Anger Management Courses - Anger Addiction: Well Education Does not Equal Well Adjusted

by James A. Baker
(January, 2009. Recovery Today)


My husband is a highly respected citizen at work and in our community. He is a brilliant man who earned a PhD in Biochemical Engineering and is a senior research fellow with a large corporation. He is also an elder in our church. He is articulate and is much in demand as a lecturer. His friends and colleagues think he is wonderful. Only the kids and I know the truth: he is a very angry person who has wounded us and frightened us countless times with his vicious outbursts. How can someone this highly educated and so obviously intelligent be so nasty, violent and cruel?

Mystified in Massachusetts


My husband has a very serious problem controlling his anger. He has terrorized both me and the kids for years, but no one else knows about it. He is a minister, and everyone at our church loves him. He is great with people and especially good with the youth, but when he gets home it is like he becomes a different person. Our kids think he is a hypocrite. I don’t know what to think. Most people think he is a man of God, but I think he is playing for the other side. How can something like this happen?

Praying for a Miracle


My mom is the superintendent for a medium-sized school district. She is very good at her job, respected by the teachers and school board members, and gets along great with the staff. She has a PhD in Administration - a very smart lady. She also has a very bad temper that no one sees but us kids and our dad. I am out of the house now and in college, and this is the first time in years I don’t have to walk around on eggshells every day. I can see now that she has a very bad problem. Is there anything we can do about it?

Afraid to Go Home for Christmas in Knoxville

To each of you I would like to start by saying that for many people anger is not an emotion, it is an addiction, and addictions are no respecter of persons. Addictions occur across all population groups, regardless of socio-economic, educational or spiritual classes. By now, most of us aren’t surprised when we hear that rich, famous and well-educated people- politicians, movie stars, pastors, or captains of industry - have problems with alcohol, drugs, sex or eating disorders. Why should it surprise us that successful, well-educated, socially prominent members of the community also have secret problems with abusive anger?

An addiction can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime - that is one of the reasons we look at addiction as a disease - and abusive anger, or rageaholism, is no different in this regard than alcoholism. The sooner you accept this about your loved one, the sooner you can start making better decisions regarding how to help yourself and them, too. The reason well-educated, intelligent people have problems with any addiction is because it has an established pathology that is controlling certain aspects of their behavior, and they will not get better without help. And neither will you.

I know you are bewildered, discouraged, ashamed, and even angry yourselves, because the behavior of your loved one is ruining your family and your life. Now, stop and think for a second; what would you do if your loved one was abusing drugs, alcohol, pornography, or food? Would you wring your hands and say, “How could such a brilliant successful person behave this way?” No, I suspect you would say, “My husband is an alcoholic,” or “My mom has somehow gotten herself addicted to prescription painkillers.” Once you had come to grips with this painful reality, you would contact AA or NA or Alanon or a family counselor and ask for help for yourself and your family. You would enlist the help of your family doctor or other trained professional to get your loved one into treatment, and as a family you would work on getting well.

So, substitute the word anger for alcoholic or drug addict, and I have spelled out a pretty good plan of action for you, too. Anger looks like a character flaw, because it appears that this otherwise intelligent person has blown a gasket. Also, anger can make you feel very ashamed and powerless, because it is easy to assume that your loved one’s anger is your fault, and you say to yourself things like, “if only I hadn’t spent so much at the grocery store today, he wouldn’t have yelled at me and called me those awful names. This must be my fault and I will try to do better next time.” Of course, this is crazy talk, but, then again, living with an addict makes everyone a little crazy. That is why the most important thing you can do is to get help for yourself first before you try getting the addict to help himself.

The good news in all of this is that at least your denial is starting to break down a little bit. You are beginning to see this as more than just an anger problem; it has become a family problem and you are no longer willing to see you and your family suffer. Don’t quit now. Don’t sweep this under the carpet anymore; follow the steps I outlined above and do something about the situation. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. It is the smartest thing you can possibly do.

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