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On the last track, we discussed establishing communication between the family
members of an addict by identifying who is most open to change, asking for
help, finding allies outside the immediate family, and dealing with family
members who refuse to cooperate.
Two Kinds of Anger - Positive & Negative
Instead of listening, the targets of the anger brace themselves and ignore. In addition, destructive anger is damaging to the individual, both physically and mentally. Amy’s husband Brad was addicted to Percocet. She told me, "My son suppressed so much that he has driven himself inward. His personality changed a lot because he had to suppress the part of his life that was so painful. And my daughter had so much anger that she was holding in that she sometimes exploded".
3 Purposes of Anger
-- Purpose # 1 - Instructive
-- Purpose # 2 - Safe-Guarding
-- Purpose # 3 - Emotional Connection
As you know, family members of addicts may think that their anger accomplishes something, because it gets short term results. As we discussed in Track 2, addicts get used to these angry rants, especially when the anger leads to the ‘threaten, punish, and relent’ cycle. Using anger this way puts the addict in charge.
Relationship anger can also rebound onto the family. Amy stated, "often, when Brad would spend 100 dollars on painkillers, I’d get angry and yell at him, and he’d just explode! It was like he was saying, ‘how dare you get angry at me! I’m the only one allowed to be angry’. At first I’d be even more upset, but then I’d start thinking, maybe Brad is right. Maybe I have no right to be angry at him. There must be something wrong with me for feeling this way! And then I’d feel guilty for days."
When the family of an addict uses negative anger, they take their eyes off of the solution and focus on the alcoholic, something they have no power to change directly. Both negative and positive anger are contagious, they spread through the family, and can make it either much easier or much more difficult for the family of the addict to work together for change.
Anger Assessment Exercise - 3 Questions
-- Anger Assessment Question # 1
-- Anger Assessment Question # 2
-- Anger Assessment Question # 3
In addition to these questions, I suggested to Amy that she keep a journal or notebook at hand at all times. You may find that your clients dealing with repressed anger find it helpful to keep a notebook just for writing down their angry feelings. Encourage them to start writing as soon as they get angry throughout the day.
On this track, we have discussed patterns of anger in the families of addicts, including instructive anger, safe-guarding anger, and relationship anger. Would it be beneficial to play this track during your next session with the family member of an addict.
On the next track, we will discuss The Caretaking Trap. This involves family members feeling they have no choice, avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, feeling guilt and shame, and being well-intentioned.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Assaad, J.-M., Pihl, R. O., Séguin, J. R., Nagin, D., Vitaro, F., Carbonneau, R., & Tremblay, R. E. (2003). Aggressiveness, family history of alcoholism, and the heart rate response to alcohol intoxication. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 11(2), 158–166.
Church, S., Bhatia, U., Velleman, R., Velleman, G., Orford, J., Rane, A., & Nadkarni, A. (2018). Coping strategies and support structures of addiction affected families: A qualitative study from Goa, India. Families, Systems, & Health, 36(2), 216–224.
Griffin, K. W., Botvin, G. J., Scheier, L. M., Diaz, T., & Miller, N. L. (2000). Parenting practices as predictors of substance use, delinquency, and aggression among urban minority youth: Moderating effects of family structure and gender. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14(2), 174–184.
Sprunger, J. G., Hales, A., Maloney, M., Williams, K., & Eckhardt, C. I. (2020). Alcohol, affect, and aggression: An investigation of alcohol’s effects following ostracism. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication.
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