In modern society, anger is the emotion that is disapproved of the very most. In fact, it is so disapproved of that if someone gets angry, people do not see it as an emotion that the person is experiencing and expressing. People see it as a character or personality defect. The reason that people disapprove of anger is because anger implies conflict. And so many people see conflict as bad and wrong.
The thing is, people are wrong about anger. Anger is a reaction to perceived powerlessness. It occurs when someone opposes a boundary you have (a boundary being a personal truth of yours, a feeling of yours, a desire of yours, a need of yours or one of your best interests). This opposition induces pain. And for those of you who have recognized fear as being related to anger, fear is one form of pain. The anger will escalate to rage when the person who has opposed the boundary shows unworkability and therefore increases the person’s powerlessness regarding being able to get out of pain.
For example, imagine that one of your personal boundaries is that you need a partner who is available. But your partner withdraws. This will cause you to feel pain. If you feel powerless to getting your partner to be available, you will then get angry. And if your anger does nothing to discourage their behavior and encourage a positive change in their behavior, and they continue to be unavailable, they are demonstrating unworkability. It is then likely that the anger will escalate to rage. If you want to learn more about this, you can watch my video titled: The Anger Hack (What To Do When You’re Upset).
When a child is little, the child needs to know that mom or dad is an ally, not an adversary. If the child’s desires, needs or best interests are opposed by something the parent does or doesn’t do, the child gets very scared and feels especially powerless to their life experience. The child does what he or she can to make sure that his or her parent is allied with him or her. The child gets angry to discourage future opposition, disconnection, unavailability or whatever other behavior the parent is exhibiting, which is threatening to the child. Knowing this, what is interesting is that if you look closely at the genuine purpose behind anger, you will see that it acts to promote a social bond, not to disrupt it.
If a parent loves the child and does a good job parenting, he or she will feel a deep motivation to make the child feel good and secure. Therefore, the parent will respond to a child’s anger by re-establishing alignment with the child, and by being an ally regarding restoring the child’s sense of security and wellbeing. This child grows up with a healthy relationship to their own anger and sense of self. This child will grow up to have healthy boundaries. However, if a parent does not love the child or does a bad job parenting, he or she will turn against or withdraw from the child’s anger. A hostile parent will use the child’s anger against them. This parent will become defensive, belittle or punish the child for being angry in the first place and make it clear that the child’s anger has nothing to do with something they are doing to oppose the child’s boundaries. Instead, the child’s anger means something is wrong with the child. An unavailable parent will use the child’s anger as a reason to withdraw further and to become even less available. The message to children in these kinds of households is clear: You can do nothing to get me to behave differently, no matter how much it hurts you or scares you… You just have to put up with whatever I do or don’t do. Or else, YOU are the problem.
The person who grows up in this kind of household will learn that anger itself is the problem, that it destroys relationships and weakens bonds, that anger is bad and wrong, and that whoever is angry is the bad guy. And this opens the door for a very upsetting pattern within human society.
There is a rule of thumb currently that the one that gets angry is seen as the problem. The one that gets angry is seen as the one who started the conflict. The one who gets angry is seen as the one that is bad and wrong. And the one that gets angry is the one that loses in the end. No matter whether this is actually the reality or not. And the sad reality is that other people can use this rule of thumb as a smokescreen for themselves. A person can employ all kinds of dysfunctional, destructive behaviors and be seen as the good guy no matter what, as long as they don’t get angry and the other person does. In today’s society, anger can make a person who is not the actual problem in a situation be seen as the problem. It can make a person who is not in the wrong be seen as the one in the wrong. It can make a person who did not start the conflict be seen as the one who started the conflict. It can make a person who is the true victim in a situation be seen as the villain instead. And I call this ‘The False Villain Dynamic’.
So that you can understand this dynamic better, I’m going to give you a couple of examples.
Jodie runs a salon. She is a driven, assertive, intense personality by nature. This personality is what allowed her to get so much success. Tatiana has just taken a job at the salon. Tatiana isn’t actually content being on the bottom of any totem pole. She wants to run her own salon. But she hasn’t yet done what it takes to strike out on her own. She doesn’t like the idea of Jodie or anyone calling the shots, even in her own salon. Tatiana wants to do things her own way, even if doing so goes against the best interests of Jodie and her salon. The reality is that Tatiana took a job at the salon and immediately started a power struggle with Jodie. She started being two faced. She was friendly to Jodie’s face but behind Jodie’s back, she went to work complaining to all the other employees about Jodie and doing her best to find out whatever small grievances the other employees had about Jodie, so she could fan the flames of those grievances and triangulate them against her. She would also play power games in other ways, like going over Jodie’s head to negotiate taking certain clients for herself that Jodie had given to other stylists. And confronting Jodie in front of every other employee about the idea that Jodie should offer them all better benefits. And generously helping herself to the beverage refrigerator intended for salon guests at the end of the day.
One day, this entire situation came to a head when Jodie and one of the other head stylists confronted Tatiana before the salon opened about her defiant behavior. Tatiana immediately took the opportunity to run out of the office and out into the salon, where the other stylists were prepping their stations. She picked a place where everyone could hear what was going on. She started crying and explaining through her sobs about how much she was going through in her life and about how unfair it is that everyone’s needs and feelings and ideas come second to Jodie’s. Jodie could see the compassion and defense that Tatiana was trying to elicit from the rest of the stylists. The manipulative power tactic behind the move made Jodie furious. So, she blew up. Instead of acting sympathetic to Tatiana’s tears, as the other stylists expected, she started yelling at Tatiana and confronting her further on her damaging behavior. The rest of the stylists fell for it. They saw Jodie as a narcissistic tyrant and Tatiana as the obvious underdog that was getting picked on. A few of them even stepped in to defend Tatiana against Jodie. The tactic had worked. Tatiana was able to use Jodie’s totally justified anger as a smokescreen for her own problem behavior. And the rest of the stylists had fallen prey to the false villain dynamic. As a result of Tatiana’s behavior, three of Jodie’s stylists quit. Her relationship with several others remained tense for years. And when Tatiana quit, she got to walk out the door feeling justified that she was Jodie’s victim and keep telling the story like that to everyone she met. When the truth is in fact the other way around. To understand more about this dynamic, you may want to watch my video titled: The Victim Control Dynamic (Escaping Control Drama in Relationships).
Another example is that Mason is in court in the middle of a custody dispute. Mason’s ex-wife still feels so personally insulted by the fact that Mason wanted a divorce that she wants to get back at him in any way she can. She has decided that the best strategy for doing so is to try to get full custody of their children. So, she starts to create a parental alienation dynamic between Mason and the two children they share. Soon, both of his kids become hostile and spiteful towards him and start criticizing him despite the fact that neither of the children can rationally justify the way they feel towards him. They start using adult language and phrases to describe their issue with their father because those are the things they are being told by their mother. On the other hand, they start to think that their mother can do no wrong and is both the victim and the saint in the scenario. They also reject every extended relative that is related to their dad’s side of the family. Mason’s ex-wife is brilliant at strategically making sure that she comes across in a way that makes her look like a good person. She has already managed to dupe the court appointed family therapist this way. At one point, when Mason is confronted about a new untrue allegation that his wife has made, he can’t take it anymore and he loses his temper. He yells in the courtroom “This is complete bullshit. She’s just making this shit up.” His ex-wife celebrates. In fact, she smiles. But the Judge misses it. He is distracted and upset at the outburst. It takes his ex-wife’s lawyer two seconds to jump on the opportunity to reinforce in the judges’ mind that his client’s desire to take the children away from Mason is justified and also what any good mother would do, given that Mason is prone to endangering the children with his rageful outbursts and uncontrolled behavior. And the courtroom actually falls for it. Their resistance to anger has made them fall for the false victim dynamic. The judge now has doubts about Mason’s emotional and mental stability as a father. And the outburst confirms the false narrative that Mason’s ex-wife has conveyed to the court appointed therapist. The outburst has made both the judge and the court appointed therapist biased, which will affect Mason’s future court appearances as well as the outcome of the case.
In our society today, a person can get away with all kinds of negative things by capitalizing on society’s collective resistance to anger. Our dysfunctional relationship with anger can make us blind to the actual problem and to seeing who is creating the actual problem. And this will continue as long as people continue to have such a dysfunctional relationship with anger. It will continue as long as people allow themselves to be duped by the False Villain Dynamic.