In his internet article, Aspiring to Greatness, Arthur Gordon wrote:

“At a turbulent public meeting once I lost my temper and said some harsh and sarcastic things. The proposal I was supporting was promptly defeated. My father who was there, said nothing, but that night, on my pillow I found a marked passage from Aristotle: "Anybody can become angry--that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way--that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."


Anger Episodes Feel Justified – Anger can lead to problems—problems with your loved one patient, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful enemy. 


Consider Sherrie, is her anger justified?
“I have been taking care of my husband for over 5 years now after his having severe diabetes and 3 strokes. I did it for 4 years working full time but it took so much out of me that I am now disabled and home with him every day. He is insulting and bitter and depressing and I struggle with my anger towards him for how much my life has been impacted taking care of him. I am lonely and very bitter about the way that life has turned out. I can really use to talk to someone that understood how I feel. None of the books out there really talk about any of the “real” issues that address what caregivers go through.  (1a)


Anger Episodes Can Be Too Aggressive - The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively to the loved one we are caring for. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats.  Anger inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked, whether physically or vocally. A certain amount of anger, therefore, might be necessary to our survival. On the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or our loved one that irritates or annoys us.  Laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us. I know that anger can be controlled.  I know that serenity can take its’ place.


Anger Episodes Can Be Harmful? – It can be, but doesn’t have to be.  Anger is frequently a result of frustration, or of feeling blocked or thwarted from something we feel to be important. While wondering about the best way to discuss anger, I ran across this statement in Wikipedia, “Anger can also be a defensive response to underlying fear or feelings of vulnerability or powerlessness.  


Anger management programs consider anger to be a motivation caused by an identifiable reason.”  The Wikipedia author suggests that anger can actually be logically analyzed, and a plan developed to assist individuals overcome their anger.  I like what Raymond W. Novaco said in 1984, "We all experience anger; anger only becomes a serious concern when an individual is angry too frequently, too intensely, and for too long."   


Bev knows about anger, from her husband:

“I try to have conversations with my husband, but he doesn’t remember people or

sometimes he just listens to me and never actually talks to me much. But he does have a

temper and gets frustrated easily which leads to us not getting along. That makes me sad

and more lonely than ever…….. I try to put on a happy face and not let anyone know just

how I really feel. Tonight I just wondered if anyone else was going through this too, and

I’m sorry for all of you ……… who feel much as I do. We have a tough job, and my faith

in God and Bible readings give me some strength.” 


Caregiving Can Cause Anger – There are times when an individual is in a care giving scenario and the heavy responsibilities of care giving seems to justifies anger.  But usually it does not.  We allow ourselves to get angry. There seems to be a chain of emotions that accompany anger.  At the top of the list might be the additional time required and increasing work burdens.  Add to those, medical expectations and a general lack of experience.  Next add the feelings of loneliness.  Then the tragic conclusion - the individual feels like a victim. All of the previous realities can lead up to, what may feel like, justifiable anger.  But is it justifiable?

What Anger Is Not – Anger is not a justification for being placed in a demanding care giving environment.  Anger should not be the armament we use to defend our feelings of mistreatment.  Anger should not be the shield we hide behind to conceal our hurt feelings.  Anger is not a proper way to express dissatisfaction or displeasure.  Anger is not to be used when addressing a loved one.  Anger is not the way to assume control or respect.  Anger is simply not proper conduct, particularly in care giving.

Anger Episodes Can Harm Relationships – If anger can keep you from doing the best you can, then your anger can affect not only you, but the people in your life as well. That certainly holds true in your caregiving relationship. It casts a negative feeling on the patient as well as on you. At the very least, your anger can cause people to feel put off, upset, intimidated, afraid, or a myriad of other unpleasant emotions. You’re also running the risk of pushing loved ones, like your loved patient, out of your life for good. Do you lash out at your loved one when you’re angry? When you do that do you feel guilty? Whether this feeling is emotional, physical or both, it can have an extremely negative effect on your loved one’s wellbeing. Solving conflict with anger sets an unhealthy precedent in relationships, and ignores the need for open communication. (6)

Anger Episodes Many Appear to Be Passive – It is highly likely that the anger being felt by those who are caregiving is more passive than demonstrative anger. Very few of the stories I read indicate that the anger felt is being expressed in any conspicuous way. The caregivers generally are not “lashing back” in anger at their patients. However, anger, even if unexpressed, can be physically and emotionally dangerous to caregivers.


Read below an excellent description of passive anger:

“People experiencing passive anger may not even realize they are angry. When you experience passive anger, your emotions may be displayed as sarcasm, apathy or meanness. You might participate in self-defeating behaviors such as skipping work, alienating friends and family, or performing poorly in professional or social situations. To outsiders, it will look like you are intentionally sabotaging yourself, although you may not realize it or be able to explain your actions. Because passive anger may be repressed, it can be hard to recognize; counseling can help you identify the emotions behind your actions, bringing the object of your anger to light so you can deal with it.” (5)

Final Thought - Anger can be a positive and useful emotion, if it is expressed appropriately. Family caregivers are reminded of their original reason for agreeing to perform the caregiving duties. Love and concern were at the forefront. The original intent and urgent need has not changed. Only the one providing care has changed. It is not to late to change again. Try not to get angry any more.