Rick Reynolds, LCSW

Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Anger: Its 6 Roots

It seems to me much is written about managing anger, but not as much about the roots.  If there is a universal emotion that we see as therapists when infidelity has been exposed, it’s anger. Whether it’s anger at their spouse, themselves, or the whole world, anger is a very common part of disclosure. If reconciliation is going to happen, the anger has to be addressed. Many times I have to help spouses realize, if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be angry about it. We’re angry because our heart is broken.

“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable, is that which rages in the place of dearest love.” 
― Euripides

Anger is generally a secondary emotion generated by other feelings. Now there are exceptions and not all anger is negative. In my mind, anger only goes negative when it becomes destructive in your life or in the lives of others. There are certainly ways to manage anger to keep it from being destructive, but eliminating the root of anger is an easier way of taking care of the problem. As Michael Wells says, “Don’t sweep the cobwebs, kill the spider.” The following is a short list of the roots of anger I see most often when treating infidelity.

Resentment:
An inability to eventually let go of resentment will frequently result in anger. If the resentment isn’t released, it will result in either anger or a perceived victim status. It’s difficult to let go of resentments, but doing so is a gift you give yourself. It has little to do with the other person. Please don’t think that forgiving a wrong perpetrated against you is the same as condoning another’s hurtful actions. Rather, resentment prolongs the harm perpetrated by the other person. In short, it keeps the hurt going. The resulting anger robs you of your peace and ability to gain traction in your own recovery. This foreboding anger can also delay healing in your spouse’s recovery. In the short term, it’s expected that anger will not only be present, but off the charts. However, as you move towards finding help, healing and the possibility of restoration, the anger must be diffused. Remember, forgiveness is not about reconciliation; it’s an act of self-liberation that frees you from being a prisoner of the past and allows you to live in peace with your past.

Soul Wounds:
Another significant source of anger is soul wounds. Our past is littered  with occurrences where the very essence of our identity was wounded and possibly, forever altered. It’s also where we began to believe lies about who we truly are. The memories where these lies are anchored can hold significant amounts of anger and pain. When similar circumstances occur in the present, the old wounds resurface and old emotions echo from the past, influencing how we feel in the present. These wounds can be a significant source of anger and can cause our emotional response to a circumstance to be exaggerated to say the least. It’s part of the reason we say “Pain that is not transformed, will eventually be transmitted.” When a hidden pain is triggered, we can have a $500 response to a $5 incident. If you find you tend to overreact to circumstances, then it might be worthwhile to seek professional help to determine if there is a past wound affecting your ability to have peace in the moment.

Guilt:
It may sound strange, but guilt is also a source of anger. I don’t know about you, but each time I get caught for speeding, I get mad. Now it’s not that I’m not guilty, it’s the fact that my first response to guilt is anger. I hate it when I’m called to account for my bad actions. In fact, many of us will use anger as a way to push away our guilt and shame. Our defensiveness and anger are often a measure of the guilt we feel internally and have no idea how to remedy. I can’t tell you how many unfaithful spouses deal with this paradox and feel powerless to remedy the situation.  If you find yourself dealing with anger, a great exercise is making a personal inventory and honestly focusing on your own areas of failure to see if your anger is a way of avoiding taking responsibility for your own actions.

Inferiority:
We have a strange way of giving others power over our life. If we feel we are being disrespected or another is making us feel “less than,” anger is a common response. We hate it when others fail to value or affirm us. Why do you think we get so mad so quickly when someone cuts us off while driving? Or, my favorite, when someone interrupts us while speaking? Both actions send the message that we are “less than,” that the other person has more important places to be or things to say. When we feel undervalued, it triggers a response in us to place all the blame on the other party. Let me ask you, who is giving the other person the power to decide how much value I hold? I am. Once we realize that our value doesn’t change based on individual interactions we will be much more free to love even those who may disrespect us.

Fear:
There are times when fear is at the root of anger. The "fight or flight” response is a God-given mechanism intended for self-protection. In the moment of danger, we will frequently utilize anger as a method of self-protection. Don’t misunderstand; there are times to honor your fear. There are circumstances that are not safe, but not all fear is justified and at times anger blinds us to its root. When asking yourself, “Why am I angry?” always ask if the root is fear. You’ll find it’s far more productive to deal with your fear than it is to deal with anger. If fear is the root, then focus on how to increase safety.

Righteous Indignation:
I saved the best for last. At times anger is justified. When a wrong is done and needs to be corrected, then anger serves an intended purpose. Even in this case, however, it’s important to manage anger. If you believe in the concept of love, then it’s important to be loving, and maintain love within the expression of your anger, and that is not the same as being abusive. While angry, it is still possible to speak the truth in love. It’s OK to right a wrong, but be sure to stay within the bounds of love as you follow your quest.

I hope and pray your search for the roots of anger will result in a new found peace for yourself and for those you love.

If you are a hurt spouse and need help dealing with your anger at your spouse or even at your situation, then our Harboring Hope course will be a safe place to help you heal. As a betrayed spouse, your journey of forgiveness and anger management is not for the faint of heart and Harboring Hope will help you make sense out of the overwhelming emotions including anger, confusion and help with the trauma you’re dealing with. Learn more about Harboring Hope.

If you’re an unfaithful spouse and are having trouble dealing with your anger, or even understanding your anger, I hope you’ll consider taking our Hope for Healing course. It will serve as a wonderful tool to help you start and manage your recovery, as well as proactively begin to deal with your own anger. It will also help you understand more about your spouse’s anger and how to diffuse it. I’d like to invite you to consider taking a look at the Hope for Healing program.

 

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Comments

Anger article

GREAT MESSAGE ! Anger has been the central element in my recovery and the most destructive. I believe that it is mostly based on FEAR at this point of being hurt, again. Trying to trsust GOD. CHS

fear

I agree on the fear being a catalyst for the anger. I have been the betrayed although my wife is working extreamly hard including counseling when things seem to be going really well something so small can trigger the hurt and bring everything right back in front of me like it just happened I have faith we will work through this The hurt just seems so deep at times I am blessed to be able to keep learning that I myself still need the help of others to show me im not alone GOD SPEED

Triggers do lessen over time

Triggers do lessen over time in intensity and frequency. Must replace new good bonding experiences.

On the receiving end of anger

8 months after confessing my 2 month affair and committing to forward movement and healing with my spouse, I am still on the receiving end of his anger. Our time together seems great. But the $5 mistake quickly becomes a $500 reaction, including verbal and emotional abuse. I couldn't be more sorry for what I did and would do anything to move forward with him. But he remains stuck - in his hate and his anger and pain. It breaks my heart to see it fall apart when I've put in everything that I could.

Healing from betrayal is a

Healing from betrayal is a long process. Is he in counseling? Are you both in counseling together? He may need ongoing reassurance. There may be issues he still needs to address - it's a process - new triggers crop up,... When you've been betrayed your whole foundation has broken apart. Your whole sense of life as you knew it is shattered. You don't like the feelings you feel. You don't like having to deal with all those feelings... You don't like yourself for having been blind, etc.... There is a lot to process. My understanding is it is harder for men to heal and reconcile than for women... And it takes the betrayed longer than the infidels. Have you asked him what else he needs beside more time to heal?

Anger

Anger is the most difficult thing to manage, and process after infidelity. That has been my own experience, as the betrayed spouse, and trying to empathize with my unfaithful husband. He has yet to deal with his own wounds that set the stage in himself to cheat and lie. While he is aware of the entitlement as a precursor to the affair, he has not done and has consistently refused to do the work to resolve why he became abusive towards me in order to justify his own actions. He was angry with me for not responding in a way I've yet to understand.... I guess I was supposed to continue acting like nothing was wrong in our relationship. He accused me of refusing intimacy with him while he set e stage continually for me to NOT want intimacy with him! Even in counseling I would tell him what we needed to find resolution about... He never followed thru on any changes in himself but would be angry when I could not respond to him. He had a different set of standards for his behavior than mine. And he was angry that I couldn't trust him, and still don't because he has yet to address half the issues. I admitted when resentment built up. I communicated when Triggers would send my emotions into a downward spiral. I have worked extremely hard to disperse my anger - unfortunately without him working on the myriad of issues that his sex addiction, porn addiction, 2 affairs spanning 15 years, his financial abuse put our whole family thru I have grown so detached from him or any hope of restoration. That is the deep sadness and reality of not addressing the issues. Anger is a killer of the spirit and so much more. Now the anger in our children just perpetuates...

The timing of this was

The timing of this was perfect. My wife had an 8 month affair with a stranger she met on instagram. I am all kinds of angry. She has been back home 5 months. But she is so angry and blows up and makes big issues over small things. And we go round and round because i feel she has no room to be mad. She messed up,not me. Its gotta be guilt right? Even when she says it isnt?

my husband's anger after his infidelitry.

Now I understand hubby's anger even though he apologized after I discovered his infidelity. I do not doubt his sense of guilt but I found his angry outbursts inappropriate after he discovered that I had snooped and seen his porn habit months after discovering his cheating. He actually angrily called and demanded to know if I had been snooping on his laptop. He told me that I was going too far but he later agreed that his outbursts were misplaced. Once again, Rick has located another piece in the jig-saw puzzle that is my husband's infidelity. I can now see his anger as a process put in place to reduce the shame of his actions, the affair and the porn. It also explains his refusal to talk anymore about his infidelity as he described the process as "crucifying" him again and again. He also refers to others who are cheating in marriage as guilty parties same way he used to when his own infidelity was unknown. Like his never happened. Like its those cheaters again in their marriages. He has even started counseling others having marital issues including infidelity. Its interesting to know that he advocates complete transparency between them and communicating to each other what expectations they have as a couple to the marriage and from one another. Yet he shy's away from doing such in our reconciliation using angry body language to shut me up. Using anger in place of guilt like Rick says.

My husband, who was

My husband, who was unfaithful, also reacts angrily with me and this article shows me it comes from his guilt and fear. But. . . how do you heal when you're unfaithful spouse pushes the issues away with anger? How do you handle and resolve the angry, unfaithful spouse & get them to become responsible, address the issues and reconcile?

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