This post was updated on Jul 20, 2023
When we think about codependency issues, most of us have a particular picture in our mind, which doesn’t usually include anger or rage. They’re generally not immediately associated with each other because codependency is often portrayed as a pattern of behavior focused on caretaking, self-sacrifice, and seeking validation from others. It’s commonly depicted as a relationship dynamic where one person excessively relies on another for emotional well-being and a sense of identity.
On the other hand, we have anger: a primary human emotion characterized by an intense feeling of displeasure, frustration, or hostility. Anger is a natural response to perceived threats, injustices, or obstacles that impede our desires or needs. It can vary in intensity, ranging from mild irritation to intense rage. Anger serves various functions, including signaling boundaries, asserting and protecting oneself and one’s rights, and motivating action to address perceived injustices. It serves as a catalyst for change and can help individuals set boundaries, communicate their needs, and advocate for themselves.
When it comes to the connection between a codependent relationship and anger, we need to look at each separately to connect the dots of their interdependence. A codependent relationship is defined as a dysfunctional and imbalanced dynamic where one person excessively relies on another for their sense of self-worth, identity, and emotional well-being. Codependency typically involves a pattern of enabling, caretaking, and sacrificing one’s own needs for the benefit of the other.
What Characterizes Codependent Relationships?
Codependent relationships are often characterized by an imbalance of power, where one person assumes a dominant or controlling role while the other adopts a submissive or dependent role. Such relationships exhibit various signs and patterns that can help identify their presence. Here are some common signs of codependent relationships:
- Excessive caretaking.
- Low self-esteem.
- Nonexistent or blurry boundaries.
- Enabling behaviors.
- Lack of individuality.
- Intense fear of abandonment or rejection.
- Poor or dysfunctional communication.
- Control issues.
- Difficulty with independence.
However, beneath the surface of codependency lies a complex web of emotions, and anger is one of them. The emphasis on nurturing and caretaking in codependency may overshadow the presence of anger, leading to a lack of recognition or acknowledgment of this emotional aspect.
Societal and cultural expectations can play a significant role in this disconnect. Anger is often stigmatized and viewed as harmful or unacceptable, codependent individuals. The focus is usually placed on compassion, selflessness, and maintaining harmony in relationships. This supports the illusion of an idealized caregiver or helper.
It’s also possible that codependents internalize their anger due to a fear of conflict, abandonment, or other perceived negative consequences. They might suppress their anger to preserve the relationship and avoid endangering it. This anger can often come out sideways if not expressed in healthy ways.
The common perception of codependency as a condition where one person is overly dependent on another frequently overshadows the underlying dynamics of power and control. For example, anger can quite often be a manifestation of the codependent individual’s attempts to regain a sense of control, establish boundaries, or express frustration when their efforts to please or “fix” others go unrecognized or unreciprocated.
Are Codependents Angry?
First of all, It is worth noting that anger itself is not inherently good or bad. Instead, it is a normal and valid human emotion that can contribute to personal growth, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of justice when responsibly managed and channeled.
When it comes to codependents, experiencing anger is not at all uncommon. The complexities of codependency can give rise to resentment as they may find themselves in relationships where their needs are not met, promises are broken, or they feel disappointed or betrayed. These experiences might trigger anger as a normal and healthy reaction to unfulfilled needs or compromised trust.
Codependents, However, like many other people with various unhealthy behavioral patterns, usually struggle with managing and expressing their anger in a constructive way. They might fear confrontation, lack adequate communication skills, or simply want to avoid conflict. This leads to suppressing anger, building up resentment, and passive-aggressive behavior.
How Are Codependency And Anger Connected?
Codependency and anger are closely intertwined within the context of relationships. Some experts describe anger or rage exhibited by codependents as one part of the “drama triangle.”
Codependency, characterized by excessive reliance on others for self-worth and identity, is a pattern of behavior that gives rise to anger in several ways. If we look at what codependency is, we’ll arrive at the conclusion that one of its many facets is a strong need to “fix” or control one’s partner. This is done through the standard guise of caretaking. However, the caretaking is sometimes rejected by the partner, causing codependents to start feeling a loss of control, fear, and resentment.
When their efforts to “fix” or please others go unrecognized or unappreciated, codependents might perceive a loss of control or power in their relationships and start feeling frustrated and resentful. This can trigger anger or even full-blown rage, often chronic, deep-seated, and frequently connected to repressed childhood trauma and intense fear of abandonment.
Moreover, codependents often struggle with setting boundaries and expressing their needs and emotions. This lack of assertiveness and healthy communication is another factor that can lead to unaddressed anger and resentment. Instead of openly expressing their anger and dealing with it in healthy and constructive ways, codependents might engage in passive-aggressive behaviors, like sarcasm, irritability, or silent treatment.
They might also internalize their anger, leading to feelings of:
Codependents are frequently drawn to relationships where their anger is perpetuated. For example, they may partner with individuals who consistently violate their boundaries, break promises, or disappoint them. These repeated instances of unmet expectations and boundary violations can fuel their anger.
Why Do Codependents Become Angry?
The anger or rage that codependents often experience arises from various factors related to their codependent tendencies. Key reasons that cause anger in codependents are based on the discrepancy between their expectations and reality. In addition, the complex dynamics of codependent relationships often contribute to anger as an underlying emotional response to unmet needs and perceived power imbalances.
Unmet needs. Codependents may have elevated expectations of others, expecting them to make them happy or meet their needs. However, when these expectations remain unmet, they can feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, or uncared for.
Violated boundaries. The lack of assertiveness and poor boundaries that are common in codependency also adds to anger. As a result, codependents may struggle to effectively express their needs and feelings, leading to frustration and resentment.
A sense of powerlessness in their relationships. When codependents try to exert control over others as a means of feeling better, they frequently realize they can’t fully control people or situations. This can cause them to feel powerless, which in turn, causes fear, anger, and even rage.
Unresolved childhood issues, like witnessing parents’ ineffective anger management, for example, might permanently discourage them from expressing anger and contribute to difficulties in handling this feeling in a healthy and constructive way.
PIVOT Has The Answer For How To Stop Codependency Anxiety And Manage Anger
As most of us are aware, and as we mentioned above, anger can become problematic when it is excessive, uncontrolled, or expressed in harmful ways. This is unmanaged anger that can negatively impact relationships, physical health, and overall emotional well-being. That’s why it’s essential to learn healthy ways to express and manage anger through assertive communication, problem-solving, and self-regulation techniques.Learning healthy ways to express anger helps maintain well-being and form healthier relationships. Experienced relationship advocates are there to help if you recognize codependency dynamics in your relationship. You can receive guidance through individual sessions and also participate in small group workshops that provide a structured environment for self-discovery, guided by our expert PIVOT coaches.