Lesson 4 of 7  - optimize your relationships

How to Benefit from
and Frustration

by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/relate/anger.htm

Updated 01-29-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This is one of a series of articles on Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. These articles build on Lessons 1 - 3, and prepare you for Lesson 5 (evolve a high-nurturance family) and Lesson 6 (effective parenting).

      This brief YouTube video previews some of what you'll read here. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons - I've simplified that to seven.

      This article is for people with "anger problems" in themselves and their relationships. The article applies to all relationships, including adults and kids. The article offers:

  • an introduction,

  • your "anger profile"

  • anger 101 - basics

  • about anger policies

  • anger and mourning

  • anger and psychological wounds

  • typical surface anger problems

  • common primary anger problems

  • An anger "status check," and...

  • practical solution options

      This article assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 3

  • Grown Wounded Children (GWCs),

  • anger policies, and...

  • this interesting research summary


      This article offers perspective and options, not "quick fixes." It provides practical options for (a) permanently reducing excessive anger and frustration in you, and for (b) responding effectively to these behaviors in other adults and kids. If you feel like skipping the recommended readings above, you may be controlled by an impatient false self.

      My therapy client looked like a pro football player. In his late 40’s, this big man sat on the couch with tears in his eyes, face screwed up like a child. He said “My wife, the pastor, and our therapist all say that I have an anger problem. I don’t see it!” This man's wife had recently demanded that he move out of their home. They had married a year before, full of plans and hopes - her second marriage, his first. His wife was talking mental cruelty, abuse, and divorce, despite the sincere covenant they’d made to each other and God.

      Terribly neglected as a boy, this anguished man wondered in his grief if he’d die childless, alone, and unloved. His wife could not tolerate the way he expressed his angers, and they could find no middle ground despite marital and pastoral counseling.

      Another client comes to mind. She was a soft-spoken, sensitive diabetic Mom who weighed over 250 pounds  before blurred vision and a blood-pressure surge scared her into losing weight. She struggled with an unsatisfying marriage and job, excessive anxiety about her only son, and trouble trusting a God who had allowed her to be sexually molested as a young teen.

      She had many reasons to feel and express anger, but couldn’t. “I can’t get angry,” she said in a little-girl voice, “I feel too guilty.” The one exception was with her (wounded, unaware) husband, whom she scorned as a parent and a partner despite his best efforts.

      The ancient shame from a disparaging father and her molestation, and her repressed rage at her attacker, her mother dying when she was 13, and at an uncaring God, were literally killing this mother as she turned 40. She desperately wanted to live.

      I could fill a book with anecdotes of anger and frustration expressed by hundreds of clients in my therapy office. I could add scores of tales of seething unspoken rage that froze the faces and bodies of tormented men and women, corroded their health and their relationships, and scared their kids. My father, sister, and I grew up in such homes.

      Is anger damaging or nourishing your important relationships? Do you avoid and/or get paralyzed by chronically angry adults and kids? What are your and your family's anger policies?  Are they your own shoulds, oughts, and musts, or have you unconsciously adopted someone else's, like your parents; a mentor, or a religion? How is anger affecting the nurturance level of your home and family? Have you ever thought or discussed questions like these?

      I suspect you’re reading this because you seek to master some “anger problems.” This article proposes using anger and frustration to nourish your relationships. Do you think that’s possible? This article offers core concepts, options, and suggestions that you can adapt to help use your anger as a relationship resource. 

Your "Anger Profile"

      Let’s start by you interviewing yourself to learn something about you and anger. Get undistracted, muse, and record your reactions to each of these statements. Notice your feelings and thoughts as you do… T = "true", F = "false," and "?" = "I'm not sure."

I feel a mix of calm, grounded, focused, "light," alert, aware, centered, purposeful, relaxed, "up," serene, and confident, so my  true Self is probably answering these questions. (T  F ?)

I see anger as a normal, useful (vs. positive or negative) human emotion; and I regard my ability to feel angry as an asset in my life. (T  F ?)

I can tell the difference between anger and frustration if I need to, and I know what to do about each of these now. (T  F ?)

Our other family adults see anger as a useful emotion now, and they value their ability to feel and express it. (T  F ?)

What I learned about (a) feeling and (b) expressing anger from key males in my childhood is … (what?)

What I learned about (a) feeling and (b) expressing anger from key females in my childhood is … (what?)

I’m comfortable enough now with (a) how and when I feel  anger, and (b) how I express it with _ myself and _ other family adults and kids. (T  F ?)

I’m comfortable enough now with how our other family adults (a) feel and (b) express anger at _ themselves and _ other family adults and kids. (T  F ?)

I know _ how to express anger constructively with my mate, and _ I’m satisfied with how I've done that recently. (T  F ?)

I’m comfortable enough now with _ how my mate expresses anger with me, _ how often, and _ why s/he does. (T  F ?)

I can remain centered and aware (vs. numbing out, fighting, or fleeing) when other people express anger at me now. (T  F ?)

None of our family adults need to suppress significant anger now. (T  F?)

I can _ clearly define the difference between assertion and aggression, and _ so can our other family adults. (T  F ?)

My partner and I are able to talk effectively about our marital anger needs and conflicts. (T  F ?)

I can clearly describe our home and family's policies (shoulds, musts, oughts, and have to’s) about _ feeling and _ expressing anger and frustration with each other now. (T  F ?)

I want to _ show this profile to other family members and _ discuss it with them. (T  F ?)

      Pause to reflect on what you’re feeling and thinking. If there are other items you want to include in your profile, what are they? Jot down any questions, observations, or actions that occur to you now, and review them after you finish this article. Can you describe why you’re reading this - specifically?

      Let’s build on your anger profile by exploring…

Anger Basics

      We humans are blessed with a marvelous range of emotions: automatic neuro-chemical responses to our sensory perceptions. Life without emotions would be robotic, meaningless, and probably brief, since emotions promote our survival. Relationships that evoke few emotions are boring, flat, and shallow. Have you experienced that?

Is it Anger or Frustration?

      Do anger and frustration feel similar to you? You may feel both at once, depending on the situation. Unaware people often confuse these emotions and don't know the difference.

  • Frustration is a reflexive response to being unable to satisfy current needs (discomforts).

  • Anger is usually triggered by hurt, fear (e.g. a threat), and/or an injury.

      Awareness of this difference helps to respond appropriately to each of these emotions in yourself and others. In relationship problem-solving, applying this idea leads to "If you're angry with me, what am I doing (or not doing) that hurts or scares you?" The same question helps understand and resolve anger at yourself or another person.

       Think of the last time you felt "pretty angry." Were you hurt or anxious, or did you feel unable to fill a key need? Now think of your favorite "angry person." Is s/he often hurt, feeling unable to reduce some discomfort, or both? When you feel frustrated, try asking "What need am I trying to fill now?" When you're angry, try asking "What's causing my pain or fear, and what are my options?"

Feeling vs. Expressing

      Feeling and expressing anger are different. Feeling it is instinctive (hormonal and neurological). Expressing anger can be controlled. Do you agree? Learning how to express anger and frustration usefully ("impulse control") is a basic social skill.

      Feeling emotions ranges from pleasurable (joy, satisfaction, happiness, ecstasy) to very uncomfortable (sorrow, agony, hurt, fear, shame, guilt, remorse, hatred, terror, overwhelm, exhaustion, etc). Uncomfortable feelings are often termed as "negative," which is associated with "bad."

      Faces, bodies, and voice dynamics broadcast anger even if we try to repress it. Anyone denying or minimizing current hurt and anger usually signals that a false self controls them - i.e. a subself feels it's not safe to feel or express anger honestly.

       All emotions indicate current needs, which is priceless information. Relationships exist to fill mutual needs, so emotions can help to identify and fill needs, and nourish emotions. Do you agree?  .

Anger is Not "Negative"

      Anger is an instinctive automatic reflex to guard against injury, pain, and death. Your anger response is no more negative than sneezing, urinating, coughing, or goose bumps. For several reasons, unaware parents may teach kids that anger is negative or bad. Parents rarely teach the difference between feeling and expressing emotions. Did yours?

      From this view, trying to repress feeling anger is unhealthy - like trying to stop breathing or urinating. Trying to control expressing emotions can help or hurt relationships and families. All families develop rules about how and when to express various emotions. What were the rules in your family about expressing anger and frustration? Who made the rules? What happened if you broke them?

      Can you think of someone be who expresses anger or frustration constructively? "Constructive" means "strengthening mutual respect and trust." Now think of someone who expresses these emotions destructively. For example...

yelling / screaming

throwing things


not listening

bringing up the past



breaking things

physical violence










      One cost of being taught that "being angry" is wrong is feeling you have to hide or repress it. Another cost is feeling guilt and shame for "feeling and/or acting angry." Neither of these is justified, unless people express the emotions destructively!

      Imbalances in neural and endocrine (hormonal) systems can cause harmful anger behaviors. These can be hard to distinguish from wounded people who repress and accumulate anger until it explodes. Competent psychiatrists can help to differentiate and treat both of these. I suspect that organic imbalances can be caused or amplified by serious psychjological wounds – i.e. anger explosions can be psychosomatic reactions.

      Anger is emotional energy. Energy used to change or create something is power. Anger-power can help you to create relationships or can damage them. Stay tuned for ideas on how to use anger constructively.

Anger Policies

      A personal "policy" is a learned set of beliefs + values + rules (shoulds, oughts, musts, and have to's) that regulate our behavior and our opinions of other people. From social training and life experience, every adult and child evolves semiconscious policies about feeling and expressing hurt, anger, fear, needs, frustrations, and other emotions. Do you agree?

      Our personal policies are created and enforced by our dominant personality subselves Survivors of major early-childhood trauma are often unaware of being controlled by Inner Children and their Guardian subselves, They form and enforce our policies on feeling and expressing our emotions. For more perspective, read this after you finish here.

      A healthy policy is one which helps you and other people fill your needs, heal, and grow. A toxic policy inhibits these. Have you ever identified your anger and frustration policies? Can you describe other key people's policies? Can they? See this Lesson-4 article on anger policies for more perspective.

      How well people's anger and frustration policies mesh, and how toxic or healthy their policies are, will shape whether they have “major anger problems” with each other. This is true of in each key relationship in your life, and with your Higher Power. Have you ever identified your Supreme Being’s anger policy?

Anger and Healthy Mourning

      Feeling and expressing pain and anger are essential phases of healthy mourning. So repressing grief-related emotions or inhibiting them in other people will stress you and/or them, promote false-self dominance, and weaken relationships. Typical kids and adults always have significant prior losses (broken bonds) to mourn.

      Premise: incomplete grief is one of five reasons for epidemic U.S. divorce and "mental health problems." self-improvement Lesson 3 proposes how to understand and finish incomplete mourning. Adults' awareness of these anger basics can help to do that!

      “Anger problems” take on a new perspective in the context of psychological  wounds. Adding this perspective will increase your options to reduce and avoid “anger problems” within you and between you and other people.

Anger and False-self Dominance

      Premise - kids deprived of too many psychological and spiritual nurturances survive by automatically developing a group of protective personality subselves and coping behaviors. Typical kids and parents aren’t aware of this, and regard the resulting attitudes and behaviors as “normal.” Until in true recovery from false-self wounds (Lesson 1), most adults (like you?) are unaware of...

  • who comprises their inner family of subselves,

  • who usually leads them, and...

  • which subselves form their anger and frustration policies and determine how they express these helpful emotions.

Awareness of your subselves can help you - or anyone - resolve all your role and relationship problems!.

 Subselves and Repressed Emotions

      How and why do people like my abuse-survivor mom client (and you?) repress their natural anger reflex? I propose that different combinations of subselves cause this. For example: you feel hurt, frustrated, and/or scared, and angry subselves naturally start to activate.

      Your Historian subself says "Every time we showed anger (in childhood), we got ridiculed, punished, and rejected (hurt)." Historian may also warn "Every time we’ve been around angry men / women / people we’ve gotten major pain!"

      At the same time, your Inner Critic and Moralizer can sternly decree "It’s shameful, to (a) feel anger and/or to (b) express it publicly (or to certain people).” Your Catastrophizer may shrilly add “Don’t you dare feel or show anger! You know (something awful) will happen!”

      Your Abandoned and/or Scared young subselves contribute fearful thoughts and feelings (“If we show anger, (someone) will hurt me, and we there’s no one to protect me!”). Your Shamed Child can add inhibiting emotions and thoughts like “I don’t deserve to get my needs met. I’m selfish and disgusting.”

      Your Guilty Child may flood you with emotion and thoughts like “Oh NO! I’ve broken a rule again!” Your protective People-Pleaser may plead “PLEASE don’t feel (or show) anger, or Abandoned Child will be even more terrified!

      Your energetic Achiever may activate to distract you by urging “Come on, get busy right NOW!” Still other Guardian subselves may flood you with weariness, and/or images and hungers for comforting sugars and fats.

      The emotional intensity and clamor of these all these subselves overwhelms your wise true Self (capital "S"), Adult, and Spiritual subselves. To quell the stressful uproar, your Guardian Numb-er rides to the rescue by controlling your glands so you don’t feel hurt, scared, and angry. Your Analyzer and/or Observer may pitch in by distracting your Self with intellectual assessments of “What’s going on here, and why?”

      If your glands work and you do feel angry, your clever Magician may convince you it’s some other emotion ("Naw - you're just edgy and irritable.") . If someone challenges this, this talented subself offers persuasive reasons why the challenge is wrong. That gives ammunition to your Warrior who distracts and defends by counterattacking (“There you go again, reading my mind, telling me what I feel and blaming me.”)

      All this happens in a few seconds below your conscious awareness. Key results:

Little or no felt hurt and anger, despite real cause for it;

A chronic neuro-chemical stress reaction which may weaken organs and/or your immune system. I suspect this was contributing to my obese client’s weight, diabetes, and blood-pressure problems and related anxieties at age 40;

The needs that cause the anger go unrecognized and unfilled, perhaps including the need to mourn;

Possible unconscious passive-aggressive behavior and/or double messages ("I am not angry!") that cause new problems; and...

Part of your identity (“I can’t or don’t get angry.’) is strengthened.

      Anger repression promotes social reactions too, like distrust, confusion, and anxiety.

      Can you think of any kids or adults who cope with stress by reflexively repressing their hurt, anger, and frustration and perhaps denying or trivializing that? Each of them has a different set of inner-family subselves and dynamics, but their outcomes are probably the same. Until they learn about and want to change this protective reflex, repressing or numbing uncomfortable emotions is likely to...

  • cause a cascade of other relationship problems,

  • degrade long-range personal serenity and health; and to...

  • teach kids to inhibit feeling or expressing some healthy emotions.

      Have you ever considered the causes and effects of repressing (numbing and denying) normal hurt, anger, and frustration responses like this? Does the above make sense to you? Does it apply to you and key adults and kids in your life? If so, how is this repression affecting your relationships and health?

      Now let’s look at...

Subselves and Expressing Anger

      Emotions can be expressed usefully or destructively  Useful expression fills everyone's needs in an acceptable way, and strengthens relationships. Destructive expression blocks need-filling, and damages mutual respect and trust.  

      Three concurrent dynamics cause most problems expressing anger and frustration: the subself-interactions inside you + inside your partner/s + between your groups of subselves. If each person is guided by their true Self and wants to express intense emotions constructively (to fill needs), anger "problems" are unlikely

      Let's return to the story that opened this article. Unawareness + wounds + anger and frustration outbursts were damaging my client’s marriage and family. I suspect the “anger problem” his wife accused him of boiled down to this: she and her son did things that caused his subselves to feel ashamed, frustrated, guilty, or scared. Specifically, he felt his wife chose her son over him, and ignored his repeated protests and requests.

      He said his attempts to assert and problem-solve harvested scorn, sarcasm, accusations, self-doubt, pain, and mounting frustrations from his wife, not relief. Note: neither he, his wife, nor their pastor or marital therapist knew about...

  • psychological wounds and recovery (Lesson 1),

  • effective communication skills, (Lesson 2) or...

  • stepfamily realities (Lesson 7).

      Finally this man's powerful Rager, Rebel, and Warrior subselves broke free of restraining subselves and took over, to protect his inner Shamed, Scared, Guilty, and Abandoned Inner Kids. The former caused his voice to get loud and deep, his body to tense, his face to scowl and flush, his voice tone to become domineering, and him to say forcefully “No more!”

      He was referring to the hurt he had bottled up from his stepson ignoring him, and his wife accusing him of being “selfish,” an “ineffective stepfather” and “an abusive husband,” and vehemently denying that she took her son’s side over his.

      Underneath this outburst was four decades of repressed anger, confusion, and sadness from unmourned losses starting in his earliest years. These were magnified by guilt, shame, and other emotions related to the chemical addiction he was managing.

      This man’s boiling over and asserting limits scared his wife’s subselves badly, and threatened them with the imminent loss of being in control of their relationship. Her subselves couldn’t risk either of these, so they scornfully pronounced that he had “an anger problem,” and demanded that he leave despite his entreaties to work things out. When I asked her tormented husband if she'd meet with him and me, she (her protective, distrustful false self) refused.

      The Rageful Child subself is born during agonizing neglect in our earliest years. S/He is usually stuck in the past, and tantrums (screams, yells, throws things) hysterically when core needs go unmet. This subself is primitive and emotionally volatile. S/He has little wisdom or cognitive awareness to work with, and needs consistent tender sensory comforting.

      The Rebel subself is often a teen. Part of her or his passion is irrational, normal defiance to assert and “do it (be) myself!” When part of a ruling false self, the Rebel characteristically promotes black/white dramatic thinking, sarcasm and c/overt criticism, and relentlessly arguing or sullen silences, rather than listening, reasoning, and asserting calmly. Sound familiar?

      The Warrior / Amazon is an older Guardian subself who promotes dedicated narrow-minded rage and aggression to protect the tormented or terrified inner kids. The powerful Inner Critic can contribute scathing anger too, often directed at the host person (i.e. other subselves.) That activates the Guilty and Shamed Kids, which causes… (more inner-family uproar).

      These are common inner-family elements of someone who causes personal and relationship “problems” by the way they express their anger. Like the repression scenario on p. 1, these forceful, passionate subselves don’t trust the resident true Self and other Manager subselves to keep the Inner Kids safe  enough.

      Do you know any chronically angry adults or kids ("rageaholics")? They're probably burdened with a disabled true Self, related psychological wounds, and inner-family chaos like the above. Most of them will stay "stuck" in the anger phase of grieving their losses until they understand and accept their wounds and choose to reduce them with a parts-work strategy like this.

      Until you and key others are aware of (a) your inner-family dynamics and (b) how to have your subselves trust your respective true Selves to lead them, you probably aren't aware of your dedicated  Guardian subselves' effects on your health and relationships.

      The concepts above can help your family adults understand, identify, and resolve “anger problems." Recall: a problem is an unmet personal need in, and/or conflicting needs between, two or more people or subselves.

      One result of psychological wounds is repression or destructive expression of anger. Another result is people stressed with anger and frustration problems react only to the surface issues, not these primary problems beneath them:

  • unawareness and denial,

  • a disabled true Self, and...

  • ignorance of personality subselves and effective communications.

 Once admitted, all three can be greatly improved!

Frustration 101

      See how your beliefs compare with these...

  • All infants, kids, and adults feel needy most of the time. Needs are emotional, physical, and spiritual discomforts, which cause all animal and human behavior

  • Frustration is neither good nor bad. It is an automatic human response to one or more of these:

    • a false self is currently in charge - the true Self is disabled.

    • being unable to identify and/or fill some current needs effectively;

    • choosing or accepting unachievable responsibilities or goals;

    • feeling a major unresolved values conflict or impasse;

    • unrealistic expectations about someone or something; and/or....

    • feeling overwhelmed by something.

  • Frustration ranges between minor to major, and local to chronic.

  • Expressing frustration disrespectfully and (b) discounting ("My unfilled need is no big deal)" or repressing normal frustration, promotes personal and relationship stress.

  • I can avoid or reduce significant frustration by...

    • having my true Self usually guide my personality ( Lesson 1);

    • learning how to identify my primary needs in important situations;

    • learning to distinguish anger from frustration (p. 1);

    • evolving an authentic Bill of Personal Rights and living by it;

    • studying and applying lesson 2 (effective communication);

    • learning how to define, assert, and enforce my boundaries and consequences calmly and respectfully;

    • being aware of what I can and can't control; and...

    • learning how to give other able people responsibility for their own lives, and to avoid feeling over-responsible for their needs, behaviors, and frustrations.

      More premises about frustration:

  • Adults and kids who are often frustrated (i.e. who lack these requisites) are not bad - they're wounded and unaware. They merit compassion, not blame or ridicule!

  • Any motivated adult or teen can learn to acquire the requisites above and avoid or reduce significant frustration among their subselves and in their family and other relationships! 

  • Any informed parent usually guided by their true Self (capital "S") can model and provide these requisites to their dependent kids.

      Attitudes and beliefs like these comprise your personal policy on expressing frustration. Pause, breathe, and notice your self talk. What are you aware of now? If you just discovered something useful, what is it?

      Reality check - think of a major frustration in your life. Then with your Self in charge, dig-down to discover what unfilled primary needs are causing your frustration. Then try to identify specifically what prevents you from filling those needs. Review these guidelines for perspective. 

      You just read some basic premises that contribute to your and your family's policies on feeling and expressing anger and frustration.

Common Surface Anger Problems

      As a therapist and person, I've often witnessed and experienced common "anger" problems between people. Though details and causes vary widely, the main themes are few. A core theme is: the “anger problem” is usually not the problem. Repressed or expressed anger is a symptom of unmet primary needs in one or both partners. What follows is based on this premise.

      Think of an adult or child with whom you have a significant "anger problem." See if your problem is some version of one or more of these symptoms:

      1)  We try to resolve various problems and one or both of us starts or ends up angry and/or frustrated. This makes the problem worse. At times the anger, or avoiding it, becomes our focus, and our original needs get lost.

      2)  One or both of us is significantly scared, guilty, and/or ashamed of (a) feeling and/or (b) expressing our own anger. We express angry “timidly” (a confusing double message) or avoid assertion and conflict, so our problems go unresolved, and stress inside and between us grows.

      3)  At times, one of us "loses it," and "loses control" (of what?) in expressing anger and/or frustration, according to someone. Restated: one of us may get inappropriately angry, or angry “too often,” in someone’s opinion. The angry behavior may escalate into threats, verbal or physical aggression, or abuse; which paralyzes the other person (specially kids), or they leave or explode, rather than problem-solve.

      One or both of us, and/or other family members, are significantly intimidated by these anger eruptions. The “exploder” may have follow-up feelings of remorse and apologize, and repeat the cycle again. Someone may call him or her a “rageaholic” or the like.

      4) One or both of us doesn't feel normal anger, despite clear causes for it. Variation: one of us judges the other as being “passive-aggressive” (expressing resentment, frustration, and anger covertly, and denying it). Typical symptoms:

  • being over-intellectual, paralyzed, or numb in conflictual, confusing, and frustrating situations;

  • having impassive or frozen faces and bodies, and flat, unexpressive voice tones, in tense or conflictual social situations;

  • chronic teeth grinding, facial tics, muscle spasms and tightness (shoulders, neck), back pain, ulcers, and/or hypertension (high blood pressure); and/or...

  • tendency to overwork (this can have many causes).

      More common surface "anger problems"...

      5) One or both of us denies that s/he’s angry, and the other insists otherwise. Possible symptom: One or both of you are (a) chronically "irritable" or angry at "the world," each other, and/or others, (b) you don't know why, and (c) the chronic anger is corroding your relationship.

      6) One or both of us get angry, and other family members get drawn in to cause household or family uproar. We do little or no effective problem-solving.

      7) Our best attempts to improve any of these, perhaps including therapy, don’t bring permanent resolution and improvements.

      Common results from focusing on surface anger / frustration problems like these include...

  • conflict avoidance, or too little effective conflict resolution. This increases personal and household tension (dissatisfaction), and distrust of your resolution abilities. These cause more inner and mutual (secondary) conflicts.

  • inconclusive, adult arguments or debates over surface problems that weaken the relationship, and raise kids' and adults' frustrations and insecurities.

  • a child is acting out an adult's unexpressed anger or is in a family-scapegoat (victim) role, which is defocusing the family's attention from facing the adult anger problems;

  • a wide range of physical health problems, causing family members chronic financial and related anxieties; and/or…

  • "floating anxieties" and/or depression. Some people feel that depression is “anger turned inward,” which may come from healthy or incomplete grief.

      Is this a fair summary of common "anger problems" in your experience?

      Now lets review...

Typical Primary Anger Problems

      Combinations of these core factors cause most (all?) surface anger problems... 

      1)  One or more angry people are ruled by a false self before or during confrontations. A mix of fearful, guilty, or shamed subselves can (a) block your feeling hurt or scared and angry; or (b) subselves like Rageful Child, Rebel, and/or Warrior and maybe others overwhelm your true Self, and cause “rage attacks” or “explosions.”

      The exploder's reactions afterward depend on their mix of other subselves. If s/he has powerful Shamed and Abandoned inner kids, they'll have one or several Guardians like:

A Magician ("It never happened.");

A Peacemaker ("It was awful! It's all my fault. I'm so sorry! Forgive me? Give me one more chance?”);

A Blamer ("Don't you see how you made me get angry? It's your fault!"); or...

A Sad / Depressed One ("I feel so bad about it, I just can't get out of bed..."); etc.

There are many other possible active Guardian subselves, like Whiner, Numb-er, Victim/Martyr, Addict, Distracter, etc. Often, several Guardian subselves act at once to protect Inner Kids.

      2)  A related primary cause is incomplete grief: one or more angry people...

  • lack an empowered true Self and inner and/or outer permissions to grieve well, and/or they...

  • are stuck in the (normal) anger phase of mourning major losses (broken bonds) - and...

  • no one knows this or how to discuss and “fix” it. And/or "anger problem" occur because...

      3)  One or more people don't (a) know or (b) use the seven effective-communication skills - i.e. you forget to (or don’t know how to)...

  • identify your primary needs,

  • assert them promptly and respectfully,

  • learn what your partner/s really need now, and you don't know how to...

  • maintain a focused two-person awareness bubble, as you...

  • negotiate win-win resolutions together as mutually-respectful teammates.

Reality check: can you name the seven skills and when to use them now? Can your other family adults and older kids? Are you consciously using the skills to fill your personal and mutual needs?

      More common primary anger problems...

      4) One or more people (i.e. your ruling subselves) may have unrealistic or harmful attitudes and beliefs about...

  • hurt, anger, neediness, and frustration ("They're negative!"),

  • hurt, angry, needy, or frustrated people ("They're selfish, rude, weak, or bad!”), and

  • anger's causes and outcomes ("Anger never helps").  And/or...

      5)  Any of you may be unaware of your anger and frustration policies (values and rules), and/or you don't know why or how to improve them.  And/or...

      6)  One or more of you may be unclear on the difference between feeling and expressing anger and frustration, and the implications of that; And/or...

      7)  One or more of you (a) are unaware of these primary problems, or (b) you deny that they apply to you, or (c) you minimize their importance. 

      The bad news: unrecognized, these core anger / frustration problems will degrade your health and relationships, and stress your family and others. The good news: your family adults can reduce or heal each of these primary “anger” problems, over time - specially if you help each other do so!

      Pause and reflect - do these primary problems make sense to you? Do they seem believable? If not, why? If so, are you motivated to assess for and reduce these problems in your relationships now?

Expressing Anger and Frustration Constructively

      Most unaware people express or repress anger and frustration automatically. Have you known anyone whose way of expressing anger and frustration earned your respect? Your disrespect? How would people describe your way of expressing these normal emotions? What criteria do you use to award your dis/respect?

      Premise - expressing hurt, anger, needs, and frustration constructively...

  • leaves all people involved feeling (a) safe, (b) heard and (c) genuinely respected; and...

  • promotes each person involved filling their current primary needs well enough, and...

  • nourishes, rather than stresses, the self-respect and relationships among all people involved. 

Would you edit these criteria in some way? Do they fit the people whose anger-styles you admire?


      Compare these sample expressions of anger to what you usually say. Option - imagine how you would feel and react if someone said things like this to you - calmly, with comfortable eye contact:

"When you (do or don't do ____________), I feel hurt and (really) angry (and/or) frustrated!"

"I feel really disrespoected by you now. That hurts, and I feel resentful and angry!"

"When you put your needs and feelings ahead of mine, I feel hurt, disrespected, resentful, and angry!"

"When you keep interrupting me, I feel disrespected, hurt, angry, and frustrated!"

"When you don't keep your commitments to me, I feel disrespected, hurt, and angry!"

"When you neglect yourself, I feel worried, ignored, and frustrated!"

"When you won't help me (fill some current need), I feel (really) disappointed and frustrated!"

"When you need to avoid taking responsibility for your actions and you deny that, I feel frustrated, and I lose respect for you."

I feel frustrated because you won't join me in evolving a constructive anger policy for our family."

"It really makes me feel used, disrespected, hurt, and angry that my boss ignores my needs and expects me to work so much overtime without extra pay or time off."

"It hurts and frustrates me when you pay more attention to your child than to our daughter."

"I feel REALLY frustrated, hurt, and angry that you ignore my requests (disrespect me), and keep making major purchases without consulting me!"

"I'm pretty frustrated. I need you to ___________."

"You seem really frustrated. Can you say what you need, and what prevents filling it?"

       Options - scan these common communication tips and blocks, and then go back over each example above and imagine what a destructive expression would sound like. Note what is not part of these examples -

  • name-calling, swearing, and labeling ("you are so insensitive..."),

  • generalizing ("you always / you never..."),

  • hinting ("I'm sort of bothered that you...");

  • blaming ("You make me throw things!") and threats,

  • bringing up multiple problems, and...

  • focusing on the past or the future. 

      What you've just read is abstract and theoretical. How can you put these ideas to work for you and the people you care about? 

Status Check

      Before looking at specific options to use anger and frustration constructively, see where you stand: T = "T(rue); F = F(alse), and "?" = "I'm not sure" or "It depends on..." (what?)

I believe that my relationship with ________ would significantly improve if we resolve some primary “anger problems” together. (T  F ?)

I can describe what “false-self dominance” is, and I know how to assess for it in me and other people. (T  F ?)

I accept that (a) the anger problems I have with ________ are surface problems (symptoms), and that (b) to truly resolve them, we need to identify and fill the primary needs causing them. (T  F ?)

I can (a) clearly describe my and my family's anger policies (beliefs and values) now; and (b) I feel we can upgrade them if they significantly lower our family's harmony and nurturance level. (T  F ?)

I accept that I am causing half of any “anger problems” with (someone), though I may not see how yet. (T  F ?)

I can describe (a) what a personality subself is, and (b) the difference between an inner-family anger problem and an interpersonal anger problem now. (T  F ?)

I can clearly describe why I'm reading this article, and whether I’m getting what I need here, so far. (T  F ?)

I feel some mix of calm, centered, energized, light, focused, resilient, up, grounded, relaxed, alert, aware, alive, serene, purposeful, and clear; and I believe my true Self is guiding my personality now. (T  F ?)

      Pause, breathe well, and observe your thoughts and emotions now.

      Everything you’ve read so far is “what are the problems with feeling and expressing anger and frustration?” Now let’s look at your…


      If you and others have some significant “anger problems” now, you can...

      Deny or trivialize the problems, intellectualize (analyze and explain) them, and/or postpone resolving  them. Or you can…

      Acknowledge that you have a problem, but do nothing now. Endure the short and long-term consequences together, and rationalize or deny you’re doing this. The consequences may include unintentionally wounding kids psychologically, not teaching them how to use anger constructively, and risking relationship damage or loss. Or you can...

      Blame someone for your mix of (surface) anger problems. Avoid taking responsibility for resolving your part and for asserting your primary needs. Or...

      Consciously try to resolve your surface anger problems with or without professional help, and cope with mounting frustration and anxiety over time; Or you can learn how to...

  • keep your true Self guiding your personality in calm and stressful situations (Lesson 1), and...

  • validate all your emotions as natural and useful, and learn to...

  • distinguish...

    • anger from frustration in you and others; and..

    • feeling anger and frustration from expressing it; and

  • you can learn to......

  • identify and assert your needs and boundaries effectively (Lesson 2); and

  • learn how to relate and respond to wounded, unaware adults and kids (Lessons 2 and 4); and you can learn to...

  • use anger and frustration energy constructively - i.e. to problem-solve and enhance your relationships and mutual respects (Lesson 2).

      Notice your thoughts now. Can you imagine committing to learn these powerful options?


      This Lesson-4 article is for people who seek to understand and reduce "anger problems" in their lives. It proposes:

  • the important difference between (a) anger and frustration and (b) feeling an emotion and expressing it; and...

  • feeling emotions is healthy and normal, never "negative." Expressing emotions can be controlled, and may be "negative" (harmful); and...

  • how normal personality subselves affect feeling and expressing anger and frustration; and...

  • typical surface anger problems, and a set of primary needs underlying them, and...

  • specific options for using anger/frustration energy constructively.

     Recall why you read this article. Did you get what you needed from reading it? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise true Self, or ''someone else''?

This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful  

      For more perspective, read this article on personal and family policies on feeling and expressing anger and frustration.

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