We usually imagine an angry person as one who shouts and yells in an aggressive way to get their point across. But there are at least five anger styles or ways of expressing our anger, some of which we may not recognise immediately as anger.
A highly recommended read is Beating Anger by Mike Fisher, an anger therapist who runs anger management workshops in the UK. He says that how we express anger (our individual anger styles) is shaped by how anger was, or was not, expressed by members of our family in childhood. Young children soon learn which anger style is most effective, even if it may mean the resulting attention is negative. We may use several styles, depending on the situation and the person we are in conflict with.
It’s important to realise that each of the following anger styles is usually triggered when we feel powerless, hopeless and inadequate. And rather than adopting any of these behaviours, however subconsciously, it’s much healthier to talk about it:
He describes the first one as the intimidator, whose threatening behaviour brings compliance through fear. This is a style used to control others by being aggressive “If I can scare them, they will do what I want”. Intimidators feel that controlling others aggressively is the only way to get what he/she needs. Body language includes an aggressive stance, shouting, eyeballing, body posturing. When using the intimidator style, the goal is to create fear in the other person to control them.
The second anger style is interrogation. The interrogator is manipulative and questions the victims to make them feel small and ashamed. It is often supported by a powerful, persuasive but irrational logic. The Interrogator wants to get others to see things his/her way by using lots of questions intended to make others feel their behaviour is bad, shameful or upsetting. This way he/she hopes to control others in a manipulative way.
A machine-gun spray of questions: “Why are you late? … Where have you been? … Who do you think you are?” When using the interrogator style, the goal is to induce guilt and shame in the person with whom you are angry in order to control their actions and behaviours.
This is the ‘poor me’ type who seeks to make us feel guilty for not meeting their needs. It is the ‘look at all I have done for you and there is no thanks for it, would you blame me for being angry with you’ type of mentality. It can be quite crushing if practised on people who have a strong caring or rescuing streak because the ‘poor me’ person always needs rescuing.
It is highly passive-aggressive: Mike Fisher says: Poor me might not sound angry, but it is a style of anger to try to manipulate others into feeling ashamed about how he/she has been mistreated, “I’ve worked really hard all day in a job I hate to support you and all I get is a mouthful of abuse”. The aim is to play the victim and therefore make the other person feel shame and guilt. It’s highly manipulative but can be very effective.
This anger style is probably the one we don’t immediately spot as it’s pretty much hidden from view. Distancing or withdrawing or stonewalling, makes the other person wonder what is going on, although they will always sense the anger in the distancer. Again this is a passive-aggressive way of managing anger. The distancer will rarely get into a conflict and generally will minimise their feelings, or rationalise them to themselves. As a distancer, you might recognise that your goal is to get the other person or people to run after you and apologise, begging you to come back and at least talk about it.
The fifth anger style is winding-up. The ‘winder upper’ controls people by joking and teasing others in a witty way. Even though their tone and their words may be light and amusing, the knife they sink in you is sharp. The ‘winder upper’ is usually unable to express his own anger and this is often a pattern learned in childhood. It is especially sneaky because the other person can sense the aggression beyond it but when they express their anger at the jokey put downs, the winder upper will say something like “Can’t you take a joke?” or “You’re so sensitive!”
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
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