Why on earth are we burdened with anger?
Why do we have to battle with anger all our lives? What is the point of having this emotion? Why can’t we do without it? We aren’t needing to kill predators to protect our lives or keep meager food rations for ourselves as we did millions of years ago. So what on earth does anger do for us in this day and age?

Want to stop being a doormat? Get Angry!
Anger continues to have a strong psychological survival value. Anger is the strongest sign that urges you to stand up for yourself. Anger gives you the impetus to make sure you are not treated like a doormat. Anger protects your self-identity, self-worth and entitlement to life on equal terms.

Are you a resentful people pleaser like Carrie?
Carrie was a people pleaser. It made her feel deserving and worthy. She took pains to give her children what she never had. Anything she could do for them that her parents never did for her made her feel like a good mother. Responding to requests from family members to help out even when she was sick or exhausted was one more step toward being in their good books. That was the way to save up emotional dollars in the relationship bank accounts, that surely would yield high interest!

Fear and guilt destroy Carrie's right to a healthy identity
For years Carrie felt hurt and angry that she did so much for her loved ones but got so little back in return. When ever her anger bubbled over and she dared to think about herself, guilt and sadness covered it up. Expectations of her grew to unmanageable proportions. Her children, siblings, parents and husband harangued her when she couldn’t do as they asked. She felt more and more guilty and feared that she would deplete her reserves in the relationship account. So she ratcheted up her actions to do what they wanted, leaving herself empty and worn out.

Bursts of intense anger entitle Carrie to value herself
A demand from Carrie’s sister to drop everything and come fix her yard following storm damage changed everything. That one command triggered a massive reaction in Carrie’s body. It was as if her whole body was on fire. Her heart thumped like an industrial hammer and her voice took on an urgency that surpassed any alarm bell or siren. With clenched teeth giving her determination and trembling hands that wanted to strangle her sister, Carrie exploded!

“Fix your own yard. I’m not your servant! You never ask me how I am, or care about how I feel! You never offer to do anything for me. If you can’t call me and listen to me as I listen to you then don’t bother calling!” Carrie burst out with years of suppressed anger.

At around the same time, Carrie noticed that her 20 year old daughter was getting on her nerves. Miranda kept calling and wanting to be chauffeured from one place to the next. She wanted money for this that and everything, and expected it immediately. She insisted on an expensive apple computer for school, not to mention an iphone! Carrie’s anger spiraled into a powerful tornado of rage. A rage of self-protection. She refused to be spoken to like a puppy dog being made to perform tricks and shocked Miranda into speechlessness.

In the past Carrie would have tried to plead hardship, hoping to tug at Miranda’s heart strings and sense of fairness. It never worked, because Miranda knew all to well that her mother always gave in. All she needed to do was go through the motions of being thankful for a split second and she could get whatever she wanted pretty much on demand.

Anger motivates Carrie to protect herself
For Carrie the choice felt as stark as this ‘do as she says and keep your daughter close, or be selfish and lonely, guilty and regretful for the rest of your life.’ Faced with that conflict, Carrie always chose the former. Until now. As she was being ground into the dust with no sign of reprieve, her survival instinct kicked in. Her fury at not being able to withdraw the interest on her relationship bank accounts eventually allowed her to put her needs first. Resentment topped guilt and released her anger.

Anger propelled Carrie into surviving on a level playing field
Carrie was terrified of her angry outbursts and came to therapy. Working with me in therapy helped Carrie used her anger profitably. It fueled her into valuing herself, rather than waiting and hoping for her family to do so. She got comfortable with saying “ I want, I need, I would like, I expect…..” Anger became Carrie’s source of power and strength in a positive way. She learned to put herself on the map with firmer boundaries so that family members couldn’t take advantage of her without any consequences. Carrie’s anger motivated her to expect respect from others. Her anger gave her permission to tap into her true desires with a sense of pride and entitlement, not shame and guilt. Anger saved Carrie from having her identity and enjoyment in life crushed. It literally enabled her to survive in a strong, self-empowered manner. Just in case you think she became just like her family, Carrie retained her sensitivity towards them and relates on an equal footing!

Copyright, Jeanette Raymond,Ph.D. 2010

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles. She helps individuals and couples communicate in ways that lead them from fear and frustration to flowing and fulfilling relationships. Dr. Raymond enhances your personal security so you can enjoy stable and satisfying connections with those to whom you have strong attachments. You can find out more at http://www.drjeanetteraymond.com