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First, I apologize for the length of time between my blog posts.  I have had a lot of things to work through over the past several months, and have not dedicated the amount of time to this that I should.  Until I received notes from concerned readers, it had not even occurred to me that some might worry about the extended absences.  I should have thought of that, especially since so many of my entries lately have addressed the less happy side of life, so please forgive my time away– I will try to do better!  Now, for today’s topic..

Several weeks ago, an acquaintance– make that former acquaintance– on Facebook became enraged at someone else for not being a mind-reading psychic, and then proceeded to launch an unwarranted, profanity-laden attack via Facebook, targeting several people who were not even involved in any way, including me.  It is something we all see regularly on the social networks.  If you are thinking it’s incredibly immature, you are absolutely right!  But, that is not what this is about, because using my blog as a forum to return the attack would be equally ridiculous.

Instead, I am turning this into a teaching and learning moment.  What do you do when someone is directing unjustified hostility toward you?

First, it is totally understandable to be angry yourself, after such an attack.  But, as difficult as it might be, stay calm.  No matter how much the other person might seem to deserve it, resist the urge to send a solid thump on the nose, and be above trading profanities.  If you return the other person’s hostility, you are, in the mind of the attacker, justifying his hostility. As a bonus, the calmer you are, the crazier the other person looks.

Remember, their anger is not your anger, and just because they are saying and doing things they might live to regret, it does not mean you have to say or do things you might later regret.

Be patient.  You do not know what someone else is experiencing.  Perhaps they have a mental illness, or are having some other traumatic life experience which is fueling the anger.  Perhaps they themselves have been victimized in some way, and are unwittingly paying it forward.

While it is my belief that we all have a duty to help each other when we can, there are only so many hours in a day and we’re not all psychotherapists.  Weigh the options and make a decision.  Is the person a high priority in your life, and can he be helped by you?

If it is someone you rarely see, or if your presence only seems to make the person angrier, it may be best to walk away and let someone else help him work through the issue.

If you value the person who is lashing out at you, if it is a close friend or family member (or if you work in customer service or health care!), calmly and gently probe for answers.  Try to find out why the person is so angry, in order to defuse the situation.  Often, once you have him engaged in a conversation and seeking solutions, the person will begin to calm down.  However, this does not always work, so above all…

Protect yourself.  You do not have to allow yourself to be the target of anyone’s irrational, misdirected anger.  You absolutely have the right to choose to walk away from a potentially abusive situation, and there is no reason to tolerate abuse from anyone.  However much you might wish to “fix” the person, realize that it is still his anger, not yours, and only he can fix it.  You are not obligated to carry that burden.  Sometimes, the best way to handle it is to walk away, letting the person rant and tire himself out.

Then, after he falls asleep, resist the urge to stick his hand in a bucket of warm water.  Seriously.  It will only make him madder.


It will probably not be a surprise that, as an abuse survivor, I have often struggled with anger. After so many years, I consider myself practically an expert on both what not to do and on finding ways to put anger in its place.

I am often bothered by the bad rap anger has received in recent years. We are regularly told it is unhealthy, it is negative, and clichés, like “anger only destroys its container”. But, let’s be clear. There are different kinds of anger, and how a person copes with it is largely what determines whether or not it is unhealthy.  Anger might destroy its container, but perhaps that is because anger isn’t meant to be contained.

Anger is a natural response to some situations. It is one of the things that tells us something is wrong. Of course, it can also be (or result in) an overreaction, masking the true issue that lies beneath.

When experiencing anger, it is important to pause and ask one’s self if the anger is justified. Is the level of anger the reasonable response to this current situation? Is it due to the current situation, or is it due to an accumulation of past events? Is it a response to the actual circumstances, or is it based on misunderstanding or misinterpretation of circumstances?

What is the real reason for the anger?

It may take some time and careful consideration, but once the real reason for the anger has been determined, it then becomes a matter of directing it appropriately, in the most constructive way possible.

For example, the Civil Rights Movement would probably not have happened if there had not been a large group of people who were angry about the injustices of the status quo. However, if the movement had not been mostly calculated and methodical, and had instead been allowed to deteriorate entirely into violence and profanity-laden rants, it might not have resulted in so many of the desired changes.

Generalized, misguided, misdirected rage is unhealthy, and often results in undesired consequences. It is destructive, and while you might feel better for a moment, it will eventually come back to bite you. Sure, you might be taken seriously if you are shouting and cursing at everyone in your general vicinity, but only to the extent that people will be wondering if they should call someone with tranquilizer darts. Your meltdown will be what they remember, not so much what caused it– unless it was caused by something ridiculously petty; then they will remember you for being an ass– and they will probably wonder about your mental stability.  Moreover, very few of the right people will be interested in helping you with whatever the situation is, if you are constantly lashing out at innocent bystanders.

So, once you figure out the root cause of the anger, it is important to properly address the issue. If you are angry because your boss treats you unfairly, calmly discuss it with your boss and explain your side, or get a new job. If you are angry because a law is unfair, work to have the law changed. If you are angry because someone did something awful to you 30 years ago, work to help others in that situation or work to prevent it from happening to someone else.

If you find that you are carrying around generalized anger from things you cannot change, accept that you cannot change those things, and find a constructive outlet for the pent up frustration. Put your anger into something productive, like exercise or art.

There is no need to stifle anger, or to pretend it doesn’t exist, or to attempt to drown it in disingenuous platitudes. There is a need to identify it, recognize it and its causes, and direct it to make a positive change.

For months, I have been kicking this story around in my head, trying to determine the best way to tell it. It is a true story and it needs to be told so that others will not fall prey to similar circumstances. But, how does one tell the story while protecting the privacy of those involved?

The point of this is not to publicly shame or embarrass anyone, because only those involved know their true intentions. The point is to present the events, the aftermath, and possible ways someone else might avoid it.

Then it came to me. The whole thing is like the Brady Bunch gone awry. So, the story will be presented as such. And, frankly, to present it any other way would likely confuse many readers.

I’ll do my best to remain unbiased in the presentation, but I may not be privy to the whole story and these are just the “highlights”.  So, if anyone wants to add anything at the end, go for it.

In this version, he is divorced, she is widowed, and all the children are grown by the time the two are married.  Just to keep things simple, let’s say he has 3 sons and she has 3 daughters. 

Immediately, his children noticed that family events were almost always segregated.  There were holiday dinners for her family, and then (sometimes) a holiday dinner for his family (but never on the actual holiday– those dates were reserved for her family events).  When it was mentioned, she said having them all together at once was just too much.  It seemed reasonable even if suspect and his children did not want to cause him unnecessary stress, so everyone let it go. 

Over the years there were other things, most of them small, but they added up.  For example, in the livingroom were photos of her family, while the photos of his family were kept in another room few people ever saw.  When his grandchildren graduated high school, his wife gave them each $10;  when her own grandchildren graduated, she gave them… well.. something better.  As it continued, these small things, along with his seeming acceptance of and/or complacency toward these small things, began to erode his previously close relationships with some family members.  And, most of his children always felt his wife resented them.

When his health began to fail and he was diagnosed with dementia, medical bills were high.  So, the couple used her lawyer to sell 100+ acres of his land (which, in its history of more than 100 years, had been home to at least 4 generations of his family) for a fraction of its value to a real estate company owned by the same lawyer.  The lawyer’s real estate company then resold it to developers for a tidy profit.  (Apparently this is legal, although the ethics of it are questionable; but only those involved know their true intentions.)  The same lawyer made the new will, leaving virtually everything to the second wife, with a small percentage to be divided among all the children (her children included).  His children were kept in the dark until the deal was made and it was too late.

But, no one wanted to cause “Mr. Brady” unnecessary stress, plus everyone was happy he would have enough money to pay for his medical bills and the home health care he would later require.  So, even though their ancestral land was gone, no one made much fuss.

Years later, he passed away.  At his funeral, his widow proudly told people how many children they had, including his children. 

A few days after the funeral, she was discussing the will with one of his sons.  The son asked her if she was including everyone in her own will, since most of the estate she had just inherited had come from the sale of family land (a 7-digit total).  She allegedly replied, “Absolutely not, you’re not my children and I never liked any of you.”  When asked if she was serious, she confirmed.

Naturally, his family does not believe this is how he intended it, since the original will divided the land evenly amongst them, and since by the time he signed the new will, his health had deteriorated such that he had to sign with an “X”.

(Seriously, this is how grudges which last for generations are born.  If I recall correctly, that whole conflict in the Middle East began over this very sort of thing….)

Unfortunately, as many attorneys can attest, this type of scenario has become all too common.  But this isn’t about judgment.  As previously stated, only those involved know their true intentions (oh, and God probably knows too, so there is no need to judge anyone here since that will come later).  This is about ways the next person could possibly avoid similar circumstances, and perhaps at least one reader will find this advice useful.

If you intend for the new spouse to inherit your entire estate and entirely cut out all of your biological heirs, you should probably discuss it with your entire family.  This way, they can at least be reassured that this was your intention, and your new spouse didn’t bamboozle you or them.

If you’d rather make certain your own children aren’t left in the cold, read on.

A lot of people frown at the idea of a prenuptial agreement, but if there are assets, it is always a good idea to protect them, especially if there are children from a previous relationship.  Some might argue that a “prenup” is a plan to fail.  However, someone who isn’t planning to leave and take all your stuff will probably not mind saying so in writing.  Which brings me to another point…

Get your own attorney, even if it is only to have a second opinion.  If you need a referral, do not accept a referral from your spouse’s (or potential spouse’s) attorney; they may be golfing buddies.  I’m not suggesting they might conspire, but it isn’t a bad idea to take precautions to keep everyone honest.

A trust fund may be a good idea, too, if there are children from a previous relationship.  This way, payments can be made to the surviving spouse, so he or she will live comfortably ever after, then after his or her death, the remainder of the fund goes into the custody of remaining heirs. 

And, it’s ok to be a little pushy.  Don’t let anyone get between you and the rest of your family, even if it seems like the most peaceful solution at the time… unless your family is a cult.  That’s different.  But that is an entry for another day.

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