This is a deep dive into the causes of unresolved personal conflict that results in anger. In short, what are the causes of anger in your marriage?
It’s Part 2 of the Anger In The Family Series. In Part 1 we discussed how anger impacts the family.
There is a funny scene in the movie Anger Management with Adam Sandler. Adam plays a businessman named Dave Buznik who is a relatively mild manner man wrongly sentenced to an anger management program. His therapist is Dr. Buddy Dydell played by Jack Nicholson.
It’s a classic case of how things can spiral out of control.
In this case, Dave’s outburst was the result of being misunderstood. In reality, there are many reasons anger creeps into our lives.
In This Article
- Anger in the Family Series [Part 2]
- Types of Anger
- Not All Anger Is Bad
- Where Does The Bad Anger Originate?
- Wrapping It Up
Anger in the Family Series [Part 2]
This is Part 2 of a series titled: Anger and the Family.
The Series in a Nutshell:
Watch the article video here.
Types of Anger
Psychguides lists six basic types of anger:
- Chronic anger, which is prolonged, can impact the immune system and be the cause of other mental disorders
- Passive anger, which doesn’t always come across as anger and can be difficult to identify
- Overwhelmed anger, which is caused by life demands that are too much for an individual to cope with
- Self-inflicted anger, which is directed toward the self and may be caused by feelings of guilt,
- Judgmental anger, which is directed toward others and may come with feelings of resentment
- Volatile anger, which involves sometimes-spontaneous bouts of excessive or violent anger
Of these, this article is most concerned about the forms of anger generally expressed in the home. The kind of anger that drives a wedge between spouses, causes conflict with family members, and creates tension that dictates the mood.
Chronic anger, passive anger and volatile anger tend to produce the most damage in the household.
Not All Anger Is Bad
If you are human, you have experienced anger. It’s a healthy and normal response to certain situations. It becomes unhealthy when you are not able to control your feelings of anger. Or you bury them and allow them to fester.
We tend to express anger as a way to cover up the pain of our ‘core hurts’ according to Steven Stosny. (Source) These core hurts include things like feeling unimportant, overlooked, guilty, devalued, etc.
They are actually normal emotions that have gone haywire.
Freud believed anger occurred as a defense mechanism to protect ‘the personality when the ego is under siege.’
Those are normal expressions and experiences of anger.
But what about the abnormal expressions of anger? The kind that destroy our lives and our relationships?
Where Does The Bad Anger Originate?
The causes of uncontrollable anger are rooted in a variety of physiological, emotional, and mental health issues. People may experience rage due to a long-term pattern of suppressing frustration, disappointment, or underlying threats or fears.
For the average healthy person, uncontrollable anger is often linked to suppression of feelings related to unfair or stressful situations.
Why is this important? To resolve a problem you have to identify it.
If the goal is to resolve an issue, we have to take steps to understand the real problem.
Some things may be hard to hear; but if you want to resolve the issue let’s truly define the problem and find out where the anger comes from.
Here’s 9 Things That Might Be Causing Anger Issues
1) Medical Issues
In 1995, rage was hypothesized to occur when oxytocin, vasopressin, and corticotropin-releasing hormone are rapidly released from the hypothalamus. This results in the pituitary gland producing and releasing large amounts of the adrenocorticotropic hormone, which causes the adrenal cortex to release corticosteroids. This chain reaction occurs when faced with a threatening situation. (Source)
Let’s break this down into two categories: Medical Conditions and Medications
Medical Conditions that Cause Anger
- Menopause and PMS
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Overactive Thyroid
- Wilson’s Disease
Medications that Cause Anger
This is a short list of medications that can (not always) produce feelings of anxiety and anger as a side effect.
- Cholesterol Medicine
- Diabetes Medicine
- Sleeping Pills
- Anxiety Drugs
- Thyroid Medications
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice. This is based entirely on the research we have done on this subject.
This is not meant to be a justification for anger. Regardless of medical conditions, abusive anger should not be tolerated. In the case of those rare conditions that produce anger, seek professional help and care for your loved.
No physical or emotional condition should be used as an excuse for any bad behavior. Yes, hormonal imbalance effects mood and perspective, but it should not be accepted as a reason to hurt others.No physical or emotional condition should be used as an excuse for any bad behavior. Yes, hormonal imbalance effects mood and perspective, but it should not be accepted as a reason to hurt others. Click To Tweet
If a medical condition is creating conflict and tension in your home, get medical attention.
2) Personal Inner Turmoil
Many leading spiritual advisors and pastors believe the root cause of anger is the tension we feel from past hurts, wounds and guilt.
The very nature of conflict implies something on the inside is not congruent. It’s out of order. Not in alignment. It makes sense to identify the root cause as the ‘thing’ that makes us feel out of alignment.The very nature of conflict implies something on the inside is not congruent. It’s out of order. Not in alignment. It makes sense to identify the root cause as the ‘thing’ that makes us feel out of alignment.Things in our past that… Click To Tweet
I’m not talking about ‘the devil made me do’ excuse. Rather, things in our past that hurt us tend to creep up and spoil life unless they are dealt with.
These my include:
Sometimes these events happen ‘to us.’
For example, if you grew up in a home with an alcoholic parent you probably have experienced rejection, deceit, grief, and maybe even abuse. This happened to you.
Other times WE do things that produce guilt in our heart.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly done things that I’m not proud of. These things cause tension inside us. We feel guilt. Shame. Even condemnation.
If we fail to deal with these emotions (and the action that brought them about) we increase the conflict we feel inside. Unresolved emotional disappointment (whether it comes from others or ourselves) leaves us feeling torn. This tension often leads to anger.If we fail to deal with these emotions (and the action that brought them about) we increase the conflict we feel inside. Unresolved emotional disappointment (whether it comes from others or ourselves) leaves us feeling torn. This… Click To Tweet
Someone once put it like this: We operate out of our own junk.
Understanding this gives us an advantage in dealing with conflict. If we know where it comes from, we can address that issue and find forgiveness or freedom.
3) Emotional Trauma or Pain
This connects to the previous point. Emotional trauma and internal pain can cause unresolved conflict internally.
One reader sent this personal story:
My dad, a former alcoholic, worked in construction. With seven mouths to feed, money was tight.
One hot August day, my mother was canning and had run out of lids.
Neither my brother nor I wanted to walk in the blazing sun to go to the little store down the road to purchase more lids. We argued about who should go.
My dad angrily demanded that one of us go. I went since my brother had a friend over.
Having made the purchases, I was returning home and saw my brother and his friend at the gas station. They were with a policeman and another man.
Like an idiot, I went over to see what was going on.
I found out my brother and his friend had followed me to the store.
The friend had dared my brother to throw a rock and hit me. He missed and hit the windshield on the car belonging to the man.
We were ALL put in the police car and driven the short distance home.
The friend’s parents were called and he left.
I tried to explain I had nothing to do with this mess as I went to the store alone.
I went to my room, but not long after, my mother came in, hysterical. She told me to put on long pants and anything else I could find.
My dad came into the house furious because he had to pay the man for the windshield.
I could hear him in my brother’s room beating him. I was terrified as I heard the blows and crying.
He then came to my room and beat me. My mother had to pull him off of me.
I was punished for something I didn’t do. I never knew I could hate as much as I hated my dad and brother that day!
For the next 5-6 weeks, my dad spent most of his time when he was home, out in his large shop, not even coming in the house to eat. He waited until my brother and I were in our rooms before he came in to go to bed.
BUT it took me weeks to look at him, months to talk to him, and years to forgive him.
From then on, whoever I was angry with, I became very good at holding grudges and not talking to them.
Every time I felt (feel) unjustly blamed for what others did (or do), I had to once again deal with that anger.
That was a horrible feeling back then and tough to revisit.
Her story is heartbreaking. It’s interesting to hear her talk about the long term effects of this:
#1. I blamed and excused my anger on family dysfunction and nationality.
#2. Celebrate Recovery and God helped me ‘see’ why I reacted. It was the way someone said something.
#3. I felt frustrated, rejected, more anger and desperate.
I learned (am still) to take a step back and ‘backtrack’ to where I went off the rails. Lots of prayer, guts to face myself and a desire to ‘get well’. God gave me a sense of humor, too.
The key, as she discovered, is to recognize and acknowledge what is going on internally. That’s the first step. There are many steps after that, but you can’t finish the race if you don’t take the first step.
Psychologist Steven Stosny describes this state of emotion in his book Treating Attachment Abuse (1995). He states that it is possible for anger in these situations to act as a chemical “salve”. The hormone secreted by the brain during phases of anger is the norepinephrine analgesic. It is now clear to see why anger is the go-to emotion when faced with potential adversity.
4) A Measure of Feeling Disrespect
Anger is a natural response to feeling disrespected. This is true for both genders. But it is more applicable to men.
It’s often hard to put into words what we feel. Emotions express themselves whether you have words for them or not.
In other words, if you feel it, it will show. Especially when it comes to disrespect.
A study was done by Sarai Blincoe and Monica Harris on gender responses to disrespect. They found that men and women have different responses when feeling disrespected.
Men generally respond with anger. Women feel sad.
In her book, For Women Only, Shaunti Feldahn writes:
“Anger is often a man’s response to feeling disrespected. “
She calls anger the disrespect barometer. If you want to know how disrespected your husband is, see how angry he is. It’s a good indicator.
Her research found that 80% of men said if they had conflict with their spouse, they were more likely to feel disrespected than unloved.80% of men said if they had conflict with their spouse, they were more likely to feel disrespected than unloved. Click To Tweet
Like most emotions, when we feel them it’s not easy to stop and say, ‘Hey, that made me feel disrespected!’
Instead, we internalize those feels which comes out as anger.
This is why it is important to have regular times to connect with your spouse so there is freedom to discuss big issues and get things on the table.
This minimizes the potential of anger.
5) Anger as a Control Mechanism
There are two forms of this:
One, some people use anger as a tool to control others.
If they fail to get their way, they explode with an emotional outburst.
They are never happy unless they get their way. So to ensure they get their way, they hold their friends and family hostage with the threat of anger.
When I was a child, I had an aunt who would often act out and pitch a fit if she didn’t get her way. It made everyone feel they had to walk on eggshells so she wouldn’t explode. Even as a kid I could feel the tension. It made me not want to go to her house even though I loved my cousins.
It rarely starts at such a visible level. Rather it happens over time. They train those around them to respond the way they desire. It begins so subtle, those involved usually don’t see it coming until it’s too late.
I’ve met husbands who use their temper to get what they want. They control their worlds with the threat of anger.
Second, anger is self-soothing.
Here’s how it works. A chemical called norepinephrine is release during anger arousal. It is actually an analgesic (drug used to relieve pain). It is intended to numb the emotion of anger. Which is suppose to be a good thing.
However, norepinephrine covers up the pain of our core hurts so we actually feel better.
It’s no wonder people become addicted to anger.
Leon Seltzer (Ph.D) puts it this way:
If Anger Helps You Feel in Control, No Wonder You Can’t Control Your Anger!
It is, therefore, only reasonable that if the self-elicitation of anger can successfully fend off such hurtful or unbearable feelings, one might eventually become dependent on the emotion to the point of addiction.
There’s one other factor to look at here.
Another chemical released during anger is epinephrine. This is an ‘amphetamine-like hormone’ that produces a surge of energy. It’s like an adrenaline rush.
If anger can make us feel powerful, if it’s the “magic elixir” that seemingly is able to address our deepest doubts about ourselves, no wonder it can end up controlling us. In a sense, it’s every bit as much a drug as alcohol or cocaine. And it’s my strong belief that many, many millions of people worldwide are addicted to anger because of its illusory empowering aspects.
Anger is not only used to control situations and other people; it is used to give us an emotional (false) high.
This is why unresolved anger is so dangerous. We’ve also seen how anger causes physical problems.Anger is not only used to control situations and other people; it is used to give us an emotional (false) high. This is why unresolved anger is so dangerous. Click To Tweet
6) Psychological Issues
Psychologist have long recognized that some anger can be the result underlying psychological issues.
These may include long term (deep) depression.
Anger can be a symptom of depression, which is characterized as ongoing feelings of sadness and loss of interest lasting at least two weeks.
OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is an anxiety disorder that is marked by thoughts that are unwanted and urges that drive them to do things they don’t want to do. This causes stress that if not managed produces anger.
One study found that over 50% of people suffering from OCD experienced anger attacks. They had “significantly higher prevalence of panic attacks and comorbid depression.”
They also exhibited aggressive acts toward their spouse, parents, and children.
The study sites:
Significantly more subjects with anger attacks exhibited aggressive acts toward spouse, parents, children, and other relatives in the form of yelling and threatening to hurt, trying to hurt, and threatening to leave.
This is typically characterized by fits of manic behavior (a state of abnormally elevated arousal, affect, and energy level – wikipedia), followed by severe depression.
They go from euphoric feelings to hopelessness.
Anger is a common side effect of these excessive mood swings.
7) Substance Abuse
The University of Kentucky presented a study by Peter Giancola and Michelle Corman that documented the correlation between alcohol and aggression.
It is not surprising that alcohol is associated with anger and increased aggression and violence.
According the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is involved in violent crimes, assault, murder, child abuse and rape more than any other drug.
One of the reasons associated with this is alcohol affects the impulse control center of the brain.
Although it is probably not necessary (you get the point), there is one more study worth noting:
The German journal Deutsches Artzeblatt International publishes that people who are dependent on alcohol also engage in violent behaviors around 16-50 percent of the time, and people who become significantly intoxicated at least once a year are twice as likely to be involved in violent behaviors over those who stick to moderate or low patterns of alcohol consumption.
Note: If you are in an abusive situation, get out immediately and seek help.
There is a problem using injustice as a source of anger. Most of the time it is merely based on what we perceive as unjust. Not what is actually unjust.
There are certainly issues that deserve justice. Most of the time, however, it is our perception of what is wrong.
A few days ago Kaitlin Bennett (she runs a conservative YouTube Channel) visited Ohio University to conduct a trivia video. She was ‘met by a violent mob of leftist students. The mob surrounded her and friend Joel Patrick, shouting obscenities and throwing hot coffee, toilet paper, and other objects at her.’ All because of her conservative beliefs.
You can watch the video here:
Whether you are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, or something in-between, this behavior is unacceptable and morally wrong. To assault someone because they believe something different from you, or think differently is the epitome of arrogance and intolerance.
I bring this up because it is fresh on my mind. But this is not just about politics. It happens in marriage too.
In Part 1 I told the story of the wife who bought the wrong kind of milk and her husband went ballistic. This is certainly is not ‘real’ injustice. Only something he perceived to be wrong.
According to Dictionary.com a narcissist is someone who has an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
Of the many characteristics, the Mayo Clinic lists lack of empathy, entitlement and taking advantage of others among the top.
These characteristics come into play when a narcissist is confronted with a relationship problem. Because they lack empathy, they do not consider how their spouse might feel.
They feel entitled so they constantly strive to get their way. Sense they are prone to take advantage of others, they don’t care who they hurt to get what they want. The feelings of their spouse never cross their mind. They are too preoccupied with their own desires and feelings.
Since they are the center of their world (the opposite of what makes a great marriage), they are easily agitated when they don’t get their way.
They typify point #5 above; they use anger to control situations.
Those are the nine (9) basic causes (or source) of unresolved anger issues.
It’s crucial to understand where the anger comes from. Knowing the source gives you the power to know how to confront or deal with it. The more you know, the better equipped you are to break free.
In the next two articles we will deal with how to conquer anger.
Wrapping It Up
Anger is a natural emotional. But when it is uncontrolled and used as a weapon against others, it can destroy your relationship.
We need to develop skills to learn how to deal with unresolved conflicts in our life.
We have a tool to help identify and win over conflict. You can download this tool for free.
In this article we discussed 9 Causes of unhealthy anger in a relationship. Here they are again:
- 1) Medical Issues
- 2) Personal Inner Turmoil
- 3) Emotional Trauma or Pain
- 4) A Measure of Feeling Disrespect
- 5) Anger as a Control Mechanism
- 6) Psychological Issues
- 7) Substance Abuse
- 8) Injustice
- 9) Narcissism
Next Article [Part 3]: How To Deal With An Angry Husband [Spouse]
Have you struggled with anger in your family?
What do you consider to be the primary source of anger in your life?
Tell me about a time anger had a negative impact on your marriage or family.