Here’s a situation – a VERY common situation, where a man is consistently defensive and on the attack in order to feel okay with himself. The cure is in my Toxic Men program, and I’ll touch on it here.
It’s about unearthing the anger in you, in him, in the relationship – and getting it out in the open in a NON-DRAMATIC way – so that it can be healed – and USED to bring you closer to each other.
Otherwise, the anger goes underground and does so much damage there that things are seemingly beyond repair – but it IS repairable. The key is in YOU.
SOMEONE has to start a new kind of communication, a new kind of attitude and approach, a new way of expressing all kinds of feelings – both verbally and physically – that actually CREATE INTIMACY, instead of driving it away.
To do this – you need more strength on the inside – more trust in yourself to state clearer, more consistent Boundaries – and a willingness to be completely vulnerable on the outside.
You have to trust yourself that you will not just BE there, vulnerable and open, when things don’t feel good – when there is even “modest” defensiveness and verbal abuse (I was with a man for a long time who was master of verbal abuse and manipulation – he was funny and charming, and so everyone always laughed, and I stood there wondering what was wrong with me…).
You have to know how to always stay open, and yet always feel strong enough to walk away. At any moment. That’s Power….
Here are 2 symptoms that anger is underground and running things:
1. Judgment and Criticism – you always feel as though everything you do is being “watched’ and “scrutinized” and “judged.”
Every time you do anything, he’s ready with a roll of his eyes, a snide comment – about what you did, about what you didn’t do, about his own needs that somehow it’s your fault aren’t being met (like where things are). Sometimes it’s about simple choices you make – or how you look or what you’re wearing. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s muttered, sometimes it’s done with a joke (so it’s even harder for you to pin down). It’s constant and never-ending. You feel like a child being berated.
This is about a lot of things, but it can simply be the most “controlled” way a man can express his anger (often his anger at himself – it might have nothing to do with you). He judges you constantly because he’s such a harsh judge of himself. His guilt about his irritation and anger leaves him this “mild” way to express anger – telling you what you’re doing wrong.
(By the way – we do this too…)
He’s drifting away emotionally, spending less time with you, there’s less sex, less affection.
Almost all my programs deal with this and how to stop it and bring him close again – and here – let’s just look at the hidden anger component: He’s angry, he doesn’t know how to deal with it, and so he withdraws. It’s easier.
When you talk with him and try to be “understanding” and get at what the problem is – he just feels angrier, and withdraws more.
The obvious expression of anger is arguments, fighting, verbal and physical attacks – but I don’t want to deal with that here because this is about HIDDEN anger – where all you’re experiencing is the tip of the iceberg, and you’re living in fear of that iceberg surfacing.
And here’s a small step to the solution: Unearth the anger iceberg by YOU changing YOUR reactions.
Now – this is not a lifestyle – you don’t want to be with a man who is constantly berating you or withdrawing from you where you have to be the one always “changing” – this is an experiment, a test, a learning experience – and the goal is to unearth the anger and learn to TOLERATE the experience of it.
Once you can get through surface stuff and into the rage that lies underneath – without all the arguing and fighting and nastiness that only uncovers a tiny part of the iceberg and actually DAMAGES a relationship – you’ll start to feel things loosen up and more affection, attention and love start to fill the space between you.
Instead of running away, or making an excuse for yourself or DEFENDING yourself – you want to:
1. Notice what’s going on with you.
Are you being run by fear? Do you want to run away? Do you want to hit him? Are you going numb? Are you determined to do whatever you have to to make peace and get his approval?
2. Speak the DEEPEST feeling you can find inside yourself.
That could be “I feel scared.” “I feel so angry.” “I feel turned off.”
When he questions you, just keep doing what you’re doing, saying your deepest feeling. If you have to put it in context, say “When I heard (you can repeat what he said here, or paraphrase it…just enough to let him know what you’re referring to…) – “I feel so tense…it felt awful…it feels scary..I felt like running…I feel like running…This doesn’t feel good to me…”
3. Stand your ground.
Don’t apologize for yourself, explain anything – and do not blame him, either.
Look him straight in the eye, as best you can. Lean back. You are not attacking, you are expressing.
What can you expect with doing it this way? All kinds of stuff will come up for you…
You’ll feel shaky, you’ll feel upset – and you’ll feel ANGRIER than you’ve ever felt! And what’s more…as YOU feel more comfortable with YOUR anger – so will he.
He’ll start to let you “have it.” He’ll start to let his anger out. And you have to be strong enough to hear anger and experience the ENERGY of anger – AS LONG AS IT’S NOT DIRECTED AT YOU!!
This means – the moment he turns it on YOU – you say “I’m happy to hear your feelings, even your anger, but I don’t want to feel attacked…” and if he doesn’t change his words and copy what you’re doing (expressing his feelings instead of blaming YOU)…then you must TURN AROUND AND WALK AWAY…!
When this happens, and emotions start to surface, I know it’s tough – but, actually – it’s fabulous!!! You are starting to communicate in a way that is triggering YOURSELF and your stuffed up and old feelings.
Now – all we have to do is get a routine down for how to handle your emotions when they bubble up…The more you tell him the truth, in feeling messages, the more you will feel that you don’t WANT to feel – otherwise you would have done this a long time ago.
Believe it or not – this is amazing PROGRESS. And – ALWAYS – the first emotion that shows up is ANGER.
Accept that you are enraged – and just keep processing it and sharing it. This is going to feel weird for a bit – so it’s really important you have a way to relax – to meditate – to regroup and ground yourself. Stuff you love that you can focus on and feel better quickly.
If he’s a man who NEEDS to put YOU down in order to feel okay – he won’t let up right away. He’s going to up the ante, and keep at you to try to get a “rise” out of you so that you’ll go back to the old, crummy defense patterns you used to be stuck.
He may start to panic, and so he’ll do the only thing he knows – attacking you. You’re going to have to acknowledge how awful that feels right away – instead of stuffing down and answering him reasonably.
Later on – you’ll get a sense of humor about it – and he’ll stop doing this very soon…when you start feeling more powerful.
Defending yourself with anger or cleverness will not help you here – it will just make him work harder to top you.
As you express your anger simply, and let him know it doesn’t feel good, that you feel attacked, that you feel afraid of him and what he’ll say to you, and that it’s making you feel turned off…all this will change….You are only at the BEGINNING of this…be patient, take baby steps.