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Sunday Edition #19: My Column in Yellow

Dear Yellow:

I am completely in love with my partner but I always catch myself taking out all my frustrations on him. In the moment I can’t control myself but afterwards I feel terrible. It makes me question whether or not I’m a good person. Why do I do this?

Life is stressful. Work, family… walking down the street surrounded by groups of people walking side-by-side making it near impossible to get around them… all stressful. You go through your day, doing everything you can to hold your shit together and remain calm as you jump from one stressful situation to another. Finally at home, you walk in and your Lover has once again left their shoes by the door causing you to stumble over them…

You lose your mind and begin to verbally attack the one person who loves you most, ruining what could have been a happy evening laying in their arms.

Why do we do this?

It is a concept called Displaced Aggression. A therapist I sat with a few years ago compared it to the game “Hot Potato.” You have so much pain and anger built up inside that it is essentially “burning” you. To stop the burn, you throw it to someone else. You feel the initial satisfaction of the release while they are now carrying the burden of what was hurting you.

You aren’t a bad person. I know this because you later feel remorse about your actions. But, it is a bad habit that if not controlled could ultimately destroy important relationships. People who love us tend to be the easiest targets for our displaced aggression making life at home an unnecessary war zone. Why are they easy targets? Because they love us and we feel “safe” to “let go” in their presence. We also have a false sense of security they won’t leave us no matter how we act. But the truth is, they can and will leave if the environment of the relationship continues to be toxic.

To end this type of behavior, you need to become more aware of it. First, start paying attention to it happening in others. Witness from the outside how ugly of an action it really is. You might think you don’t look as terrible when doing it but I promise… yes, you do. Don’t make excuses for yourself and pass blame. Step up and own your behavior.

The next step is beginning to be aware of how it feels within you right before it happens. If you are able to become familiar with the signals, you are better able to stop it before you get in too deep to turn back. It is here when you can make the rational decision to take a breath and decide how best to proceed.

With my current therapist, I’m working on managing my emotions. I like to blame my dramatic mood swings on my Zodiac of Cancer (which I do believe) but how I react to the sudden change in emotion is completely controllable. It just requires work. The hardest part for me was acknowledging that I was capable of doing it. Since that moment, I find it much easier to pause and really think about what is truly happening.

The question you need to ask yourself is… “What is the REAL reason I’m so upset?” I bet the answer most times will not be the thing that caused the initial emotional flare up. We think it is easier to push down and hide our emotions but ultimately they come lashing out in the end and many times towards the wrong person.

When we are hurting, the solution isn’t to pass the pain to someone else. It is healthier to confront what is upsetting us and resolve it in a calm and rational way. Treating the one we love poorly won’t make the problem better, it will only make your home life worse. Home is where you go to be safe and loved and not where you go to tear down your Lover.


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My Life in Yellow is not a licensed psychologist or health care professional and the advice within this column does not replace the care of psychologists or other healthcare professionals. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a health/medical professional. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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