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Managing Codependency and Anger


My previous post (January 17, 2018) was about accepting and having compassion for all your feelings, from irritation to joy. In response to that post a reader wrote that it isn’t enough to give yourself permission to have feelings but to look at how you express those feelings. She pointed out that problems may include becoming too enabling or lashing out in anger. Let’s look at both of those.

PROBLEM: Have you ever wanted to help others but in your caring for them, you do so much that you begin to resent them? Have you ever had the experience that you say something you regret because you just felt so stressed out in the moment?

SOLUTION: Melodie Beattie in her book, Codependent No More[1], defines “enabling” as doing for others what they could or should do for themselves. As a therapist I tell clients with this issue to examine their level of resentment. If you feel so resentful that you feel angry, then you have done too much. The solution is twofold: set boundaries on doing for others and balance that over-care of others with self-care. Perhaps a manicure?

Let’s say you are at work when you feel the impulse to lash out with words at a co-worker. Bite your tongue (literally press your teeth on your tongue) and count to ten slowly while squeezing your hands together in rhythm to the numbers. If you still feel on the verge of an explosion, walk away. Go somewhere private, like a bathroom and breathe slowly until you feel calmer. After your shift, if you still feel a need to discharge your anger then yell in your car before driving home, do some vigorous exercise or twist a towel and growl. Later, write out a response to whomever you are angry at. State the issue, your feelings and what you want. Have a trusted friend check your notes. Deliver only if appropriate in your situation. This can open a dialogue or at least give you an opportunity to be heard.

SUMMARY TIP: After accepting your emotions, attend to your body to see whether to express your emotions and how to express them. Resenting caretaking others? Set boundaries with them and do some self-care for balance. About to blow-up? Contain your anger with calming breaths, take a break, then consider a written or verbal response if appropriate.


“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.” (Nicole Lyons)

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” (Sigmund Freud)

[1] Melodie Beattie, Codependent No More, Hazeldon Publishing (1986) ISBN:9781449873158


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