Non-PD Anger

Anger is what you feel when you don't get what you think you deserve. Non-PD's often feel a sense of anger over past abuses, an uncertain future outlook, unequal burden-sharing and persistent denial of their personal needs.

Anger is a feeling - and as such it is something which is neither good nor bad - it just is. You can't control your feelings any more than you can control the wind. Feelings are a natural response to circumstances and expectations. You simply feel things - and anger is something you are going to feel if you are subjected to injustice, abuse or intimidation.

You can control what you do about your anger - your own behavior - but you can't make it go away. It's very common for people to represent anger as a bad thing and to encourage you not to be angry. They might as well tell you not to feel pain when you get hit over the head with a baseball bat.

If you have been exposed to abusive behavior to a prolonged period of time and you are a normal human being you are going to feel anger. Period.

You are likely to feel anger at times when you expect it and at times when you don't. It's hard to control the times or circumstances that your anger will rise up and demand your attention.

You may find yourself dealing with your anger in appropriate or inappropriate ways. For example, you may resist the temptation to deal violently with the next person who cuts in front of you as you wait in line - or you may find yourself inappropriately picking on someone who you perceive to be weaker than you.

You may feel ashamed of your anger or you may deny it is even there.

Physiologists tell us that anger comes from our primitive "fight or flight" instinct - when we feel angry we have a surge of adrenaline, our heart rate increases and our senses are heightened - we are ready for battle and we may have strength or energy beyond what is normal for us. Our blood is diverted towards the parts of our bodies that are needed for a fight or flight - our muscles, our brain, our senses. We may feel less pain, less guilt, less sensitive. Our digestive system shuts down. Appetite is suppressed, our digestive system expels waste and anything which is not essential to the immediate crisis. We become less analytical and more reactive. We become less stressed and become more pragmatic. We become less depressed and become more decisive. Anger can be good for us - in a crisis.

When anger can become destructive is when it is misdirected towards situations or people that aren't responsible for the pain we feel or when we are in situations that don't require a fight or flight response.

One such situation is when you are dealing with a person who has a personality disorder.

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - You get angry at them and hit back.
  • The result - You don't escape the abuse, they don't understand your anger - because they have a mental illness and can't see past their own feelings.
  • The conclusion - Nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

Here's another one:

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - get angry at yourself for getting into this situation.
  • The result - you don't escape the abuse, they don't understand your guilt - because they have a mental illness and can't see past their own feelings.
  • The conclusion - nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

One more:

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - You take it out on an unpopular person at work who won't retaliate.
  • The result - you don't escape the abuse, you become less popular and trusted at work.
  • The conclusion - nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

So what can you do? Well first - admit your anger and embrace it - don't be ashamed of it - it's a natural gift to protect you in a crisis. But understand that it can't save you from all problems and isn't appropriate to act out of anger in every situation. If you are dealing with a person who has a personality disorder, it is far more effective to find out everything you can about the mental illness you are dealing with and learn what works and what doesn't work. You can begin to protect yourself in a way that works and instead of feeling angry you can begin to feel a little more empowered about your situation.