2, 5, 8

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 25, 2012

Frank and Paula came to see me, and I asked them to describe a single example of a conflict between them.

Paula said to Frank, "Yesterday when I was late leaving the house, you were really angry at me, and I didn't like it."

"I was not," Frank said with considerable energy in his voice. "I was just pointing out that you're late a lot, and you need to think ahead more."

Then they began to have an argument much like the one they had experienced the day before. I have seen this kind of conversation many times, and it occurs because the people involved don't understand what's happening. In their ignorance, they are doomed to repeat it.

"Frank," I said, "you've been angry all your life. You're mimicking the anger you saw in your father every day you were with him, and your anger gives you some protection from the pain you feel almost constantly. On a scale of one to ten—ten being most angry—you bounce around between levels two and five, roughly speaking, almost all day. You're used to that amount of anger—you breathe it all the time—so you don't even notice it. It's become 'normal' to you. I'm not criticizing you, just describing how you live. With me so far?"

"I think so, yes," Frank said.

"Judging from your emotional response today as you described the event of yesterday, I'd guess that you were angry at Paula at about a level five. Doesn't really matter if I'm off a little. Because that level was within your range of 'normal,' you said you were 'not angry,' but actually you were. You probably do recognize that you were irritated to some extent, but if you were forced to rate it, you would say you were angry at maybe a level two."

"That's about right."

"So you were actually angry at a five, but to you, it felt—quite sincerely—like a two. And because both numbers fall within your 'normal' range, you said you weren't angry at all. You also denied being angry partly just to deny Paula the pleasure of accusing you of being angry."

"All true."

"That's quite a problem. You're angry at a five, believe it's a two, and deny to Paula that you're angry at all. And because Paula is very sensitive to all anger—because of her own upbringing—she felt your anger at a level eight. There's quite a difference between two (which you denied anyway) and eight, so can you see why you two argue so much about this subject?"

"Yes," they said at the same time.

We must begin to see the difference between our actual anger, our perception of our anger, and the effect of our anger on other people. When we see this, we can begin to make more loving and productive choices.

Learn more about eliminating your anger!


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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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