Dance of Anger Book

I'm reading the Dance of Anger book and trying to do some of the work, but I'm so confused. She has you "begin to observe your characteristic style of managing anger," and I'm all over the map with my husband. 

I overfunction with my family of origin: I have advice for everyone and move in too quickly to rescue, take over and fix, I pretend I don't have problems and am the expert. I'm the eldest daughter with two younger brothers. 

I overfunction with my daughter (move in to rescue, don't want her to suffer, text her reminders at college.) I blame and overfunction with my son (I become uncomfortable when he experiences lots of negative emotions, which is often since he's moody and 15, so I try to fix it, and don't let him suffer consequences enough. Then I also get angry and emotionally reactive with him when he acts too much like me. ;))

With my ADHD husband? I underfunction. I blame. I pursue. I distance. I can't decide which is my characteristic style of managing anger with my husband. The blamer style is probably the one my husband would want me to work on, but the underfunctioning style is probably worse for our marriage, but it's more subtle:

When stress hits in my marriage I :

1. Underfunctioner: Get angry, but then almost immediately start crying, go lie down in bed, become depressed. Start shame-spiraling and worrying about all my character defects, and how it's all really my fault deep down. Feel like an incompetent child. Lose stuff. Get a new prescription. Smoke.  

2. Overfunctioner: Blame the ADHD and get really emotionally intense and try to change him. Try to diagnose him, for his own good. Get all one-up. Act like the expert. Have text message fights that last for hours. Have email fights. Have in-person fights. Feel like a parent who has to put up with this DIFFICULT CHILD of a husband. 

3. Pursuer: I feel rejected when he distances into work. I take it personally when he's distracted. He loves work/hockey/movies and I'm insulted. I feel needy and dependent. 

4. Distancer: When I get really angry about an injustice, I become self-inflated and self-reliant, and puff up like Wonder Woman who doesn't need anybody and can do it all herself, fuck-you-very-much. 

How do you begin to untangle your characteristic style and work on it when it's so convoluted? 

Anybody else like this, or am I alone? 

 

Okay, you're complex!!

We behave differently towards different people in our family because our roles are expected to be different.  With kids we really, really want them to learn...but it's so painful to see them fail!  (But they will be stronger if they do fail and in so doing, learn to pick themselves up again - unless the failure is truly catastrophic, for example in the case of drunk driving!)  With a partner we expect someone to be "adult" in the same way that we are and have trouble coming to terms with a completely different style (which many ADD/non-ADD couples have - it's good and bad!)  Style, interests and lack of attention should not be confused.  Lack of attention should be addressed at its root by partnering as a couple to make sure you each get the amount of attention each of you needs to feel loved...there's negotiation there.  Style...well, that's a different thing.

Perhaps you can think about your question differently - which is that you may not have very strong boundaries between yourself and those around you.  You may underfunction with your husband, for example, in part because you figure if you do, then he'll LEARN from his mistakes - i.e. your underfunctioning is what gets him to learn.  This is a subtle form of trying to control or influence him...and likely you get angry when it doesn't work.  You may overfunction with your daughter because you figure that you can "teach" her or rescue her - by so doing you are taking responsibility for her learning, rather than trusting that you can offer "input" but that ultimately she is going to learn about what is important to her and make her own decisions.

Here's the problem with that - you weaken your ties with each of them by doing so...and you make yourself mad as hell when they don't respond to you as YOU would like, but rather as THEY would like.

Then there is the distancer issue - rationally you probably realize that when you go into "Superwoman" mode in response to a wrong you are only cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?  a.) You make yourself unapproachable.  b.) you set up a mode of operating ("superwoman") that's unsustainable  c.) you make yourself angry (I used to call it "martyr mode") and d.) you don't come close to getting what you want.  A better approach is to constructively point out the wrong, talk with whomever wronged you about why it hurts, and create a plan for not repeating that wrong in the future.  Then you get attention, as well as resolution.  But I want you to notice that the distancer routine may ALSO be a form of trying to exert control over others - along the lines of "if I'm mad enough and busy enough someone will notice that I'm pissed and come apologize to me for that wrong...!"  At least that used to be my logic.

So I suggest you read Lerner's book with thinking about your own boundaries and independence in mind.  How can moving out of these patterns help both you and your family?  How can you provide "insight and wisdom" that they can choose to use or ignore rather than "direction"?  When are you subtly or not so subtly taking on their responsibilities?  I think this will help.