Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Abusive Anger

black background with angry face shown in shadow to show abusive anger

What Is Abusive Anger? Why Do Abusers Use It?

Abusive anger benefits abusive people by sending shockwaves of doubt and fear through their target’s mind and body. The target will freeze, flee, or fight back. The best thing to do is flee – leave the area. Besides preventing further emotional turmoil, abusive anger can turn violent even if the abuser has NEVER physically assaulted anyone.

During abusive anger attacks, the abuser will tell their victim that they are horrible bits of trash that do not deserve to live, and despite the abuser’s craziness,  the victims begin to feel that they are somehow “wrong” and seek to calm the abuser.

If you’ve been in an abusive relationship long enough to get used to your partner’s abusive anger, then it’s likely you will not feel appropriately fearful as other people would. You become accustomed to the yelling, raging, stomping, swearing, banging on walls, breaking things, and irrational fit throwing; but if a friend were to witness the same event, they would feel violated, angry, and afraid of the abuser’s temper (read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker). You do not win a badge of courage for being able to withstand abusive anger.

How My Husband Uses Abusive Anger

My husband uses abusive anger to threaten me emotionally and physically. I believe he acts this angry in hope that I’ll back down so he can have his way.

When my abuser is abusively angry, he is loud, obscene, and gets in my face with either his face or his finger. He pretends to hear nothing I say when he’s in this rage. Or he picks up two or three keywords and twists them into something I did not say at all.

Sometimes all he wants is for me to silently listen to his abusive statements. Similarly, he’ll ask questions OF me and then answer them FOR me. He acts as if he knows the answers and I don’t. Of course, the answers he provides are insulting to me.

He slams his fist or whatever he’s holding onto countertops and tables. He has thrown things, broken things, and damaged things. His abusive anger is terrifying.

How to React to Abusive Anger

The best, and most difficult, reaction is to walk away from the baby throwing the tantrum. If the abuser wants to rage and squeal, they can certainly do it without your help.

“Domestic violence experts agree that domestic abuse is learned behavior1,3 and that abusive people choose to abuse. This fact is substantiated by research showing that abuser’s heart rates at the time of abuse are normal and the abusers ‘become psychologically calmer when they abuse.’”2

Kellie Jo Holly, HealthyPlace.com

Abusive anger is only a show. Research shows that abusers’ heart rates actually slow down when they rage. Your abuser is psychologically and emotionally calmer when they’re acting like a fool. This shows that they did NOT lose control. You do not need to calm your abuser (because they aren’t really as angry as it looks). You did NOTHING to provoke the abusive anger!

If you cannot walk away, you must revert to what you know about your abuser. Do they want you to

  • agree with them?
  • be silent?
  • argue back?

The answer to all of those questions is “Yes, they do.” They want to escalate the abuse, and all of those reactions show that the abuser is getting to you. Your abuser knows that if they can “get to you” – if they can knock you off balance, then they’re going to

  • win, or
  • weaken your defenses so they can insert their ideas into your head, or
  • cause such an emotional upheaval that you’re willing to accept anything they say so long as “it’s over”!

So, play along. 

What you say to the abuser when you’re stuck in place doesn’t matter if you protect your mind and body. Remind yourself that you’re only saying what you need to say to stop the abuse. Play your part just like an actor plays theirs. Do not let the anger get to you, not to the inside you. But do take this anger seriously.  Abusive anger can lead to physical violence.

Detach from the anger and do what you need to do to make the abuser feel like they’ve won if you cannot leave the situation.

*Remember that these statements are to help you feel better and detach from your abuser’s antics. They do not guarantee that your abuser will stop abusing you, nor do they protect you from further abuse. You should fill out a safety plan so you know what you will do if things get out of hand.

Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003, and my experiences with verbal abuse.

Other Sources

1 Are You Abusing Others? (n.d.).National Domestic Violence Hotline. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/are-you-abusing-2/
2 De Becker, G. (1997). The gift of fear and other survival signals that protect us from violence. New York: Dell Publishing.
3 Why Do Abusers Batter?. (n.d.). ACADV – Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved July 26, 2012, from http://www.acadv.org/abusers.html

Featured photo by Maryna Kazmirova