Speaking on anger styles
by By ROB COOMBS, ID. Min. Ph.D.
May 19, 2013 | 307 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Each of us has a characteristic style of managing anger. What is your style? When you become angry, do you cry, ache, question yourself, lash out, withdraw, or attack? Harriet Lerner, in her now-classic book titled “The Dance of Anger,” identifies five basic styles that individuals typically use to manage their anger. See if you can identify your style.

1. Pursuers: When angry, pursuers tend to react by seeking greater closeness in a relationship. They want to be there, right by your side, talking things out and sharing feelings, believing that you should be ready and willing to do the same. If you don’t, they tend to feel rejected, taking it personally when someone close to them wants space and time. Increasing feelings of rejection may cause them to pursue even harder and then finally coldly withdraw. While seeing themselves as “too dependent” or “too demanding” in a relationship, they may at the same time criticize the other person as someone who can’t handle feelings or tolerate closeness.

2. Distancers: When angry, distancers want space. “Just leave me alone!” Distancers consider themselves to be self-reliant and relatively private persons who typically don’t want to show their needy, vulnerable, and dependent sides to others. Others may see them as emotionally unavailable, withholding feelings that really need to be shared. Energy is often redirected toward work or various projects that allow an escape from the anxiety and stress generated by their anger.

3. Underfunctioners: When angry, underfunctioners become increasingly less competent. They just can’t seem to get things done, often “forget” what needs to be done while becoming less organized and basically more of a mess. They may even develop physical or emotional symptoms when stress is especially high in either the family or the work situation. Others may see underfunctioners as fragile, sick, or irresponsible. Underfunctioners may become increasingly comfortable (even though resentful) with their many weaknesses and accept the labels of others as accurate.

4. Overfunctioners: When angry, overfunctioners become increasingly knowledgeable concerning not only what is best for them, but for others as well. They are quick to advise, rescue, and take over which often doesn’t allow the space and time for others to deal with their own problems. This focus on others affords them the luxury of not really looking at their own problems since this focus on others makes it difficult for them to recognize and/or share their own vulnerabilities. Others may mistakenly see them as always together or always reliable.

5. Blamers: When angry, blamers attack with emotional intensity and fighting. They are seen by others as having a “short fuse.” Often they expend high levels of energy in vain attempts to change someone who does not want to be changed. This may relieve some tension, but does so at the expense of owning responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions, as others are seen as the reason why the individual can’t make changes.

Next week’s column will take a look at how these functioning styles of anger interact with one another.