Anger Management Classes - Restoring Sanity and Safety Takes Priority Over Restoring Family

by James A. Baker
(May, 2010. Recovery Today)


anger managementYou have to help me get my family back. I have had a real bad anger problem for a long time. Whenever I lose control, I can get pretty mean, and occasionally I break stuff. I am not this way all the time, and I don’t get really violent. I have never hit anyone in my family. There was just this one time at a party I got into it with some guy and spent the night in jail. Mostly, I just yell and slam doors and throw things around and say stuff I am sorry about later. But the problem now is that my wife has taken our three kids and left me, again. She says she can’t stand me anymore and that she and the kids don’t feel safe around me. She sounds really serious this time. She filed some kind of orders against me and I can’t come around her and I have to be supervised by someone in a neutral place to see the kids, and then it is only for a couple of hours. This is killing me. PLEASE tell me what I can do to change so I can get my family back. I love them and I miss them. I will do anything - whatever it takes -- to get them back.

Desperate in Alaska

Anger Management Classes - Restoring Sanity and Safety Takes Priority Over Restoring Family

Dear Desperate:
I am sorry to learn of your situation with your family, but by reaching out and admitting you need help, you have taken the first step to a new life.However, here is one very strong word of warning: if your only motivation in asking for help is to get your family back, you are probably setting yourself up to fail. People with deep seated anger problems very often alienate family members, friends and co-workers, ending up alone and discouraged. Nobody likes to be alone, cut off from people that they love, so these “anger addicts” begin making all sorts of promises to their loved ones that they will do better, they will get help, promising that things will be different. Unfortunately, just as soon as their loved ones let them come home and the pressure of being abandoned goes away, those same old anger patterns begin to creep back in again.

Eventually things are just as bad as ever, and the cycle starts all over. After years of scary outbursts, abusive language, hurt feelings, and broken promises to get help and do better, family members start to shut down emotionally and become very skeptical of more promises to change “if only you will let me come home so we can be a family again.” It sounds like your wife may have finally reached that stage.

Anger Management Classes - Restoring Sanity and Safety Takes Priority Over Restoring Family

I will give it to you straight: we can’t promise you will ever get your family back. We don’t control your family’s feelings and decisions and neither do you. No one can make them take you back and, depending on how seriously you have damaged the relationship with your abusive outbursts of anger, it may take them a long time to decide to trust you again, if ever. That part is out of our hands. The more you obsess about getting them back, you more likely you are to distract yourself from doing the very hard work that you must do to become a safer, saner person.

It is also important to accept the fact that your wife did the right thing. Your behavior was doing damage to her and to your kids. It was also doing damage to you, even though you haven’t clearly come to grips with that yet. If she were to seek my counsel right now, I would support her decision and I would urge her not to get back together with you - no matter how hard you beg and plead - until you have not only taken steps to get help, but until you have also demonstrated new skills in managing anger that can be observed and validated over an extended period of time. We may be talking months or even years. We may also be talking never, because that part will always be up to her.

Anger Management Classes - Restoring Sanity and Safety Takes Priority Over Restoring Family

The truth is that the only thing you can control from here on out is how you will live your life, and how seriously you are willing to work on learning to control your anger. Certainly, if you dedicate yourself to changing your anger patterns, you have a better chance of earning your family’s forgiveness and trust, but that must all wait until later. For now, you have months of hard work ahead of you to start working to change your anger patterns. The more serious you are about changing YOU, and the harder and longer you work to make the necessary changes in your thinking and your behavior patterns, the more hope there will be that the relationship with your family may be restored eventually. However, you must keep in mind that at this point it is only a hope, and for the time being it is far out on the horizon.

Anger Management Classes - Restoring Sanity and Safety Takes Priority Over Restoring Family

If you are serious about changing you, you need to do 3 things:

  1. Accept the truth that your abusive anger patterns are about you. Stop blaming people and circumstances and using them as an excuse to lash out with abusive anger. You always have a choice in how you respond to situations that make you upset. For most of our life, you have been making very bad choices, and these choices have finally come home to roost on your head.
  2. Shift your focus from “doing anything” to get your family back to doing whatever it takes to learn how to be a safer, saner person. No doubt, your abusive anger has been messing up your life for years - damaging relationships at home, at work, and probably making it hard to for you to make and keep friends. It has also landed you in jail at least once. It is not only harming your relationships, it is probably also hurting your physical health. Your abusive anger is ruining your entire quality of life. You have to get that under control before it kills you.
  3. Get involved in some kind of effective anger management training program. If you can’t find one where you live, go to AA and tell them you are an Anger Addict. Get a copy of the Anger Busting Workbook and work through it with an accountability partner or counselor. Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself; Do Something.

If you do all of this, you will be well on your way to changing your anger patterns. Eventually your family may notice, and it may help you restore your relationships. However, it is too soon to think about that now, you have a lot of work to do first.

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