Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Cleaning up emotional pollution

Are You Emotionally Abusive?

Are you emotionally abusive? It can happen to anyone.

It can happen to anyone. That's right; anyone can become emotionally abusive in an intimate relationship. The path to emotional abuse begins at the point where resentment starts to outweigh compassion.

Resentment is a predominant emotional state in our age of entitlement. Because we perceive ourselves to have more of a right to feel good than previous generations, it follows that those around us have an obligation to make us feel good.

Resentment is a misguided attempt to transfer pain to someone else, specifically the shame of failure to feel good, i.e., to create more value, meaning, and purpose in our lives. Blaming this core failure on someone else justifies a sense of self-righteousness, along with low-grade anger, which temporarily feel more powerful. But the temporary empowerment comes at the cost of making an enemy of the beloved.

One problem with resentment is that it builds under the radar - by the time you're aware that you're resentful it has reached an advanced stage. You don't realize how much it has taken over your life until, through therapy or some life-changing event, you become more compassionate and look back on the years you have wasted being resentful. Eventually, with deep regret, you realize the pain you have suffered and the harm you have inflicted due to resentment.

Because resentment makes you feel like a victim - it feels like someone else is controlling your thoughts, feelings, and behavior - it comes with a built-in retaliation impulse. If you're resentful, you are probably in some way emotionally abusive to the people you love. You have devalued, demeaned, sought to control or manipulate and deliberately hurt the feelings of loved ones. But you've been so focused on what you don't like about their behavior that you haven't noticed what you don't like about your own. You probably have not grasped that resentment has made you into someone you are not.

Here's how to tell if you are an emotionally abusive man or woman.

Man:

  • Does it feel like your wife or girlfriend pushes your buttons?
  • Does she have a way of putting you in a bad mood?
  • Are there times when you don't want to speak to her or be around her?
  • Do you feel like you overlook a lot or swallow a lot, until you can't stand it anymore?
  • Does she frequently "do things the wrong way?"
  • Can you be having a nice time and then out of nowhere she says or does something to set you off?
  • Are you sometimes on edge about having a bad or unpleasant evening?
  • Does it feel like you have to criticize her for not being more efficient, reliable, or a better person?
  • Does it feel like she makes you yell or shut down when you really don't want to raise your voice or be in a bad mood at all?
  • Do you treat her in ways you couldn't have imagined when you first started loving her?

If you answered yes to any of the above, here are some things that your wife or girlfriend probably says about you:

  • He's so moody.
  • He doesn't see or hear me.
  • I feel like I'm his possession.
  • I can't be myself; I have to think, feel, and behave the way he wants.
  • Nothing I do is good enough.
  • I feel like I'm walking on eggshells.

Woman:

  • Do you sometimes make your man feel like a failure as a provider, partner, parent, or lover?
  • Do you feel like you have to tell him the same thing over and over and over?
  • Does he tell you that you sometimes yell and scream or lash out at him?
  • Do your girlfriends ever remark that you might treat him badly?
  • Do you automatically blame him when things go wrong?
  • Do you resort to name-calling, swearing at him, or putting him down?
  • Do you demean or belittle him in front of other people or your children?
  • Do you threaten to take his children away so he will never see them?
  • Are you often jealous and want to know where he is at all times?
  • Would your family and friends be surprised to know how you treat him behind closed doors?

If you answered yes to any of the above, here are some things that your husband or boyfriend probably says about you:

  • She's a nag.
  • She's so moody.
  • She's so unpleasant to be around.
  • I just want her to leave me alone. 
  • Nothing I do is good enough.
  • I feel like I'm walking on eggshells.

In addition to the above, you can take this useful emotional abuse quiz.

The Way Out: Self-Compassion
Self-compassion begins with greater sensitivity to the resentment that causes emotional abuse. It is sympathy for the perceived hurt or loss of self-value that causes resentment. Most important, it includes motivation to heal and improve.

Since the experience of resentment rarely improves anything and never heals the hurt that caused it, most resentment - and all acts of abuse - are failures of self-compassion.

As we develop more self-compassion, we are motivated less by temporary feelings and more by our deepest values. As a result, we automatically become more compassionate to the people we love.

The key to a successful relationship is maintaining a sometimes delicate balance between self-compassion and compassion for loved ones.

CompassionPower

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. Recent books: How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It, and Love Without Hurt.

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