When you establish a new boundary with someone, the most common form of resistance one gets is anger. People who get angry at others for setting boundaries have a character problem. Self-centered, they think the world exists for them and their comfort. They see others as extensions of themselves.
When they hear the word “no,” they have the same reaction a two-year-old has when deprived of something: “Bad Mommy!” They feel as though the one who deprives them of their wishes is “bad,” and they become angry. They are not righteously angry at a real offense. Nothing has been done “to them” at all. Someone will not do something “for them.” Their wish is being frustrated, and they get angry because they have not learned to delay gratification or to respect others’ freedom.
The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry. Here are six steps to consider when someone responds with anger:
1. Realize that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem.
If you do not realize this, you may think you have a problem. Maintaining your boundaries is good for other people; it will help them learn what their families of origin did not teach them: to respect other people.
2. View anger realistically.
Anger is only a feeling inside the other person. It cannot jump across the room and hurt you. It cannot “get inside” you unless you allow it. Staying separate from another’s anger is vitally important. Let the anger be in the other person.
3. Do not let anger be a cue for you to do something.
People without boundaries respond automatically to the anger of others. They rescue, seek approval, or get angry themselves. There is great power in inactivity. Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course.
4. Make sure you have your support system in place.
If you are going to set some limits with a person who has controlled you with anger, talk to the people in your support system first and make a plan.
5. Do not allow the angry person to get you angry.
6. Be prepared to use physical distance and other limits that enforce consequences.
This may mean blocking phone calls, texts, and emails. It may also involve shutting down connections on social sites if this person is looking for a crack in the door. An angry person who does not accept your right to set boundaries, or move on, can become obsessive and intrusive.
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