Friday, July 25, 2008

Dealing with Irrational Anger

Although I had planned on writing a second part on "Overcoming Fear," I experienced something tonight, which made me want to want about anger. A friend and I had a small falling out. He recommended a handyman to do work for us; the guy asked for his money the day before he was to complete the job, we gave it to him, and he didn't return.

Two days ago on the telephone, when I told my friend about the handyman, my friend felt terrible he had recommended the guy, and asked me to stop talking about it. In a few minutes, he had became agitated, annoyed, and then me.

If anyone should have been angry, it should have been me, but I wasn't. In fact, the handyman's bid for the job was so low that we can now afford to have someone else paint the rest of our house. And while the handyman left us in the lurch, fortunately my husband and I could complete the work.

Tonight I had plans to meet my friend (his wife--who's been my friend for years--and their daughter) at an outdoor concert. From the moment I greeted my friend, it was obvious he was still angry with me, and was less than friendly.

And this is where my "sensitivity" comes in. His behavior truly hurt my feelings. The fact is that I'd done nothing wrong. I wasn't angry with him for recommending this guy. And I wasn't even angry at the handyman, just confused by his behavior. But what did bother me was my friend's behavior tonight.

In the old days, this would have triggered a depressive episode because my friend truly turned a cold shoulder my way, and his anger was irrational. Moreover, if he was so annoyed with me that he knew he would be unpleasant, I would have preferred he tell me in advance and I wouldn't have attended the concert. If he wanted to explain his irrational anger, he should have responded to my email in which I asked him what was wrong. But instead, he didn't respond and yet made me feel uncomfortable at the event.

So...I handled things in my "new way," which enables me to prevent depressive episodes, and I did the following: 1. Recognizing my friend's lack of friendliness, I stayed away from him. 2. After we ate and listened to music for awhile, I took a walk and interviewed people for a piece I'm writing. 3. Then I left the concert, which was in an outdoor area and took a walk, which allows me to think and relax.

What I realized on the walk was this: 1. I wasn't having fun. 2. I don't enjoy being somewhere with a person who's not being friendly to me. 3. The ball is in his court because I'd already emailed him and he ignored me. 4. I needed to leave and go home. And so I did. 5. I needed to "write" this out of my system, and so I have.

The bad news is that I feel a bit sad, disappointed, and bruised by the encounter. The good news is that I'm not depressed.

Question: How do you handle a friend's irrational anger? Does it make you feel depressed? Does blogging about it help? What other wellness tools do you use?
We're unexpectedly going out of town from Monday to Thursday of next week. I'll post this weekend, but then not until I return. And I probably won't be visiting other blogs. But I will try to moderate comments.


~QueenBee~ said...

I'm sorry...but I am thinking.."what anger"? I can see maybe mad...but anger?? Anger is such a strong emotion that I have a huge problem with and I don't see it here in your words. I came here to read this because I DO have an anger problem and I thought this would give me some insight. I probably just don't have the hang of your blog yet.

Wellness Writer said...

I'm not sure what you don't understand. The focus of this piece is what to do when you're the recipient of someone else's irrational anger. If you're looking for essays about bipolar anger, they're listed in the archives and in the section on labels!

Gianna said...

Question: How do you handle a friend's irrational anger? Does it make you feel depressed? Does blogging about it help? What other wellness tools do you use?

the only irrational anger I've dealt with is with unstable people on the internet which I've literally blocked out of my life...

I have been lucky enough in my real life to have friends who don't behave that way. If they get angry we've always been able to talk about it....and work things out.

Perhaps you will be able to talk with your friend once things calm down for him...who knows what was triggered for him. And if he doesn't know and can't process it then you can't do anything which is, indeed, painful and sad.

I've now figured out how to be aware of "red" flags on the internet...I did make one friend who I became very close to who became irrationally rageful and hurtful...I had to let her go. Well...she certainly blew me off first and I found it incredibly painful, but we had bared our souls to one another...I won't let that happen again...

I hope that the nature of your friendship with this man spares you any deep grief if he should not come to the point where he can process what it is that was triggered for him...

In any case you know it has nothing to do with you and your perspective has kept you calm and stable.

Have a good trip...

Jazz said...


I'm sorry you're having trouble with your friend!

Irrational anger directed at you is the worst kind to deal with. I usually examine the conflict, and if I can find nothing I did to deserve such an outburst, I journal about it and try to understand the other person's point of view. I wonder if your friend felt bad because he had recommended someone who was dishonest and this made him feel stupid or perhaps that it was his fault for recommending the guy...people don't like to feel stupid or guilty, and he may just have been taking those feelings out on you...

Just my two cents!

P.J. said...

I think you handled youself very well, Susan. Good for you!

I had an encounter with my husband last night where he had some major irrational anger. I am the brunt of it in that situation, with yelling, swearing, hitting things, the whole bit. I used the methods that I've been learning, which is: 1. Share my feelings 2. DON'T clam up 3. Talk at a normal tone, without yelling 4. Be consistent and keep my boundaries in the open. 5. Remember that it's HIS problem and NOT mine.

We spent the rest of the night "apart" even though we slept in the same bed. I don't like when things are not resolved, but, like you, I feel the ball is in his court. He needs to apologize for the things he said to me that were really hurtful.

Normally this would make me bawl, angry, and throw me down deep for a while. Not this time. Yes, a few tears ran down my cheeks, but I knew I said all I needed to say, and that I didn't have to LET HIM make me feel like a loser, therefore I am taking care of myself.

If I were in your situation, Susan, I would have done the same things as you. I may have pryed into what he was mad about, like taken him aside and asked what his problem is. If, then, he was cold and bitter or said things to me, then I'd do what I did above.

I had more to say about this than I realized!!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
All good advice. Actually, I'm sure he'll come 'round. It's just that his behavior reminded me of other people during other times in my life. It wasn't that they were necessarily angry with me, it's just that their behavior was inexplicable, and they didn't explain it.

And during my six-years of terrible illness, I found that people "dropped me" as a friend for no apparent reason. And that hurt still remains.


Wellness Writer said...

I think you're absolutely right. He did feel guilty and responsible, but what an odd way to deal with it?

And I guess because I've had to deal with such irrational behavior by my siblings during my mother's illness and subsequent death, I am always stunned by behavior that makes no sense to me.

In fact, I did email him to try and resolve this and he didn't respond, which was another distressing surprise. Who doesn't respond when they are wrong and someone else is reaching out?

Alas, what my friend doesn't realize is that as much as I love him, I no longer "trust" him. I was the recipient of my siblings bad behavior for so long that "trust" is a huge issue for me.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
Thanks for your advice. What you wrote about your fight with your husband made me so sad. I think you handled things really well, and I applaud you. But it brought tears to my eyes when I thought about how difficult it must have been for you.


Bradley said...

Susan, I think you said it "The ball is in his court", but I think that also depends on how much you want to keep him as a friend.

Most likely the anger is based on his own feelings of embarrassment for recommending this guy. Frequently holding in emotions does come out in irrational anger.

I'd give it a little time, as you said, but if he's a good friend you may want to reach out again when things cool off. If you get the same response again, then I'd say it's truly up to him.

That's how I think I would handle it.

As far as emotionally. I think I'm past the point of having it depress me, but it would probably be rolling in my mind like crazy as I tried to figure out what I could have possibly done wrong, even when I know logically it wasn't anything.

I hope you and your friend work this out.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
I agree with you. Ordinarily, I would reach out after some time has passed--and probably will here as well.

But, I must admit I'm tired of always being the "adult" in relationships. It should sure be nice--for a change of pace--for someone else to say, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I'm sorry if I responded badly."

Why is it that those of us who "are" in touch with our feelings constantly have to "make nice" with friends who aren't?

Also, my friend knows my dog died last Thursday, and it sure would have been nice for him to put my feelings ahead of his--for once.

P.S. I don't even tell my husband about things like this because he's protective of me and would be so angry. And ultimately, I'm able to resolve things and my husband would "hate" the guy forever.

P.J. said...

Thank you so much, Susan, for your caring thoughts. Yes, it was difficult. It was hard to stand firm and hold my ground... giving in seems to be easier.

My husband and I talked briefly today, and things will be worked out. Like you, I feel like I am always the "adult" in the relationships, and that annoys me sometimes. Makes me feel like I am the only one who ever does anything wrong, since I am the one going to other people to straighten things out!

Thanks again, Susan. You are very sweet. I appreciate you a lot.

Wellness Writer said...

Thanks PJ. Actually, I always feel like the person who does everything "right" because I'm willing to deal with emotions that others aren't. But I wasn't always this way, and it took a long learning curve!


Nancie said...

Dear Susan,

I'm sorry to hear of the unpleasant experience you had with your friend. I have had such experiences with some friends in the past and it really hurts and saddened me. I think you handled very well and I have much to learn from you. I am so glad you are not depressed. It takes time to get over such sadness, disappointment and bruise.

I handled mine by praying for my friends and keep a distance from them until they are ready to befriend me again. And whenever there is opportunity for me to do good to them, I will endeavour to do so even though they may not appreciate it. I wanted them to know that I still care for them. Thank God that over times most of these friends resolved their anger and we are able to resume our friendship! Hope things will work out well eventually for you and your friend. Take care and have a wonderful weekends, and a safe trip next week!


KJ said...

I get completely depressed and withdrawn when my spouse has irrational anger. Unfortunately it seems to be a problem that he says is related to being bipolar. I have a hard time when he is like this because I don't know what to do about it and it does hurt my feelings. It seems like it happens when he doesn't wantto deal with a serious issue or is overwhelmed by a problem. It usually doesn't last but I feel like through the years it has changed me and become somewhat debilitating. Super Frustrating!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
It sounds like you have a found a way to deal with this as well. You sound like you're feeling better, and I sure hope you are!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Personally, I don't subscribe to the excuse, "My illness makes me this way."

Yes, irritability and anger are bipolar symptoms, but once a person realizes this, it's his/her responsibility to understand that and change his behavior.

There are many wellness tips. which can prevent "acting out anger" that range from deep breathing to meditation.

When I was younger, I didn't realize anger was a problem because I never found anything written about it. But once I learned it was a symptom, I have worked really hard to change...and others who read this blog and are bipolar have as well.

If I were married to someone who is bipolar, I would expect him to change his behavior, not give me excuses for why he "acts out" the way he does.

But that's just me!


asia said...

I would love to know how to deal with irrational anger from others. I myself suffered from bouts of what I'd call exaggerated anger (not really irrational - the things that would upset me were things that other people would be irritated by, I just became moreso). I sought therapy, and I am happy to say that I am now an emotionally healthy person.

Only problem is, I live with a sister who becomes angry over literally everything (things that are IMPOSSIBLE to become angry about) and turns absolutely anything into an argument.

She is tough to live with, because she actually thinks she's being reasonable and will verbally abuse me for a good half an hour afterwards.

Anyone got any tips? I can't exactly ignore her ... I live with her!