When I finally realized that my husband, James Montgomery, had lied to me, cheated on me, and targeted me just to take my money, I was angry.
With each lie I discovered, my internal upheaval grew. Yes, he was cheating with multiple women, and taking money from them as well. No, he was not a Hollywood screenwriter, although he pretended to be. No, he had never served in the Australian military, even though he claimed to have won its highest honor.
I felt the anger deep within me. I had a hard time concentrating on what I needed to do to extricate myself from the mess. I couldn’t sleep.
Perhaps you know what I mean.
Dealing with anger was the topic of the most recent lesson in an audio course that I’m taking on cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on modifying dysfunctional emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The objective of CBT is to solve particular life problems. The idea is that thoughts, emotions and behavior all affect each other. Patients are asked to examine thoughts, assess if they are accurate, and if not, overcome them. Some mental health professionals believe that CBT is the only type of psychotherapy that is effective.
In my audio course, the instructor asked a patient to consider an incident that had made him angry, and discuss whether his reaction was proportionate to what had happened. Now, in my mind, the client had every right to be angry over the incident. But the instructor talked about ways to reduce anger, such as becoming aware of tension, deep breathing and mindfulness. Essentially, he was teaching anger management.
The basic message was that anger was bad and should be avoided. Not once did the instructor consider the idea that some anger is justified.
Anger as a protective emotion
Anger is rooted in a primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system. The job of the limbic system is to keep us alive. It is home of our body’s fight-flight-freeze response.
Anger is meant to protect us. It is meant to give us the emotional strength and fortitude to fight when necessary.
Yes, anger can get out of hand, and some people can seem to be perpetually angry. Too much anger can lead to health issues, such as heart problems. But still, there are times when anger is totally justified.
What not to do about anger at the sociopath
Even though anger at a sociopath may be appropriate, expressing your anger to the sociopath often does more harm than good.
First of all, it may send the sociopath into a narcissistic rage, with potentially dangerous consequences. Many sociopaths are violent, and provoking them — even when they deserve it — could be harmful to you.
Secondly, sociopaths thrive on your emotional reactions. If you are so upset and enraged by what they have done, they consider this to be proof of their control over you. They will then continue to do things that anger you, just so they can enjoy your outrage.
The best way to shut the sociopath down is to not react at all. Even though you may be seething, don’t let him or her see it.
Anger at the sociopath — Facing the fire
So what do you do with your justified anger?
Here’s an important truth: Knowing why you are angry doesn’t make it go away. Anger is a physical sensation. It needs to be dealt with physically.
Many years ago, I went to a workshop presented by John Lee, author of Facing the Fire — Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately. Lee talked about his own experience with anger — he had grown up with an abusive parent, and was angry about it. (Gee, anger due to child abuse seems perfectly reasonable to me.)
Lee’s advice is to do something physical to release the anger that does not cause harm to other people or animals. Working out with punching bags, stomping feet, twisting towels, breaking old cups and saucers into trashcans, are some of his suggestions. The idea is to keep up the activity until you feel a physical release.
I can say that it works. When I was consumed by anger over my husband’s betrayal, I remembered the workshop with John Lee. I tried many of his suggestions. The most effective release mechanism for me was envisioning James Montgomery’s face on a pillow and beating it until I collapsed.
I did this every time I felt the pulsing anger — usually when I discovered another new lie or betrayal. In time, the anger dissipated.
Remember, you anger at the sociopath hurts you, but not the sociopath. You need to get it out of your system. Try different methods until you discover the most effective method for you. Then let it rip.
Eventually you will feel much better.
For more strategies on recovering from anger at a sociopath, check out Lovefraud’s webinars: