Dear Doris,

When suppressed childhood pain and anger expresses reflexively, how can I avoid affecting my partner who is very sensitive?


Dear A,

From your question I can see that you are a sensitive person and that you have your partner’s best interests in mind. You have good awareness around difficult, old feelings such as anger and pain from your childhood. I can tell you are eager to learn how to express yourself differently, which makes you a wonderful partner.

There are a couple things that come to my mind. First, make sure that your partner knows that she or he should not always take your anger personally, that often your anger stems from your childhood experiences. You may not have control over it yet, but you are hoping to learn to deal with these old emotions differently now. Also tell your partner, as you mentioned in your question, you are aware of his or her sensitivity and that your anger is hurtful. Re-emphasize how much you wish to communicate differently.

Second, upon mutual agreement, you and your partner might want to experiment with the idea of him or her signaling you in some way when he or she feels your anger coming out, helping you to stop it quicker. This way your partner has an active role in assisting you to stop this old behavior before your anger can spill over. It will feel more like the two of you are teaming up and standing united to protect each other and your relationship. Stopping the old behavior is always the first step for change. Explore other actions that might help you communicate differently and try them out. From my own experience, I know that we can help each other heal old wounds.

Third, I recommend you to explore your emotional pain from your childhood. Were you shamed and blamed? Did you feel neglected? Did you experience any form of physical violence? What do you wish would have happened differently in your childhood? Anger is so often a cover up of emotional pain, fear, and suffering. During your childhood, your anger no doubt felt protective and helped you to survive and feel less helpless. Today, your misplaced anger is obviously not serving you in your partnership. Being in touch with your vulnerability and allowing yourself to explore old feelings in more detail will help dissipate your anger as a reflexive reaction. Some people prefer to explore vulnerable feelings from their childhood by themselves through journaling or talking about it with friends they trust and/or their partners. Others have better success by seeing a professional.

Imagine what a difference it would make if you could share your emotional pain or suffering with your partner rather than aiming anger at him or her. Imagine how differently your partner might receive you and what might be possible for the two of you from this more vulnerable place.




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