Where Does Anger Lead?
Domestic violence, most often afflicted upon women and children (sometimes seniors, too), stems from two things - low impulse control and an even lower sense of self appreciation.
Nobody will argue with the first point. We all have instances in life when impulse wins and our values lose. Few humans, if any, are truly "evil." Rather, we "lose control," which is shorthand for choosing based on emotional reactivity. If I'm in an ice cream store on a warm day, there's little doubt that I'll buy something that my heart doctor has put on the "never" list. Likewise, if my spouse says or does something that triggers me, it takes a lot of self control and skill training to stay out of the red zone.
But how does domestic violence relate to a lack of appreciation for myself? Well, let's say that the argument I'm having is about "responsibility for things getting done around the house." I have been avoiding fixing the faucet, say, or for unclogging the drain, or getting the tail light repaired on the car. Part of me knows that I agreed to follow through, but part of me puts off doing those things because it's not fun, or convenient. So when she brings it up, my default could be to get defensive rather than admit failure. It's like the old saying: "Every problem is a nail, and my answer is to bring down the hammer."
When that happens, blaming someone else may the default setting. If the issue is about sexuality, the unhealthy, and violent way to find sexual relief is through power and control of others, rather than to make the effort to deal with the personal issues underneath.
Underneath, I don't want to feel guilty for my part so I lash out. I don't want to deal with the deeper shame for thinking I'm not competent. Just beyond that, and definitely "into the weeds" is the sense that I'm not worth very much, that I'm not loveable. So rather than open that can of worms, I lash out, I take what I want and try to bury the consequences.
Each of us must deal with this deep emotional stain of "not belonging, " not being "good enough." And though you try mightily, getting to self acceptance through others' praise of you won't do. Eventually, each must confront weaknesses and shortcomings for our lapses. Most of us avoid that dark night of the soul....and violence is the result. Having no self appreciation allows us to become hardened to loving anyone or anything else.
There is daylight at the end of the tunnel. And it stems from one main source - a belief that we are inherently good and having hard evidence to back that up. For me, as an example, I can recall a time when standing at an alpine lake near Banff, Alberta in the early morning hours, when nature opened me up in such a way that I knew that I was an integral part of all that exists. The next thought: if I am part of all, then there is only belonging. If I am deeply in awe of my natural surroundings, then I am required to think of myself as part of that awesome nature.
The second part, once I have a benchmark for that deep belief, I can then declare an intention to visit that place in my mind, in my heart, everyday. Every time I am triggered by something upsetting, I can train myself to choose another way - a nonviolent way - through the conflict. I can reinforce this dedication by calling up that image of inherent goodness and wholeness. I can also nourish the practice with daily prayer, meditation, counseling, inspirational reading, church, group work, or introspective journal writing. These help to make a habit of choosing another path.
I can consciously decide to take better care of myself, in order to feed that part of me that needs reassurance of my goodness. I can change my lifestyle to reflect an intention for health and wholeness. I can eat well, sleep well, avoid habitual use of intoxicants, get exercise and become a friend to my body. I can learn to love even the changes that misfortune, illness and aging bring. These are parts of all life, and we are a manifestation of all that lives, and dies.
Of course, the old habits will gradually fade. But there will be occasions when we disappoint ourselves or our loved ones simply because we aren't perfect. When that happens, taking responsibility quickly will help to bridge the gap between pain and progress. Forgiving others - because they are just like us - makes it easier to forgive yourself....which is not the same as letting yourself off the hook. Forgiveness is acknowledging the pain caused and rebooting your relationship to all that exists, rejoining the cycle of life as a contributing member.