Blame, anger, shame, and guilt feelings are usually inter-connected. Jamie and his parents may be experiencing all these emotions in quick succession.
“Oh, it’s all my fault!”
When I feel guilty and “take all the blame”, an inadequate picture develops of all the factors involved in the situation. When I fail to look at all the factors, healing and growth in me, and in several other people, may be delayed. I damage my own self-esteem, as well as the esteem of others for me.
“How does he keep getting into this kind of mess? And after all we do for him!”
“I told you, you need to spend more time with him!”
When I “blame it all on someone else,” I create more guilt, shame, and angry feelings; and the problems multiply. This is especially true when the one being blamed, either agrees with my judgment, or does not know that judgment is faulty. Guilt, shame, anger, and/or depression frequently follow.
“I’m tired of you always blaming me for Jamie’s scrapes! You baby him too much! I DON’T want him to be a SISSY!! And you..*#*!…..tell that principal to get all her facts before she calls here!!!”
“Baby him!! You know how sensitive he is! Someone has to show a little sympathy! How can you be so callous?!! If he would just THINK about what he does!”
(Jamie, in his room,) “Cripes, Mom and Dad are yelling about me again! I can never satisfy them. I’m hopeless, I guess. (Kicks wastepaper basket. It turns over. He jumps on it.) There, take that!!”
If anger is not dealt with at an early stage, it may erupt intensely and uncontrollably. Or, it may simmer constantly and adversely affect most of our relationships most of the time. It may smolder deeply, almost forgotten, and flash to a burn when stirred by an event or comment. The precipitating event may have only a faint resemblance to the original cause of anger, or none at all.
If discussion is not allowed, the anger continues to burn. If the anger is too threatening, it may be denied, or buried even deeper and “forgotten.” But our bodies don’t forget easily.
This buried, forgotten anger tends to resurface in other ways, psychologically and physically; sometimes very destructively. Psychosis can occur with an inability to relate meaningfully to the present. It may be accompanied by hallucinations. Depression occurs frequently. Bi-polar illness, cycles of extreme highs and lows, often has an anger component. Fear of others’ anger, or of your own anger, can heighten anxiety problems. The psychological effects of anger may include a bitterness and an inability to forgive that discolor the whole rainbow of relationships.
“No! It’s your problem! It doesn’t bother me!”
Whether you or I use a loud, angry voice, or sweet tones while smiling through gritting teeth, we may deny anger in any part of its spectrum, from being “bothered,” to irritation, to frustration, to anger, to exasperation, to fury. Denial may develop into a “mask of happiness.” The mask hides a hollow life that is not connected to real feelings and thoughts. Denial really doesn’t help deal with anger.
The opposite method, dwelling on the anger and its precipitating events, actually increases the degree of anger to levels that are more difficult, “hotter,” to handle. So, it is better to deal with the problem early. Try to work out a compromise, “cool it,” even if you, I, or we are uncomfortable while doing it.
A soft answer turns away anger, but grievous words stir up wrath.
Proverbs 15:1 KJV
Physical problems stemming from our dis-ease with “buried,” “forgotten,” “denied” anger are not uncommon. They may be “acid stomach,” stomach ulcers, periodic or chronic diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure, and possibly some types of arthritis.
“Yes, Doctor. My old man had ulcers. He lost his job and tried to keep the family spirits up. God! I admire him for what he did! But I don’t see how my job, or my Jamie’s problems, has anything to do with excess stomach acid! What can you give me, Doc?”
Most negative effects of anger are the result of our previous patterns of behavior and genetic pre-dispositions. Patterns of dealing with our emotions, such as becoming angry, denying, blaming, shaming, and feeling guilty, are partially inherited biologically and partially learned through family and social interaction.
“So the doctor wants us to go get counseling! If you had listened to me earlier, you wouldn’t be having stomach problems now!”
We need not be ashamed, blame ourselves, or look for someone to blame, for these patterns of behavior. At most, both the blamer and the blamee can take some responsibility for any poor results, but not for all of it. There is an interactive pattern that either of us can change .
Having said all the above, we must acknowledge that sometimes a person is an innocent victim and not at all at fault. For examples, a child who is exploited by others, infants who are abused, and some who are involved in car crashes in spite of their careful driving.
See the next post for more on blame, shame and guilt.