as soon as we pulled out of the driveway at school. That time I told her she had to hold it until we got home since this was a pattern and I felt as if she should be using the bathroom at school instead of standing there and talking to her friends when she could have been using the facilities. Kids needing to use the bathroom is a fact of life. Parents need to discern where there is an underlying behavior problem, or the kid needs to go even though they didn't ten miles ago.

Several months ago I stood in the kitchen screaming at my husband. I said all the things I had kept bottled up inside and I felt so good after I told him that I hated him. My therapist told me that I married my mom and at no moment in my life was that more clear than when I almost passed out and threw up outside of a restaurant because my blood sugar was so low from not eating when I first told him that I was hungry. I can't regulate my blood sugar like others can so I go from feeling hungry to feeling ill even though food is what I need. Many of the food issues I have today are probably from my mother and husband denying me the opportunity to eat when I needed food. I try to compensate for this with the girls by telling them that they can have a healthy snack if they are hungry. If someone is hungry for ice cream, but not a healthy snack or meal, the hunger is psychological instead of biological. 

My anger expresses itself in feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, rage, and blood coursing through my body. Sometimes it feels like I could have a heart attack or stroke out from being so angry. I used to say horrible things. I used to exercise and over the years I internalized a lot of what I felt since I didn't want them to have the power to push me over the edge like they had so many times in the past. I was angry, I just told myself I wasn't. Sometimes I snap at the girls. I tend to take things out on them when I'm really angry at other people. I've read that people who are abused become abusive around weaker parties. I see this in my daughters and in myself. This is something we're all working through in therapy. 

Physical consequences  - I have damaged and possibly ruined my health by failing to address my anger. It hasn't happened very often, but I can remember spanking my daughter in a way that did not fit her crime when I was upset with her. I've called my kids names and thrown dismissive yet brutal comments their way. For that I am deeply ashamed and remorseful. I'm the adult, but didn't act like I was.

Emotional consquences - This is a tough one for me. I've walled myself off and erected barriers. I would sit for hours and write to get the emotions out although I didn't realize that's what I was doing at the time. My mom and my ex telling me that my feelings weren't real or important invalidated me so now I have an inferiority complex. My self esteem suffered. My therapist reminds me that I am lovable and worthy of love despite my flaws and imperfections. I am no better and no worse than anyone else on the planet. They're stunted and emotionally unavailable. I'm getting help, they're stuck where they're at. It's hard to remember that. It doesn't always help to hear it either. 

Behavioral consequences - When I was in high school I was so mad I repeatedly threw a can of hairspray at the back of my door. The door was dented from the metal can and the school said I would have to pay for the damage. I had to sit in a chair in the middle of my room and not leave it until my time out was over. Another time I chased my siblings around the house with a yardstick. I am very short, but my anger was such that I could hit as hard as a guy. I would hit people repeatedly in the same spot over and over again because that's how my dad spanked us. Always in the same spot, as hard as he could in precisely the outline his belt had created with its first contact. He would chase us across his bed, wielding his belt with the antique nickles on it as it hissed through the air. My mom's arm wasn't very accurate. She would get so mad the belt would fly around and hit me in the mouth or slap across my back. I was twenty-something we were in the hall when she hit me. I hit her back and she told me never to hit her again. I told her that I wouldn't hit her if she would stop hitting me. Then she told me that she was my mother which was stupid and not an excuse to justify punching your adult daughter. To this day she maintains that I was a willful and disobedient child who deserved the beatings she gave me. The next time she hits me I'm going to file a restraining order and she will not be allowed to see my children unless she goes to therapy and deals with her anger management issues. I won't hit her back if she strikes me, but it will take everything I have to keep myself from taking my pound of flesh. I have a lot of my dad in me. I can keep my cool and be livid. I can walk away calmly while seething. That's something neither of my parents can do. They have to have the last word. They don't apologize. They have to be right. I try very hard not to be that way with my girls and while I have lost my temper with them, I'm usually quite good about talking to them and apologizing after the fact.

3. What type of anger are you most likely to express; malevolent, constructive, or fractious? Do you feel more 'righteous' about your anger if it is constructive? How do you think the person on the receiving end of your constructive anger feels?


3. I express all three, fractious anger is probably the one that surprises me the most. It seems to come up unexpectedly in the straw that breaks the camel's back scenarios when I've had all I can take and snap. I am rarely malevolent. I no longer have a desire to get even with others although I will use anger to break off relationships in extreme cases. Most of the time I fear people who are angry with me so I try hard not to make others mad. I feel like Twitter has really helped me become more assertive and use anger constructively. Recently someone posted an article about wealthy people in California who were outraged that there was a new water rationing program in place. They feel like they have a right to use water that gives them a water bill like the eight hundred dollar one a woman complained about. That kind of thing makes me mad in a good way. These people are wasting water while the remainder of the state and its people have been subjected to restrictions previously. Not long ago a guy asked if I would follow him. I told him I had gone through a couple of his followers and didn't like what I had seen. He was flirting with me and trying to see if it would go further. I told him that I needed to be special in a relationship and seeing those other women and accounts that I didn't feel respected women were demeaning. During our chat he told me that he went and cleaned up the people he was following. I checked and saw that he had. He was still following several celebrities, he's interested in film and I felt as if that was him demonstrating a healthy and more respectful boundary. I was stunned when he thanked me for 'the kick in the arse' as he put it. I told him I was typically a very direct person, he said he wasn't a whiner and that was a sexy attribute to have. What started as a conversation where he was laying the flattery on too thick turned into a dialogue where I learned more about myself and others. He doesn't live on the same continent I do, but he said he would take me out if I was ever in his area and I would go out on at least one date with him if he ever showed up within a hundred miles of me. 

I follow a woman who is very angry and I believe narcisstic. She scares me. I don't often feel righteous when I'm angry in a constructive manner. It's more like, this is a wrong or injustice that is upsetting. Somebody should do something about it. I retweeted the story about the wealthy property owners and added a few comments about it to increase exposure. These people are entitled. The water is there for everyone. In a perfect world we would all get as much as we need and no one would lack water for drinking, washing, or bathing. 

Something that I've learned is how to speak to others about constructive anger. I'm not very good at this when it comes to my kids, but as in the example above when I was irritated by the guy hitting on me and gave him a dose of my constructive anger I think he admired the fact that I was clear about why I was upset by him requesting that I follow him. How people feels generally depends on how empathetic they are. If they feel that my constructive anger is justified, then they're usually okay with me explaining why I'm angry. If they're not empathetic then they usually think I'm a huge bitch. I can't control how people feel so I try and let that go. Tricks that I use are taking a deep breath before I speak, getting on their level, especially if they're my kids, clearly and directly stating the cause of my anger, and forgiving people quickly if they demonstrate remorse, regret, or use their actions to show me that they are sorry for making me mad. When my anger is constructive I'm not yelling. I'm calm and collected. I now recognize the need to get away for a while, this is so important for people who stay at home with their children all day. It's important for people to have safe places to go and I've found that a lot of anxiety coping mechanisms work well for anger. Taking a bath, a walk, deep breathing, these are all things I try to do in addition to therapy and reading this book. Another thing that helps is reading the Don't Sweat The Small Stuff books. Those have really helped me see the small things for what they are. A later chapter deals with catastrophizing as an anger mechanism. Without getting ahead of myself that was an insight. I didn't realize that those thoughts were so out of control in my mind and causing some of my unnecessary anger. I try to remember that for the most part people are doing the best that they can with what they have. We're all human and working through this book and doing these exercises gives me hope that some day I can announce to people that I am truly free from the toxic type of anger that is contributing to the way that I feel now. 

I've gotten some feedback from my first post Are you an angry person? and I'm thankful that it has given at least one other person the knowledge that they are not alone when they think about the past. The book has nineteen chapters, I'd like to do at least one of these exercises a week as part of my ongoing attempt to better understand the anger mechanism, triggers, and how to heal so my life will be successfully changed from this point forward. 

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