How to Live with An Angry Man and What To Do If He Becomes President

how to live with an angry manMy wife should probably write this article, but she’s busy living her life and glad that the angry man she has been living with for 36 years has done enough healing that he can write about it. The healing began for me when she went to see a doctor and began getting help for her depression. As she started to get better, it became evident to her that I could also benefit from getting help with my own depression.

I, of course, insisted that I was just fine and didn’t need any help. I attributed my angry outbursts (rage attacks) to a normal reaction to her hurtful behavior. Occasionally I would blow up with her and she would close down for weeks or months. Like many angry men I didn’t recognize how destructive my anger was, how it impacted my wife, or how damaging and long-lasting was the trauma of anger. Usually I wouldn’t blow up, I’d just give her that look. She would say, “You get that beady-eyed look that chills me to the bone.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I was a nice guy, I told myself. Not the beady-eyed monster she was seeing.

Actually, she wasn’t seeing a monster. She was just seeing an angry man who was both self-destructive and was pulling her down with him. The monster was what I saw in my dreams, but was afraid to confront in my waking life. It was much easier to have inner dialogues that blamed her for my anger. “Who wouldn’t be angry,” I would tell myself, “when their wife is always complaining and nagging. It’s like getting hit in the head with a 2 X 4. I can’t let her get away with that.”

In the professional world, of which I’m a long-time member with a Ph.D. in International Health and a clinical license to prove it, we call the kind of thinking I was engaged in “delusional.” Twelve Step recovery groups simply call it “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

It was becoming increasingly clear to my wife that either I had to get some help or she was going to have to leave the marriage. I, of course, was oblivious to all this. How could she even think of leaving me? I was a good man. I had never hit her. I didn’t drink. I made a good living. I came home on time (mostly). Certainly a few angry outbursts here and there couldn’t be that bad. Deep inside I was terrified to look at my anger and rage, for fear that I would find a monster.

My wife never insisted I get help. If she had I’m sure I would have refused. “No one’s going to tell me what to do. I’m my own man and I make my own decisions.” She was firm, but gentle, stronger and way more loving than I was at the time. She just kept telling me I needed help, but it was up to me to go or not. I finally went and it was like a damn burst open.

I could finally talk to a person about what was going on inside me. The therapist was skilled and helpful. With my wife’s help and the help of my therapist I created my own scale of aggression and depression. I would monitor my feelings and behavior and it gave me a clear picture of when I was getting depressed and when I was getting manic and angry.

I began reading books on mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. The professional books were interesting, but the one that rocked my soul and shook me to the core was An Unquiet Mind: Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. I had read her text book on bipolar disorder and I was shocked to know that she had suffered from bipolar disorder herself. These were the words that touched me so deeply. They captured precisely what I was feeling. They expressed both my terror and despair.

“You’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding, and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and ‘you’re not at all like yourself but will be soon,’ but you know you won’t.”

 I thought that if she could get help and talk about it, then I could too. It’s been eighteen years now since I reached out for help. At first I resisted taking medications, thought I could handle things myself, along with talk therapy. But I did take them and they helped a lot. There really is a biochemical aspect to mood disorders as well as psychological, interpersonal, and social aspects.

Gradually things got better. I’ve had setbacks, often when I’ve felt overwhelmed with work or dealing with a serious loss. I had one setback when I lost my job, another when a friend committed suicide. But with love from my wife and help and support from a good therapist I’ve been able to get healthier through the years.

When we’ve experienced dealing with mental illness, resisted it for so many years, and then gotten good treatment you see the cycle in others. When I think about the words “You’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding, and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening,” I think of Donald Trump. I’m not making any kind of diagnosis. I’ve never met the man. But there is a certain resonance with my own experiences and I feel a kindred spirit with an angry man who has not yet dealt with his own issues.

I wrote an article about Mr. Trump and shared some of the intuitions I have about the state of his physical and emotional health. In the article I said, “We know from Mr. Trump’s own writing that he was an aggressive and violent child growing up, that he was sent to military school at a young age, and had difficulty controlling his temper.”

Only those close to him really know how angry he is. But as a voting citizen, I wouldn’t want him to have access to weapons of mass destruction until he gets some serious help. Politically I’m reminded of another Presidential candidate that the Republicans nominated awhile back. His name was Barry Goldwater.

The Republican campaign tag line was “In your heart you know he’s right.” The Democratic response was “In your guts you know he’s nuts.” I never thought that really applied to Mr. Goldwater, but it does resonate for me when I think of Mr. Trump. Right now, we still have the option to leave him if he doesn’t get help. If he’s elected, it will be much more difficult.

As always your comments are appreciated. You can write them here drop me an email or join me on Facebook.

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Comments

  1. I would be totally in favor of requirement for presidential candidates, and for that matter, all politicians to have a “fitness for duty” assessment. We need leaders who have dealt with their emotional issues and not pursuing their own agendas because of traumas or mental health issues. As a mental health professional, and without making a diagnosis, I believe that Trump is “not fit for duty”

    • Tom, Thanks for your comments. Most of the time I keep quiet about my what I see as a 40 plus years as a professional mental health worker. But there are times, I feel called upon to say what I see.

    • I would be in favor of requirement for all supervisory and managerial positions in both the private and public sectors including the military. The private and public sectors do a very, very poor job of vetting people for low and high ranking supervisory positions due to various factors like the old boy network, managers circling the wagons, and people like Trump establishing their own business; therefore, they don’t have to face the vetting process.

      In my own experience, too many people go power crazy when they get a supervisory/managerial positions and have too many emotional/mental health issues before, during, and after they leave their positions. In addition, too many police officers are badge heavy and refuse to recognize civilian control over them, and have no respect for the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The same thing applies to military people which is why a lot of cops and military people kill themselves within 18 months after they retire, because they no longer have the power of life and death over people and now they have to face people who will back talk to them and they can’t do anything about it.

  2. Carol Hansen says:

    Are you kidding me? Are you okay with an angry, evil, violent nutcase like Hillary? If Trump is angry it’s for good reason and most of us agree with him. He’s angry about the state of this country thanks to the incompetent, ill-prepared community organizer, hell bent on destroying us! Trump is verbalizing what we all feel and it is not something that should be swept under the rug any longer. Who are you to psycho analyze a successful businessman who has raised wonderful children. He neither drinks nor smokes nor does drugs like the current crack head in the white house. I think you are totally out of line.

    • Carol, Thanks for telling me how you feel. Even though I don’t feel Mr. Trump is qualified to be our next President, I try and treat him with respect. All humans are flawed and all humans have positive qualities. I don’t name call, or at least I try not to. If you see me slip, please point it out.

      • Ann Marie says:

        Please do not send me any more advertisements for your books. Apparently, you are fine with a pathological liar and her cheating husband in the White House. I thought you wrote about relationship issues. May you should examine theirs. Thank you Carol ! I am in total agreement with everything you have stated.

        • Ann Marie,

          I write about a variety of topics that are connected with our relationship issues. I know that getting into the political areas of relationship can stir up strong feelings. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • Ca;rol Hanson. You have plenty of nutcases like the people who work for the Fox Networks and they are using their positions to divide and the destroy the country. The same can be said for CEOs like the Koch Brothers, Al Dunlap, and the Wall Street bankers

      “He’s angry about the state of this country thanks to the incompetent, ill-prepared community organizer, hell bent on destroying us! Trump is verbalizing what we all feel and it is not something that should be swept under the rug any longer.”

      No, the state of the country is being destroyed due to right wing wealthy people and corporations for the last 36 years. Since the end of the Cold War, the right wing wealthy people, the Republican party, and corporations have refused to deal with the inequal political, social, and economic structure and are determine to maintain the status quo at all costs because they like the way it is that favors them. You have too many incompetent business leaders who don’t know how to create good products and services, don’t know how to fix them, don’t know about the technical aspects of their products and services and finally, don’t know how to treat and lead their workforce as positive role models for the nation. Instead, American culture put bad CEOs on the pedestals and reward them for their bad behaviors.

  3. Thanks for another thought provoking article. We voice concern for our candidate’s health and longevity from a physical standpoint yet I do not recall mention of any past or current candidate’s suitability from a mental health perspective. From viewing our current candidates and their behavioral history, I believe it is as mandatory as determining their physical suitability for the most powerful position on Earth.

    Philip

  4. Hi Jed
    Your article caught my attention and I think your right about Trump! I typically stay away from religious or political conversation as you mention earlier it does stir up a hotbed of strong feelings and opinions. As a Canadian watching the US elections I don’t know who to be more frightened of Trump or Hillary. I agree with Phillip before the keys get handed over to the person who takes over the most powerful position on earth that all aspects of mental and physical health be assessed.

  5. Excellent paper ! thanks a lot. I will forward it to my husband who is still denying needing help after 15 years spent destroying our love.
    thank you
    Salma

  6. Thanks for the comments. I think we need to move past blame and shame. We all have a part to play in the problem and we can all work together to find a solutions. We may not agree on how best to achieve success, but we all care about our lives, our families, and our country. Rather than getting caught up in fear about the “other one’s” candidate being horrible, how about we ask ourselves what are the three things we’d like to see our country achieve and see what we can do together to get there: Here are my big 3:

    1. I’d like all children to grow up feeling safe, secure, and loved.
    2. I’d like our country to be safe from internal strife and our representatives find common ground with the people in creating laws that work for all.
    3. I’d like a foreign policy that asked “why” there was violence and how do we change the people and conditions that become threats to the U.S.

    What would you like to see?