"Between the ages of 11-14 years, I incurred a serious accident that left me hospitalised for nine months with life-threatening injuries. A part of my critical condition included a spinal injury that left me unable to walk for three years, with the prospect of never walking again. After my accident, I found myself with a new bedmate that stayed with me for the next ten years. Until my early twenties, 'Anger' and I walked hand in hand. It was therefore with no great surprise that in my later years, I became one of the country's leading authorities upon 'anger,' and it was this interest in the subject and my later research into anger responses and patterns of aggressive behaviour that led me to found 'Anger Management' in the early 1970's. I gave the 'Anger Management' process to Europe, and within two years, 'Anger Management Groups' had mushroomed across the English-speaking world.
'Anger' cannot be defined as either 'good' or 'bad'; it is how it is used that matters. Anger is an energy force which can be directed towards achievement or destruction. Fifteen years of research led me to discover Relaxation and any meditation process as representing the best platform from which to direct one's anger beneficially and transform it into constructive energy. I also learned during this period that from the three main emotional responses of anger, fear and the feeling of being unloved, 'anger' is the most potent feeling which is capable of producing emotional disturbance if not appropriately expressed. It is also the greatest determinant that both blocks or advances a change of behaviour. As such, the unhealthy maintenance of repressed anger will anchor us to the past, while the healthy expression of one's anger can propel one into a happier and more hopeful future.
Prime among my research findings was that in order to get the unproductive anger out of one's body, one needs to put love in! I also learned that in order to 'productively repress' high levels of anger, one needs to 'appropriately express' one's fears, and in order to 'productively repress' one's high fear levels, one needs to 'appropriately express' one's anger. These few findings essentially represent the core of my research conclusions over 25 years and acted as the base for all my work in assessing response patterns and changing unwanted behaviour.
In simplified terms, the expression of too much anger can lead a person to 'explode' and harm others, whereas the repression of too much anger will lead to 'implosion' and self-harm. Anger can be used to incite one into an action they might not otherwise take or be applied as a weapon of destruction to prevent somebody doing what they want to do. The release of anger by people who were abused can free the repressed hurt and liberate the person to move on with their life, instead of feeding off the permanent regret of what happened and maintaining feelings of 'victimisation'. Many therapy processes that seek to heal, include teaching people to stand up for themselves, voice their injustices, speak out their wants and beliefs, and to even shout to the world, the specific wrongs that have been committed against them.
In my life as a Probation Officer, I have seen 'unhealthily repressed' and 'inappropriately expressed' anger do all manner of harm. I have seen it hurt, maim and kill, as well as lead another towards self-harm and suicide. Anger never exists without a reason, although it may not always be a good intention that drives it to the forefront of one's thoughts. Some married people swear by the merits of the occasional good row to clear the air and I know many who only learned of certain truths when they were spoken in the heat of anger. My own late mother used to say after I'd first married, 'Billy, never go to bed angry. It is far better to stay up and fight until the air is cleared.'
I would like all parents and readers of today's post to take two things away with them from it. First, I would like all to acknowledge that 'I make myself angry; me and nobody else!' Secondly, please note the long-term harm that an angry parent can have when they shout in the face of a little child. Believe me when I tell you that if a parent deliberately tried to produce maximum hurt of their child, it would be kinder to break their arms and legs than to shout aggressively in their little face; as the former will mend in several months, whilst the latter can live with the person for a lifetime!
I recall the late Irish comedian, Dave Allen, who used to highlight the sketch where an admiring adult seeing an infant in a pram, would poke their giant face to within inches of the infant before loudly saying 'Coochy, coochy, coochy!' Naturally, the infant would burst into tears upon seeing a loud face staring down the barrel of theirs!
Take it from me that an angry parent shouting and screaming angrily at a child, highlights a situation of long-term harm being done to that child. When an adult shouts or screams at a child, the child's instant reaction is to seek to protect themselves from this monster before them that threatens their world of peace and quietness. Being fearful of what may follow, they assume a foetal position and curl up in a corner and close their eyes and ears to what comes next. Such behaviour stays locked in their little minds for years to come and unless healthily processed and dealt with, it can re-emerge and raise its ugly head, and even repeat itself with their own little children. Such negative childhood experiences, however, is more likely to produce a very non-assertive adult, someone lacking in confidence who avoids all manner of conflict and social interaction; an acutely reserved person who never feels able to manage their own feelings, but instead appears content to remain a servant to the needs of others at the expense of denying their own needs.
If you have difficulty in 'shouting out your anger', try 'speaking it softly'. One of the things about the human mind and body is that it is physiologically impossible to entertain two opposing forces at the same time. The body can be relaxed or tense, it can whisper or shout, stand or sit, smile or frown; but it cannot do both opposites together! It is physiologically impossible. That is why I always taught my group members that the best way to stop oneself doing one thing in any situations was to teach oneself to do the opposite! And because it is physiologically impossible to speak about what angers you in a soft voice and be aggressive as you do so, I have always chosen to de-escalate anger through softly spoken words as opposed to loud ones.
So the next time you may be angry with a little child, express your anger softly and appropriately, and in a way that doesn't offend their little ears. Let them know by all means that it is their behaviour that you disapprove of and not them, and reassure them that however annoyed you are, you will always love them." William Forde December 15th, 2016.