What is anger, abuse and violence? - The Ultimate Guide

Anger, abuse and violence are often misunderstood.

One misconception for example, is that “losing your temper" always means that you are acting abusively or violently. However, this isn't always the case.

So, what does anger, abuse and violence really mean?

What are the different forms that they take?

And is anger the same as abuse or violence, or are there differences between these three things?

The answers to these questions may surprise you.

Join me as I explore:


  • what anger, abuse and violence really are
  • what the 5 main types of abuse are in relationships, and
  • how to tell the differences between anger, abuse and violence.

Let's begin!


What Is Anger?

what is anger?

When I teach men how to control their anger in any situation, one of the first questions I ask is this:

What is anger?

Usually I get many responses to this question, such as anger is:

  • frustration
  • rage
  • an emotion
  • a feeling
  • shouting at someone
  • hitting someone
  • acting out of control

Take a look at these answers.

Do you think that any of these answers are correct? If so, which ones do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with?

Once you have thought about these questions for a minute or two, it's time to read on.

What Is Anger: Wikipedia's Definition

A good definition of anger can be found on Wikipedia. 

According to Wikipedia (June 2018):

“Anger is an intense emotional response…It is an emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.”

“Anger is an intense emotional response…It is an emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.”

Wikipedia (June 2018)

Let’s look at each part of this definition.


Part 1: Anger is an intense emotional response

There are two things to notice about this sentence.

Firstly, anger is intense.

Most of us know this.

We have all experienced times when anger seems like it takes control of us. It can feel almost impossible to manage this anger. Sometimes anger is so intense we do not even notice when we are angry-we just react to the event that is causing the anger.

The second part of this sentence states that anger is an emotional response.

This is worth re-phrasing.

Anger is a feeling (or an emotion). While this can seem obvious in hindsight many people miss this important aspect of anger.
To understand this more let’s look at the definitions of anger given above.

Three of these definitions (namely shouting at someone, hitting someone or acting out of control) are actions. They are not feelings.

We may choose to shout at someone, hit someone or act out of control, for instance when we are angry-but shouting at someone, hitting someone or acting out of control are actions we take when we are angry. They are not anger itself.

To re-state this point:

Anger is a feeling (or an emotion).

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Part 2: Anger is a response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat

The second part of Wikipedia’s definition states that:

“Anger is an emotion that involves a strong uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat”.

In other words, anger is a response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.

The key word in this definition-is the word perceived. Anger is not a response to an actual provocation, hurt or threat, but instead to something we perceive as a provocation, hurt of threat.

To help us understand this, suppose you are relaxing at home watching television. Your wife enters the room and criticizes you, calling you “lazy” or “unhelpful”.

Many men would perceive these comments as a personal attack on themselves. They then respond to their wife’s perceived criticism with defensiveness, anger or criticism in return.

If you are in this situation however, it is important to keep in mind that there many other ways to perceive your wife’s comments.

For example, your wife may be disappointed, hurt or upset. She may be having a bad day looking after the children for example and be struggling to cope. Her criticism of you may be a cry for help.

In other scenarios your wife may be stating a fact. You may”lazy” or “unhelpful” at times-and this time may be one of them!

If you are able to perceive your wife’s comments in these ways, you would be more likely to respond with sympathy or empathy to her-rather than defending yourself or creating an argument.


The point of this example is that there are many ways to perceive any situation, and that it is your perception of the situation that creates our anger.

In other words, it is not what happens to you that creates your anger-it is your thoughts or perceptions about the events that happen to you that create your anger.

Let’s summarize what you have learned so far:


Summary:

  • Anger is an emotion (or a feeling)
  • Anger is a response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat, and
  • It is not the events that happen to you that cause your anger-but your thoughts or perceptions about the events that happen to you that cause your anger

OK. Let's move on!


What Is Abuse?

As with the question “What is Anger?”, this may seem to be a very simple question.

Let’s look at some of the most common answers I get to this question when I ask the men that I work with.

These answers are:

Abuse is:

  • shouting at someone
  • causing someone harm
  • hitting someone
  • anger
  • hurting someone
  • justified in some circumstances
  • breaking things
  • alcohol and drugs

Take a few minutes to think about these answers for yourself.

Do you think any of these answers are correct? If so, why? If not, why do you disagree with these answers?

Think about these questions for a minute or two.

Once you have done this, it's time to read on.


What Is Abuse?: Wikipedia's Definition

Again Wikipedia gives a good starting definition of abuse.

Wikipedia (June 2018) defines abuse as:

“Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression.”

“Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression.”

Wikipedia (June 2018)

This definition of abuse clearly covers abuse to both people and to objects. If we focus on abuse to people, Wikipedia says that abuse is:

“the improper treatment of a person, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit”.

While this is a good definition of abuse, I use a different definition when I work with men and women who experience anger management issues.

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What Is Abuse?: My Definition

When working with people who experience anger management issues, I say that whatever abuse is, abuse is an action.

This makes it different to anger-which is a feeling.

So the first distinction between anger and abuse is that anger is a feeling, whereas abuse is an action.

To understand this more look at the definitions of abuse given above.

The first thing to note about these answers is that that only some of these answers are actions. These answers include:


  • shouting at someone
  • hitting someone
  • hurting someone, and
  • breaking things

While the other answers are not wrong-it is more useful to think of abuse as an action (while anger is a feeling).


Types Of Abuse

Once you understand that abuse is an action, the next natural question to ask is:

What types of actions are abusive?

While there are many examples of abusive actions, I find it most useful to group these actions into 5 categories

These categories are:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Physical abuse and
  • Sexual abuse

Let’s look at each of these categories of abuse in more detail.


Verbal Abuse:

Of all the types of abuse, verbal abuse is one of the most common.

Examples of verbal abuse include:

  • putting someone down (such as calling someone “lazy”, “good for nothing” or worse)
    name-calling
  • blaming others for things they have not done
  • criticizing someone (telling them they are “no good”, “worthless” and so forth)
  • ordering someone to do something
  • undermining someone (such as telling them they are “stupid” or “worthless”-often done in front of other person), and
  • threatening someone

Emotional Abuse:

The second category of abuse is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is perhaps the most common type of abuse in relationships.

A good definition of emotional abuse is:

“Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.”

(taken from: “The Emotionally Abused Woman”, by Beverly Engel)

Another way to define emotional abuse is that:

"Emotional abuse is any attempt to hurt someone or make them feel bad in a non-physical way”.

“Emotional abuse is any attempt to hurt someone or make them feel bad in a non-physical way”

In this definition, verbal abuse is also an example of emotional abuse.

Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • insulting someone’s family or friends
  • ridiculing a person or their beliefs
  • constantly criticizing someone
  • ignoring a person
  • using put downs to make someone feel bad about themselves
  • humiliating someone
  • threatening to harm yourself
  • denial of past events
  • using “silent treatment”
  • keeping someone prisoner in their home
  • checking someone’s phone or Facebook messages without permissions and
  • texting someone excessively

Effects Of Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse has significant effects on people that the abuse is targeted towards. These effects often include:

  • feelings of anxiety and confusion
  • depression
  • loss of self-esteem
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • sleep issues
  • anger and resentment

Victims of emotional abuse often:

  • question their own memory, such as by asking “Did this event really happen?”
  • feel like they are walking on eggshells
  • feel powerless and defeated
  • think that they can never do anything right or that there is no way to get out of a situation, and
  • experience mood instability and anger outbursts

Over time, emotional abuse can be more damaging than physical violence.

People who have been subject to emotional abuse over long periods of time often report:

  • feeling depressed or suicidal
  • low self-confidence
  • emotional withdrawal from relationships, including looking for relationship with people who make them feel more valuable as a person
  • substance abuse
  • chronic anger
  • feeling trapped or alone, and
  • loss of sexual desire

Psychological Abuse:

The third category of abuse is psychological abuse. This is also sometimes called mental abuse.

Psychological abuse is any type of “mind-game” that affects another person.

In other words, psychological abuse is an attempt to manipulate the thinking of another person.

Some common examples of psychological abuse include:

  • frequently lying to your partner
  • deliberately deceiving your partner (such as saying one thing and doing another)
  • emotionally blackmailing your partner
  • telling your partner that he or she is crazy
  • withholding information from your partner, and
  • engaging in unpredictable mood swings

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Physical Abuse:

Physical abuse is perhaps the most obvious type of abuse. All of us have seen examples of physical abuse. Many of us would have been subject to physical abuse.

Examples of physical abuse include:

  • pushing your partner
  • breaking objects or furniture
  • pulling your partners hair
  • throwing objects at or near your partner to scare them
  • slapping your partner, and
  • attempting to choke or strangle your partner

Sexual Abuse:

(Note:

a) In this blog I will talk about sexual abuse between adults who are in relationship with each other. Sexual abuse of children is very common-however that is not the subject of this blog. If you have been sexually abused as a child it is important to seek help to process this. In most countries there are a variety of agencies and counselors that can help you to do this, and

b) In the examples below I assume the sexual abuser is a man and the victim of sexual abuse is a women. Although this is the most common scenario, it is very important to acknowledge that men also experience sexual abuse in relationships).

The fifth type of abuse to look at is sexual abuse.

Although it is a difficult topic to talk about, sexual abuse is a very common in relationships.

Let’s start by looking at my definition of sexual abuse:

“Sexual abuse is any attempt to pressure your partner to engage in or perform sexual actions against his or her will.”

Alastair Duhs

“Sexual abuse is any attempt to pressure your partner to engage in or perform sexual actions against his or her will.”

Alastair Duhs

You will note from this definition that sexual abuse is not just trying to have sex with your partner when she does not want to (although that also fits into the definition of sexual abuse). Other examples of sexual abuse include:

  • pressuring your partner to wear provocative clothing
  • making her watch pornography against her will
  • having unsafe (unprotected) sex with her
  • making her have sex in ways that she does not want to
  • having an affair with another person
  • humiliating or degrading her sexually
  • sulking or getting angry if she does not have sex with you
  • sexually touching your partner in ways that she is not comfortable with, and
  • making your partner act out sexual fantasies that she is not comfortable with

Summary:

Let’s summarize what you have learned about abuse so far. You have learned that:

  • Abuse is an action
  • There are five main categories of abuse, namely verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse
  • There are many examples of each type of abuse

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What Is Violence?

The usual definition for violence I give people is the following:

“Violence is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Violence can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression.”

Have a look at this definition closely.

You may notice that you have seen it before.

This definition of violence is exactly the same as the definition that Wikipedia gives for abuse.

In my opinion, there is no difference between abuse and violence. In other words, abuse and violence are the same thing.

Using this definition means that if you have been abusive in any way to your partner (such as by yelling at her, swearing at her, making threats or putting her down), then you have engaged in an act of violence.

In essence, you are being violent towards your partner.

Many people I work with do not like this statement.

If they have lost their temper at their partner, they are ready to admit that they have been angry, but often they are reluctant to admit that they have also been abusive or violent.


Why Are Abuse And Violence The Same Thing?

As I talk with people about abuse and violence, we often discuss their childhood.


Unfortunately, many men and women have often experienced anger, abuse or violence in their childhood.


For example, some people may remember arguments between their father and mother. They may recall their fathers shouting at their mothers, belittling them or telling them they are “good for nothing”, “worthless” or “hopeless”.


At times they may have also experimented abuse or violence from their mothers. Sometimes this is a result of the abuse that their mother has experienced.


Other people may remember experiencing physical abuse as a child. They may have been hit by one parent, for example, after they have done something naughty. Or one parent may have come home drunk and hit them for no reason.


At these times the abusive parent would usually say cruel things-often words designed to hurt, embarrass or humiliate.


When I discuss these events with the men and women I work with, I often ask them which had the most effect on them: the physical abuse or the emotional abuse?


Almost always, the answer is the emotional abuse. 


Trevor, a man I worked with recently, said this very clearly. 


“I didn’t mind so much the pain when my father used to beat me. But I could tell just by the look in his eyes that he hated me when he was doing this. His look was of contempt, as if he couldn't believe that I had been so stupid. I felt like such a disappointment to him when we looked at me like that. I think I have never recovered from this. That is hard for anyone to cope with-knowing that your father hates you. It still makes me sad when I think about it.”


Trevor’s story is very common. 


Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse can have the same, if not worse effects than physical violence. 


For this reason I believe there is no difference between abuse and violence.

They both hurt others, make them afraid or control other people. And if you have engaged in any form of abuse towards another person, then you have engaged in violence towards them.

In Conclusion:

OK. Well done! That's the end of a long article!

If you lose you temper at those that you love, or have any issues at all with anger, abuse or violence, take my FREE 60-second quiz to learn the simplest, quickest and most effective way to control your anger in any situation.

If you have already completed this quiz, and would like to learn how to control your anger, enrol in my comprehensive online anger management program now.

Want To Learn How To Control Your Anger?

Enrol in my comprehensive online anger management program now

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