When you were a kid you learned about yourself, your family and the world around you. The way you were taught to deal with emotions, such as anger, impacted your brain as you grew and developed into an adult. The good news is, if you learned some unhealthy ways to deal with anger as a kid, you can unlearn it as an adult and learn new strategies to help you become more successful in your relationship.
How Did You See Your Parents Handle Anger?
When you were young, how did you see your parents express their anger? For example, did you have a mother who always stayed quiet, even when she was upset? Or did you have a mother who was unpredictable with her anger as she sometimes flew into rages about seemingly small things?
And how did your father handle his anger? Was he scary when he was anger? Or did he go off by himself to deal with his anger? Perhaps you never even knew he had emotions.
There’s lots of ways adults deal with anger and your parents were likely your first role models for how to deal with uncomfortable feelings. You likely gained an opinion on whether anger is good or bad. You also likely learned about whether anger should be expressed or not.
Some kids learn to use anger as a weapon. Perhaps they see one parent call the other names. Or maybe they witnessed both parents using their anger to intimidate others and get what they want. Either way, kids see how family treats one another and what sorts of things are acceptable when feeling angry.
How Did You Express Your Anger?
Your attitude toward anger was likely developed based on what you witnessed from your parents. Perhaps you thought it was wrong to feel angry. Or maybe you took responsibility for other people’s feelings, for example, feeling very guilty if someone else was mad at you.
Some kids learn to act out when they feel angry while other kids learn to hold it in. The way you expressed your anger as a kid had to do with the way you were raised. Even kids who say, “I never want to be like my Mom when she was angry,” are influenced by a parent, even if it is in an attempt to do to the opposite.
How Did Adults React to Your Anger?
It’s also important to look at how others reacted to your anger. For example, if you were successful when it came to throwing fits and making demands, you may have learned that anger is a good way to get what you want.
On the other hand, kids who are met with ridicule or whose feelings were dismissed may have trouble as adults to recognize and deal with their anger. For example, if you had a parent who frequently said things like, “You shouldn’t be upset about something like that,” it’s likely that you grew up with some confusion about whether or not your feelings were okay.
If you were fortunate enough to have parents who accepted your anger and taught you healthy ways to deal with your anger, you may very well have a positive relationship with anger as an adult. Anger itself isn’t bad. It’s all about the behavior you exhibit when you feel angry. So if adults taught you to go for a walk, take deep breaths, or talk to someone when you were feeling upset, it’s likely you learned that feeling angry is acceptable.
Are There Changes You Want to Make to Your View of Anger?
Consider how you view anger now and determine if there are some changes you want to make. For example, if behaving aggressively worked for you as a child because you lived in a big family where you had to be aggressive to your needs met, it’s likely being aggressive in your marriage may be harmful.
Look at the behaviors you show when you are angry and determine if there are some that you want to change. Perhaps you offer your spouse the silent treatment in attempt to punish your spouse when you don’t get your way. Maybe this worked well with your parents when you were ten, but as an adult, there are other ways to handle you ranger.
It can be tough to take an honest look at your behavior and your attitude toward anger; however it can be very helpful. Old habits can be hard to change so if you decide to make some changes, it will take hard work. Learning how to express your anger in healthy ways can make a big difference in the quality of your marriage.