Psychological Self-Help

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control the other person. That is one purpose for criticism but it is possible to deal
with negative traits or behaviors without being nasty or critical. For example, it is
possible to believe and state that certain behaviors are unfair—a judgmental
thought—without it being expressed as an insulting, hostile, critical evaluation.
Example: John seldom puts his dirty cloths in the clothes hamper. That is a factual
statement that could be observed (and recorded!) and is very different from this kind
of angry comment: “John is such an inconsiderate slob and leaves his clothes
everywhere expecting me to pick up and do the laundry for him. He makes me so
mad.” Like anger, critical comments are for control. Factual statements can lead to
less agitation and more solved problems.
Some therapists find it helpful to realize that most relationships have two sides or
aspects: one is the relationship each partner imagines or fantasizes they have and
the other side is the factual or observable characteristics of their relationship. These
two views or opinions of a marriage make it possible for a couple to treat each other
very badly most of the time but to still believe the fantasy that they still love, like,
and are totally committed to each other. With one partner having a wonderful story-
book fantasized love for the other person, it may be possible to overlook the mis-
treatment and get though fights and hard times.(“Oh, I love him anyway” or “deep
down he loves me.”) This sounds like denial to me. Believing in these positive
illusions may help sometimes but denying the deep disappointment and strong
resentment that exists is not a good way to rebuild a relationship. It is important to
look for the truth—the behavioral evidence for each partner’s love and
commitment, not just cling to a false fantasy developed long ago. People who love
each other are good to each other.
Very often the angry person thinks the person who he/she is mad at has caused the
anger. “You make me so mad!” “You really upset me when you don’t listen to me
and spend so much money on clothes.” “Can’t you just tell your Mother “no”? Keep
in mind that anger is to control someone (“I can’t stand your constant complaining!”)
And anger is used as an excuse for our behavior: “Why did you yell at me?”
“Because you are driving me out of my mind!”
But your partner buying clothes or complaining is not responsible for your yelling or
for your rant about over-spending. (What are your legal or moral grounds for
demanding they not buy clothes or spend money?) Your anger is the feelings of your
body getting ready to attack someone…to make them do what you want them to do.
(Just because they want to do something different than you want them to do does
not justify your anger!)
It might also be helpful, if you have a chance, to learn what the person who is angry
with you really wants from you. But if the relationship is between equals who have
no right to discipline each other, then the person who is angry usually has no right to
control you (by anger or any way since one is not the slave or employee of the
other). The angry person should learn to say to him/herself that his/her anger is just
a mistake he/she is making about how to change the relationship. Anger and threats
are not acceptable ways to change the behavior of companions or friends. It is
usually especially difficult if both people in the relationship are deep into controlling
each other by the use of strong anger. Such a relationship usually needs professional
help. Keeping a journal of the anger interactions might help—record what the ill
feelings were about, what the angry person(s) wanted to happen, what the criticized
partner preferred to do, what solutions were tried, and what final outcome resulted.
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