Beverly Engel is one of the researchers we refer to in our training when we discuss anger and how it is communicated. In Honoring Your Anger, Engel both discusses and evaluates styles of communicating anger, categorizing whether they are healthy or unhealthy.
Anger communication styles: when we go passive
We have learned patterns of communicating anger that we model in our lives from those who have influenced us: parents, family members, friends and others, including media. These forms of communicating anger may or may not be healthy. Yet, we often use them without understanding how they may create an opposite response (what we do not wish to create) in the lives of those around us, and more specifically, with our children.
While a passive style of anger may seem appropriate because it is nonaggressive, a nonviolent form of expressing anger, it is not, however, a good form of communicating anger. Passive anger has some uniquely subtle unhealthy effects.
Do these “anger-communication types” describe you?
Here are some examples of passive anger
Avoider: Never lets others see his or her anger, or lets others see him or her “sweat.”
Self-Blamer: Is used to being condemned for everything that goes wrong, so he or she believes the worst about him- or herself and lives with guilt and depression.
Denier: As a child, he or she witnessed a legacy of enraged behavior, equated it with terror, and now is convinced he or she never even feels angry.
Stuffer: He or she was very angry with a parent (or significant caregiver) while growing up, and now that parent insists on being friends and forgetting the past even though realistically the parent’s behavior has not changed. The parent communicates that he or she has always “tried hard;” so, the stuffer feels guilty about still being angry with parent.
Passive anger stays unresolved
As we consider these passive forms of anger expression, we can see how the anger stays unresolved because it is not verbalized and discussed. It is masked, denied and internalized, consequently causing unhealthy emotional responses. While much of the anger was directed toward the individual earlier in his or her life, the issue is that the passive anger has become internalized rather than expressed in a healthy way.
So, if you are expressing anger in this way, perhaps it is time to reconsider not only what you are doing but why. Could you be “holding it in” to avoid doing to others what was done to you?
If this describes you, and though you may be well-intentioned, there are some healthier ways to express your anger. Anger can be expressed without having to experience guilt, shame and intensity of emotion that may be unhealthy for you or those around you.
More on communicating styles of anger
In upcoming posts, I will talk about three additional unhealthy styles of communicating anger. Then, we will look at healthier, responsible ways to deal with people and situations that anger or frustrate you.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.