In the second blog post of this series, we will explore the warning signs of reactive anger and the importance of using your anger to clarify what you need.
When there are problems in relationships, often there is one partner who can be more vocal and reactive about the situation. Being open and honest is important. However, there is a line between being honest and shaming the other partner. When things get tense in a relationship, our ability to speak to our partners’ positive traits can get lost in us trying to talk about the negative.
Harriet Lerner, in her book, The Dance of Connection, discusses the impact that being reactive in a relationship can have.
Some warning signs you may notice when the argument becomes unproductive are:
-Neither party can identify and address the important issues
-Neither party can listen to the other objectively
-You are unable to take a position without blaming or telling each other what to do.
Lerner espouses that reacting out of anger can turn things from bad to worse. It can cause defenses to go up and both parties to be unable to understand the core feeling underneath the fight.
When we are criticized in a shaming or blaming way, often our defenses go up, and we can either fight back, withdraw, or choose to be vulnerable and productively express how something made us feel.
Listening to your frustration or anger in important. Anger is often a sign that something is wrong. In fact, Lerner says, “Our anger can help us clarify where we stand, what we believe, and what we will and won’t do.” It is about how we express our anger. Do we criticize, blame, or become defensive? Or do we reset, take a breath and talk about the pain and sense of being overwhelmed that is causing the anger?