Once anger and resentment set into your marriage, it seems like there is nothing you can do to stop it. Unchecked anger is destructive as can be, and it grows continuously until it’s stopped. It’s like a cancer on one’s soul.
Anger builds because, like most dynamic things, it follows the laws of momentum.
It’s like a car that starts to roll. Before it picks up speed you can stop it with your hands and just a little effort. But once it gets going, you’ll get rolled over or crushed if you step in front of it. Momentum gains in bodily things, too, like an untreated toothache that silently keeps rotting out the tooth, faster and faster.
Our psychology is also prone to the effects of momentum. That’s why anger once initiated and accepted by the angry one soon gets out of hand.
When anger gets overwhelming you may have found yourself asking, “Why did I get married?? For this?!” which makes you even angrier, because now you’ve created a cycle of painful reminders of what made you angry. The ideas that come into an anger infused mind are toxic, and often infectious.
In fact, shame on the so called professionals who suggest “sharing” those toxic thoughts. All that does is create drama. Anger has to be proactively stopped. That’s all there is to it. Venting is disgraceful and immature.
Once anger gets going, or becomes habitual, it begins to ‘own’ you. Then to effectively eliminate anger and resentment from your marriage you need to understand its cause (there is just one actual cause), learn about specific tools you can use, and employ proven processes, strategies. Only then can you focus on removing this plague of marriages; entirely, and then claim victory.
When you allow anger and resentment to build up momentum you absolutely need more than to have someone just say “stop it”. It’s not like you didn’t try that already. You need a method.
In this article, we are going to explore what anger is, how resentment differs, what to do when your spouse is the angry person, and what you can do to conquer these terrible robbers of peace.
What Is Anger?
Permanently ending anger in your life and marriage is something I’ve helped thousands do, but it’s not possible unless and until you understand what causes it, and why. Even then, in order for you to truly understand what you are dealing with, you’ll need to experiment with techniques and processes until, through your own personal experiments and observations, you recognize which techniques work most effectively for you, and why. You need to “see” anger. A few “ideas” or “tricks of the trade” won’t help you. Knowing the science is critical.
Have you ever seen those old films of the first attempts at flight?
Those brave guys didn’t understand aerodynamics so most of their efforts were wasted and fanciful, not quite as bad as Icarus, but almost. Then along came the Wright brothers who studied aerodynamics using a scientific approach. They figured out the basics of flying, things like lift, propulsion, and other basic laws that are all essential to flying successfully.
I can get into that, sure, but suffice to say that with what the Wrights discovered, and then correctly applied, they flew so beautifully… right into history; all because of a scientific approach.
Why not be scientifically wise about anger, too? Why continue to be a victim when you can master it? I’m telling you, anger is not as big a problem as it now seems to you, but beating it is all about knowing the applicable sciences, then using sound methods.
Using the handle of a screwdriver as a hammer may seem like a good idea in some cases, but that type of ‘adapting’ when it comes to ideas for conquering anger will only frustrate you and fail. You must have the right tools for the job.
The difference between trying random “creative” fixes, versus first learning and understanding the basic scientific principles, is the difference between success and failure. With something as destructive as anger, which is essential to overcome in order to experience more happiness throughout your life, this is not something you should just ‘wing’, or worse; put off. This is a problem that will only get worse.
Anger, most simply defined, is an ‘instinctive reaction’. It’s by and large “mechanical” in nature. Anger is the mind’s habitually embedded reaction to thwarted desires.
You may want to “poo poo” this definition just because it sounds simplistic, but don’t do that. The unvarnished truth is that anger is nothing more than a mental instinctive reaction to when it does not get its way. With this knowledge you can actually start to dissect your, and other’s fits of anger, and see yourself that this it’s correct, 100% of the time.
I could have said “when “YOU” don’t get “YOUR” way”, but that wouldn’t actually be accurate, and there is also an important other reason for my making the distinction between “you” and “your mind”, because of an implication hidden in the distinction.
It is vital, if you want to conquer anger, to recognize that you are not your mind. You will have to grasp your mind exists as a “separate” part of you, a possession actually, which can, and must, be both observed and controlled. Otherwise, without you truly getting this, I won’t be able to help you.
The above distinction and emphasis leads to one of many reasons for understanding the relationship between body, mind, and soul. This science is key to unraveling the nature and construct of anger. So, we start your education about anger with this critical knowledge.
The Human Body
The human body is a bundle of trillions of individual cells. Every single one of those cells, collected together, are individually and collectively clamoring to survive. They do it because innate to all life is the “drive to survive”. As you learned in high school, the drive-to-survive is innate in every single living cell.
Their singular goal of survival is utterly ruthless. However, never forget that your body is your possession. Because of the drive, all the cells of your body are working together to constantly impose their survival-driven influence on your mind, until end of life. But you have the ability, and ultimate responsibility, to maintain and control it; to keep it healthy and fit, as it carries you around throughout your life. You can master the drive, but it takes specific effort.
Having a body comprised of drive-to-survive cells means you will always have to deal with its constant demands for survival, and the demands will always try to override everything else. Important human traits, like common courtesy, selflessness, and opening your heart, are all unimportant to the drive-to-survive’s compulsion to be safe.
Because the drive-to-survive never goes away our job to regulate it never goes away.
Minds are like computers (I know its actually the other way-round, but you get the point). They are ‘machines’ that perceive, calculate, store, and analyze etc. Like a computer, that has programs, they include one such program called “habits”; all minds have this program; Habits 1.1.
The mind, which is “neutral”, is impartial to whether the habits you ‘load’ are beneficial or destructive to your health, your marriage, or anything else. As a labor saving program they automatically perform whatever they’re trained to do, on auto-pilot. they don’t give you warnings or feedback. They just repeat based on certain criteria.
Habits are clearly two edged swords. Good habits are incredible helpers, but the bad ones, like smoking, arguing, and substance abuse, can kill you, and even harm those closest to you.
Habits are trained to perform their auto-tasks through repetition, like a Google program. The more you do something, the deeper the habit becomes. Did you know they literally create groves in the physical brain?
Due mostly to a lack of understanding (nobody teaches us) we are largely indifferent to how we behave. So, most of our habits are established from subconscious intentions you’re not even aware of. Becoming consciously aware of your actions, which takes education and practice, will help you curb bad habits, but that has to be learned.
In your own life, if you have created a habit of defensiveness to your spouse, let’s say a reaction to them saying something your mind doesn’t like, small or big, it will continue to impartially play the program of an angry reaction, again and again without a second thought. In fact, it will build in intensity as the habit becomes more entrenched; remember the law of momentum?.
Simultaneously, and secretly, right under your nose, it will also also dump negative emotions into your mind, and caustic chemicals into your body.
Like the body, your mind is your possession. You have both the ability and responsibility to control it. (this vital and obvious fact should be pounded into our heads when we’re kids).
If you don’t control your mind then the ‘animal’ body, whose only goal is survival, will control your mind; robbing you of your free will. Following this stream of information you can see how the body’s influence is very strong and literally runs most people’s lives without them knowing it.
For example, when the body requires sustenance, it takes over the untrained mind telling it it’s hungry, initiating a “greedy” (the drive-to-survive wants more) search for food. The improperly trained habit takes over; often seeking the wrong foods, based on bad inputs of information, at the wrong times.
This powerful drive-to-survive is usually hidden from our sight. When the body wants to add the protection of numbers it sends a message to the body to procreate, which takes over the mind in ways it has learned to manipulate you.
It is your obligation to overrule these instincts whenever and wherever it makes sense.
When the body is afraid and senses danger, the drive to survive kicks in big time and puts the mind in the well known fight or flight mode, without the need for any conscious thought.
Survival is serious business for the body/mind system as it’s one of its primary jobs. So naturally, when anything or anyone gets in the way of its mission (e.g. when the mind doesn’t get its way), it reacts with anger! Do you now see the chain that creates anger?
Then there are more problems because anger shuts down reason, because reason gets in the way. If you are in a life or death struggle there isn’t time to think; ask a Navy Seal. Anger starts your adrenaline pumping to prepare you to fight or fly. That’s why you feel anger in your body. It is no more complicated than that.
A huge problem is that neither your body nor mind recognize your spouse as any different from anyone else. So when you are in an argument, the same danger triggers fire as if you were being mugged. Your body prepares you to fight, or fly.
Fear, when properly understood, is the underlying energy that sets off anger (its not all, but this is for anger), which then sets off all the “armed forces” in your body and mind to win a war; against someone who is probably not dangerous, at all. But when the mind is left on autopilot (habits), you aren’t thinking things through. It sees any threat as a threat, by habit.
The biggest problem, I hope you can see, is that the body and mind are your possessions but you have not controlled them. You have the ability and responsibility to control them, so any anger problem should be a wake-up call.
The soul is what you are. You are a conscious being driving around in your body, with your mind as your faithful servant taking care of 95% of the body management for you…that’s how it is supposed to be, anyway.
But, like most people, you’ve been living on autopilot, and the body has been driving the mind, with you going along for the ride, as if you are not the pilot. But you ARE the pilot!
Just because we talk about souls does not mean this is “religous” or a call to faith. Your faith is your business and this is not about God, its about the science that you need to address anger. But, anyone should be able to recall some of their own experiences and recognize the clear distinction between the body, mind and self or consciousness, now that it’s been laid out so logically.
Some devout atheists (I love combining those two words ‘devout’ and ‘atheist’;its so funny to me) prefer to call the soul “consciousness; whatever you want is fine. The salient point is you are not the mind, but its boss.
When you are loving and joyful, unlike what anger makes you by releasing a chemical into your body, you (soul) are actually ‘leaking’ your true nature of joy into your mind. Those are the “feelings” that are the real you. The “mind-you” is the false soul, the ego.
So, when you’re angry it’s a primal reaction from the body, because the mind is not getting its way, which induces the body to flood itself with reaction producing chemicals….this is science! But when you feel peace, joy,or bliss, that’s the soul; that’s you; science.
We were never taught any of this growing up, so all of us allow our minds to be ruled by our drive-to-survive, which is how we end up in a state of reactive anger. We remain victims and slaves of the body, instead of its master.
The bottom line is clear. Either you tell your mind what to do, or your body will be your master.
Now that you understand what causes anger, you’ll be able to see it more clearly in your own life for what it is. you are not an angry person, even when it owns you. It is an appendage you can remove. You are a soul; joy, peace, calmness, and ultimately Love, with a capital “L”.
Resentment is not the same thing as raw reactive anger. Anger is directly tied to the body’s instinctive reaction, resentment is a secondary function; its a form of emotions.
How Resentment Is Different From Anger
Resentment is a form of anger that is not reactive; its not mechanically instinctive like primal anger. Rather, it is more of an ’emotion’ that keeps the mind on a high alert out of a subconscious fear of attack. It is, essentially, a habit of tense cautionary waiting; as in waiting for the next offense, or waiting for the shoe to drop.
Think of the triggers embedded in your mind as guards. Their job is to warn the mind when you are being attacked. External events (as they’re perceived, of course) ignite triggers, but its important to know that outer events are not the cause of anger. The cause of anger is always the trigger that is reacting.
Because the mind is hyper-sensitive about protecting you it prepares the body and mind for all out war at the drop of a hat; it’s hyper vigilant!
The chemicals it releases are super stimulants that have a caustic side effect. Minds can only sustain the high alert for so long before the body will suffer; sometimes irreversibly. So, nature implanted a mechanism to take over; its called emotions. In some cases, when the mind is worn down, long term protection is the emotion called resentment. It takes a lot of energy, just like if a general has to put a perimeter in place. It drains resources.
In us, resentment is acidic. the person we resent has no idea of our emotions towards them, so feel no effect whatever. But we do.
Remember, defenses are the habitual programs designed to protect against possible annihilation; its unthinking. You can see how, because you have not been overriding the habits, your mind is taking you on a terrible ride
The unmonitored mind is like a king’s right-hand man sneakily taking over the kingdom. Pretty soon the king is nothing but a figurehead. The king trusted the “loyal” minister, and the minister took over. You, soul, are the king. Mind is the trusted minister. Its on you to take your kingdom back.
Your mind is always out to control you, and does so in the sneakiest ways. But, lets remember, it is doing so because the drive-to-survive is always there. So it “thinks” its doing you a favor, protecting you from any “wrong” ideas, like the idea of being nice to someone who it thinks may be “dangerous”, like, ironically, your husband…or wife!
It gets away with it because you forget the ‘responsibility’ part of ownership. You are supposed to control your mind, not be controlled by it. You are not supposed to allow your mind to hurt people with your mind’s anger. Now you can see why the distinction between “you” and your mind is so important to recognize.
The resentment side of anger is different than instinctive reactions. Resentment, you might say, is a continual flashing yellow “watch out” light, keeping you on your toes, because it “thinks” it knows better than you about what is dangerous, and wants you to be cautious; but it always goes to far.
The mind, driven by fear, will happily supply you with all the “information” you need, emphasizing the minutest danger, to see things its way; meaning its kind of paranoid…and you are its victim.
One irrefutable fact you must recall at all times. There is NOTHING on the outside that can cause anger, or resentment. Its all about the habitual triggers.
Reactions are inside your mind! A trigger is pushed because your mind is not getting its way. That’s all it is…Want to explore this idea?
A child, or ‘spoiled brat’, gets angry the moment they don’t get their way. they have no filters, no maturity. If they don’t get their way, BAM! The triggers go off. But there is another, instructive, side that demonstrates the possibilities.
Gandhi, who worked on controlling his mind (he wrote books about it) never got angry, not even when he was shot. He blessed his attacker as he went down and died. He was in charge of his mind. In this area you are as great as anyone else. you just have to learn, and apply.
The triggers are the points where you can do something; the only points. If you learn to redirect your triggers, through your free will (and a system), they won’t go off in a negative detrimental way.
So what do you do with all this knowledge to stop the anger? Well, its all there, but at the end of the article I’ll give specific things you can do. But first lets look at the other big problem of anger in marriages.
What To Do When Your Wife Or Husband Is Always Angry Or Negative
We hear complaining, all the time actually, about someone’s husband or wife getting angry over little things. They call them over-sensitive, or cranky, or whatever. Sometimes their spouse is just downright mean. Maybe they were raised poorly and don’t care about anyone but themselves. Unfortunately these people are not scarce because we live in a “what about me” world.
But the bottom line is that its the spouse who has the anger problems. It isn’t you. So, the first thing to do is gain some objectivity, to start to see them as an observer would. I know, who wants to walk on eggshells all the time? Who wants to be afraid a hidden bomb will go off at any moment? But until you see their behavior objectively you are literally making yourself a victim.
One lady wrote to our counselors, (and you can write to them too), “my husband’s anger is ruining my marriage”. We get it! This is a big problem! But its not what she thinks; its a combination that can be handled. She, like most who do not know about the body, mind, soul, relationship take everything personally; because they unthinkingly identify themselves as their mind instead of as a soul. So she was pummeled. If she were objective her first reaction would be sympathy for her husband. She would have trained her mind to not be impacted. I know it sounds crazy, but only to the drive-to-survive driven mind. Souls only love, they don’t react. So, it’s all about choosing to be a soul instead of a mind; and yes, we are ‘combinations”, but it where we choose our individual emphasis that is the difference between a rattled cage and calm seas.
Remember, the issue is always the trigger, inside the mind. So, if your spouse is angry it is not actually your problem. its theirs. The part that IS your problem is that their anger, or I should say their yelling, or criticism, or whatever, is hitting YOUR triggers…right? Can you now see this, too?
You have to deal with the part that is yours. In the meantime, though, or I should say ‘at the same time’, it is still your job to control your reactions. That means its up to you to not react, to not throw more gasoline on the fire. Can you do that?
What You Can Do About Anger And Resentment
Knowing how things work, even when you clearly know scientifically, is not always enough to formulate an effective strategy. That’s why I created a solid program of simple steps that progress you with tasks and milestones; you won’t get lost. You need techniques that leverage the correct actions. We also have trained counselors who know our materials inside and out, so they can help you when and if you need it. People should not hesitate to get the program, but the drive-to-survive tells them its a scam, or its necessary, wont work etc. Time to override that rascal.
There are things you can do on your own.
- Pay attention to your mental reactions. If you do not go along with your mind’s reactions you will, as an observer, have the power to NOT go along with what it wants you to do. This is very important.
- Redirect the energy. Everything is energy, including reactions. So, instead of just choosing to not go with a bad reaction, turn the energy into a positive response of love.
- Learn some calming techniques. Tension binds you up. You need to learn to get calm. You may even want to learn to meditate; I did.
The above will truly end anger and resentment when you properly apply them. But if you need more help you can write to us. We may suggest you take the course. If that happens it is a good idea to follow the advice. We are very experienced in this field and can truly help you.
The whole idea of controlling your mind is critical to having a good marriage, and is why it’s the very first item I teach you in our 12 week marriage saving system. I take this all very seriously because its one of the main keys you need to have for a happy marriage.
My best Always
Founder, Executive Director – The Marriage Foundation