“I hope I never turn into my mother,” you say. “You sound just like your father,” you’re told. If one or both of your caregivers was passive-aggressive, the idea of turning into them may be especially horrifying. Passive-Aggressiveness is passed on. If you grew up in a household where anger was avoided, you might struggle to break the cycle of passive aggression that can be passed from generation to generation.
Children are like little sponges of information. When we are young, we soak up knowledge and new experiences, and we absorb our family’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors—including their anger style.
There are three main styles of anger:
Both conflict and love can occur simultaneously in an anger-healthy family. An argument doesn’t destroy closeness, and people work together to resolve problems. In an expressive family, anger is thrown around freely, love comes with a side of explosive conflict, and children learn that to get what they want, they have to be angry.
Right now, though, we’re going to focus on the anger-avoidant type. In these families, anger is rarely expressed or conflict acknowledged. If you’re a people pleaser or hide your emotions, it’s likely you grew up in an anger-avoidant home, or in one where one person was anger-expressive and everyone else hid it at all costs.
What’s wrong with hiding anger? If you’re anger-avoidant, it may sound odd to you that showing it can be a good thing. But anger is healthy, and all of us—yes, all—feel it.