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Christian Counseling - Managing Anger

Living with someone who is, shall we say, intermittently angry, can be extremely painful. Many in this situation start to change their behavior to not "offend" the angry person. Whether the angry person is a son, daughter, brother, sister, spouse, or child, our behavior will change in an attempt to not "set them off". We try to predict what could possibly make them angry based on past experiences. We avoid situations where they could get angry.

"I can't ask him to go to dinner with my family because I'll never hear the end of it."

"I have to leave my daughter alone to do her homework. If I try to talk to her about, she screams at me."

"Why is it my brother screams and yells, yet he gets his way all the time? It's not fair."

These types of statements are common in families that deal with an angry person. What we eventually come to understand is that managing some one's anger is impossible. Angry people simply get angry. As we try to predict what they might respond in anger to, we end up blindsided by something we could not predict. "I didn't see that coming" is a common refrain.

Rather than trying to manage their anger, we need to think more about how we are going to respond to their anger. We cannot change anyone, but we can make it difficult for them not to change. As the Marine's say in basic training, "We can't make you do anything, but we can make you wish that you had."

Our efforts to manage someone else's anger is an effort to gain control of the situation and remain safe. Since we cannot keep someone from getting angry, we need to focus on ourselves and how we are going to maintain physical and emotional safety regardless of whether the person changes or not. In some cases, this will result in setting emotional boundaries. In other more extreme cases, we may need to forge physical boundaries for our safety. Remember, however, that when we set boundaries, either physical or emotional, the boundaries are designed to protect us, not change the other person.

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