Intimidation and Adrenalin Highs
When Anger Works to Get People What They Want
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
Some angry people refuse to get help with their anger because their anger works for them. They use it as intimidation to control family members and get what they want. These people are “Anger Outers” which blast their anger outward in all directions. They have learned that intimidation works so they see no reason to do anything to change their behavior. They feel better after their anger release and forget what happened quickly. In their mind, the problem is over for them, and they cannot understand that others remain traumatized or hurt by their actions. They do not believe that they have a problem and that it is okay to get their anger out so that they can feel better. They tell family members that it is over, and they should just get over it. They do not understand the hurt and resentment that being yelled at causes their family.
Some people, who are stuck in their destructive anger pattern, do not realize that there are other options. They decide that is just how they are and they can’t change. Their closed mind makes any new information coming in a threat. They usually do not believe in getting professional help, as they do not feel comfortable discussing their emotions or admitting that they might be at fault. Rigidity of thinking is discussed in The Right Man or Right Women Theory on my web site
People who express anger outwardly usually hook up with “Anger Inners.” People who turn their anger inward suppress their anger, which results in anxiety, poor self-esteem, bitterness and depression. Anger Inners can become martyr victims who hold their pent up anger down until it builds up in resentment until it explodes out. After years of holding it in, the stress of living with repressed anger can add to physical illness.
Anger can be an energizing emotion. For some people it is satisfying because anger may pull them out of a blue funk temporarily and get them moving. The adrenalin that is produced by anger can become addictive. The hormonal high feeds their self-righteousness, which can feel very satisfying. Some people seem to enjoy the rush and arousal that their anger brings up. They enjoy the chaos and a soap opera life to bring excitement.
People who use anger for adrenalin as an addiction might resent attempts to get them to change. When things become calm, they ratchet things up a notch or two. When things get too dull, they orchestrate some drama so they can feed that hormonal need. They manipulate dramas and power plays to bring excitement into the daily boredom of their lives. They need to up the chaos in the relationship can be created by the angry person or the partner. Prison riots serve this purpose of breaking out of boredom and producing adrenalin high for all involved. If you have the kind of life that is characterized by the guests on the Jerry Springer show, ask yourself, “What am I getting out of this?”
E. Mavis Hetherington’s research, which followed up 1.400 divorced families, found that this volatile lifestyle is one of the five major types of couples who split up.
- Traditional marriages where the man is the head of the household, and the woman’s role is to take care of the home and children. This type of relationship works as long as the woman accepts the role of homemaker.
- Pursuer-distancer marriages where one partner wants to confront and problem solve and the other denies the problems and withdraws. These are two different ways of dealing with the inner anxiety that discussing problems brings. One chases to insist that they must talk, the other says “Leave me alone.” Of course this leaves the pursuer frustrated and angry. The Solo Partner: Repairing Your Relationship on your Own by Philip DeLuca describes this type of problem.
- Disengaged marriages where the couple have separate friends, activities and interests. These are low energy marriages where conflict is low but so is interaction and passion.
- Operatic marriages where couples fight constantly and operate at a level of extreme emotional arousal. These soap opera lives go for the high, highs and the low, lows. There is great chemical attraction, volatile anger and passionate lovemaking.
- Cohesive-individuated marriages where partners work together to achieve equality, respect and mutual support with both partners being autonomous individuals who choose to come together.
Based on my clinical experience, I would add one more category of couples. I see couples where the man has taken himself out of family involvement and lives his own life pursuing whatever he pleases. He has not learned skills of staying emotionally involved with the wife and sometimes the children. He is basically selfish and puts his needs first. He may seek his addictive highs in work holism or in alcohol or drugs or even in sports, but he is not there emotionally for those he lives with. The wife then becomes silently angry or starts to nag to get some of her needs met. For more information on how men withdraw leaving the angry wife feeling left out in the cold read Terrence Real’s book How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women.
Defusing the Hair Trigger on the Powder Keg of Anger
Anger plus poor coping skills to deal with it is a powder keg of violence waiting to be set off. So if you and your partner use contempt, nasty name calling, belligerence, denial of problems, and withdraw with stonewalling, your relationship will erode. Healthier skills to express anger can be learned.
Anger does not break up relationships. It is HOW you do your anger that creates problems between people. Here are some of the sub skills of anger that are missing in those people who use their anger in hurtful ways:
- Catch initial muscle tensions, temperature changes and the adrenalin rush that signify anger and fear.
- Use self-calming and stress management techniques during an argument.
- Observe and identify body reactions, emotions and thoughts during the beginning states of anger.
- Slow down the anger response by acknowledging the physical cues of anger and breathing them though.
- Displace anger symbolically when it’s not safe to express it directly.
- Break into self-angering thoughts and use relaxation techniques to cool self down.
- To deal directly with the problem and stop blaming others.
- Find and express sadness, confusion and hurt lying under anger.
- Analyze the threatening event and identify and break into triggers.
- Examine current angers and relate them back to old unresolved childhood issues.
- Stay present during threat or stress rather than lash out or stuff anger.
- Change the self-angering or self-depreciating meanings given to threatening events.
- Make self empowering statements to deal with life’s stressors (I can handle this. I don’t have to get mad.)
- Increase self esteem by changing inappropriate anger responses to behaviors that help problem solve.
Much of anger is intergenerational and has been passed down from parents to children. You can learn to break it in your generation. You and those you love can learn conflict negotiation and fair fighting to deal with the difference in opinion that come up in relationships. You can learn to break into those hair trigger anger responses and long-held grudges. You can learn to let go of old hurts and practice loving kindness.
The bottom line is that people should be treated with respect. You can learn and grow to find ways to make your home a happier place. You and your family can learn better ways of treating each other. You will have to work at it. Creating a space where people feel safe is the most positive things you can do for those you love. As you create more respect for of those all you touch daily, you change your present and your future to a positive one.