October 7, 2011 Anger Management Empathy 6

In anger management, the words “respect” and “disrespect” are heard often. Mostly it is about how someone else is disrespectful. So let’s think about what it means to be or feel disrespected.

First, let’s define the term “Respect.” According to Dictionary.com, respect is defined as deference to a right, privilege, privileged position; proper acceptance or courtesy; and acknowledgment. According to Merriam-Webster, respect means a high or special regard. Thus, when a person states they are disrespected, they are probably feeling disregarded, or not acknowledged.

In our Anger Management program, we discuss how the feeling of anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there is an underlying emotion felt before anger. Understanding this feeling allows you to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

Take the following example: someone cuts you off while driving and you slam on your brakes to avoid rear-ending that person. You suddenly become angry and start yelling at the person. However there is an underlying feeling here: fear. You become afraid that your life or car might be in danger however, you cannot do much with fear. Therefore, anger takes over to help you take action. This is the point you start to honk. The underlying feelings of disrespect and anger parallel.

The word “respect” is based on a person’s beliefs and experiences. Since people have different perceptions about what happens around them, their version of “respectful” will vary. So, when you hold certain beliefs about how someone should act with you in certain situations, and that person acts differently than what you expect, you think that he/she is being disrespectful towards you.

Example: You feel that your partner should be at your side throughout the duration of a party or social event. Let’s examine the situation. Think of the following belief: A partner should be by the side of a significant other at social events otherwise, it is not a good relationship. The reason for this belief is to feel emotionally safe with your partner. Feeling disrespected occurs when your partner leaves your side for a little while. You start to think, “He prefers being with his friends than with me,” and you begin to feel disregarded and hurt. Your discomfort with feeling hurt becomes overwhelming, so your body’s defense mechanism prevails. Instead of connecting with the emotional pain and taking responsibility, you blame your partner for “disrespecting” you.

Notice how you attribute your responsibility of your pain to your partner. You are holding your partner responsible for your own emotional pain, and expect them to change their behavior (which you label as disrespectful), rather than changing your own belief and thought around the situation (owning your emotion and belief, and taking responsibility). Essentially by stating “He disrespected me,” you are victimizing yourself. You are giving your partner the power over your feelings. The purpose of this blog entry is to help become aware of your own beliefs and thoughts, and not give so much power to those around you.

You may think, “Well, at what point am I not supposed to be okay with what my partner is doing?” Great question since it is frequently asked. You still have your set of boundaries that feel comfortable and/or uncomfortable. If you have friends in your surroundings that seem to have healthy relationships, ask them how they perceive the same situation. Or ask yourself, “Is this belief helping me or hurting me?”

The good news is that beliefs that result in feeling disrespected are learned, so they can be unlearned. When replacing a belief with one that is helpful, you realize that you rarely feel disrespected; your poor perception of the situation changes. Your improved insight of the underlying thoughts and feelings of disrespect helps with building healthier relationships.

If you would like to work on your outlook of life so that you feel more respect rather than disrespect, contact one of our Anger Management counselors. At Anger Management 818, we are ready to help you have better influence of your life. You may request from your anger management counselor to review the “Disrespect Worksheet” with you.

Author: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818


6 Responses

  1. Yes, expecting another to relieve our own emotional pain is usually not going to pan out. Absolute empathy is impossible as far as I know. So, the other person is never going to be able to apologize enough or the right way or with the correct affect.
    Not that apologies don’t have their place. Definitely. When we step on another’s toes, it is of paramount importance to take responsibility for that.
    But the hurt person has to do some work themselves also—not to be silly about it-but just to use this as an analogy, Why were my toes in the way? What other feeling(s) did I have besides the short burst of pain? What did I do for myself about my injury? For starters.

    • Paula, thank you for your response to this article. What you say about absolute empathy is true. Hopefully one would have enough empathy to understand the other person, and not be as upset themselves. Both the hurt person, and the person being accused of being disrespectful may have some work ahead of them. We can only work with the people seeking help though.

  2. rise is an essential tool tool in managing this type of stressful emotion. When an intimate partner feels disrespected the perception frequently overshadows the intention.

  3. Developing an awareness of stressful situations like this and sharing your feelings with your partner in a safe calm setting helps to reduce these negative emotions. Seeking compromise and developing an understanding in social settings helps to reduce the stress and anxiety creating by a perceived lack of attention or avoidance.

  4. Martin Shedlock says:

    some truly nice and useful info on this web site , likewise I think the design and style holds great features.

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