Anger Management Classes - The Family Pays the Higher Price

by James A. Baker
(September, 2008. Recovery Today)

Anger Management Techniques - You Don’t Have to Hit to Hurt


I am deeply in love with my fiancée, but his family is crazy. All they do is fight, and I mean fight. Anger is so ingrained in this family that the police have been called to their house more than once, and several of them have gone to jail. Is there any way we can get his whole family into some kind of counseling to help them deal with their anger? I don’t want them to show up at the wedding acting like this.

Muddled in Maryland
Dear Muddled:

I am sorry to hear of the difficulties taking place in your fiancée’s family. Unfortunately, this is an often repeated theme in the field of anger management. Anger is a very destructive force, and the fear and resentment it causes can quickly infect entire families down through several generations as people pass their pain on to each other.

I am deeply sympathetic to your concern, and I understand your desire to try to do something to help them, but you must be very careful here. Deep seated anger patterns take on most of the characteristics of any other addictive behavior, and as such, presents often insurmountable challenges to someone outside the system who wants to change things. You can easily become addicted to the desire to control and change this family, which will not help them at all and will only make you sick.

You must keep in mind that this family believes that - for better or worse - this anger pattern is NORMAL, because it is all they have ever known. They might dislike the effect that a single anger event might have on one or more of them, but they may also vigorously defend their integrity as a family against “do-gooders” who come in to criticize and control them. You must proceed very carefully here.

I would first suggest that you encourage your fiancée to take an anger management course (our online course is inexpensive and easy to use: ) Even if you don’t think he has a serious problem with anger, the fact that he was raised in that environment almost absolutely guarantees that his anger patterns will worsen during the course of your relationship. It would also be a good idea for you to take the course, too, because it will help you to understand how anger works and how to deal with it effectively in your own life. Believe me, if you are going to enter into a long term relationship with this family, you will have plenty of opportunities to get angry, because anger is contagious.

If you and your fiancée find this course helpful, then you have at least helped to shore up the stability of your own relationship and that may be the best you can ever hope for. I am not trying to sound negative, but the truth is that family systems are very difficult to change. It is hard enough to develop the leverage it takes to help one person change long-term patterns. It is a staggering challenge to change a whole family. Not completely impossible, but very, very daunting.

From this point on, you will need the support of a local family therapist if you want to visit options to help this family. Perhaps your primary care physician can recommend someone. I would urge you to proceed with caution, and ground your expectations in reality. First - make sure you take care of yourself and don’t get sucked into trying to save this family; they must be willing to save themselves. After that, encourage your fiancée to work the program himself. Then, develop a strategy for dealing with the extended family, with the help of a qualified therapist.

Dear Anger

I am hoping with all my heart that you can help me get my family back. I have had a problem with anger for a very long time, and my wife has asked me to leave. She has filed for divorce and she won’t let me see the kids. She told me to get help, but there aren’t many places to get help in this little town I live in. Can you help me?

Hopeless in Alaska
Dear Hopeless:

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. Here is one very strong word of warning: if your only motivation is to get your family back, you will 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, the same old anger patterns come back again eventually and the cycle starts all over.

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 serious the damage is, it may take them a long time to decide to trust you again, if ever. That part is out of our hands.

The only thing you can control is how you will live your life from now on, and how seriously you are willing to work on 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 change your anger patterns. If you are serious about changing YOU, then the relationship with your family MIGHT be restored eventually. If there are no anger management resources in your area, get in touch with AA. They understand and they will help you.

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