Bill White’s HEALTHY COUPLES Web Blog

*** Articles of Bill’s

Table of Contents:  

ARTICLE ONE (Link to article)

 “Relationships Without Arguments? Bill White Claims That It’s Possible”


 article written by Irene Messina/The Tucson Weekly



“Free Yourself from Anger and Arguments”

Summary of  “Free Yourself from Anger and Arguments” Article





I’ve had trouble with anger for most of my 52 years on planet Earth. I grew up with parents who, because of their own pain, alternated between being kind and being hurtful. With no outlet for my anger, I suppressed it, pretended I wasn’t angry, and secretly hated those who had wronged me. After a powerful spiritual awakening at age 27, I began something new–accepting all my feelings. Part of that acceptance included venting my rage and anger towards others. The results were not good.


I have since discovered that neither suppressing nor venting anger freed me from my emotional upset. Although I sometimes felt much better after venting, my relationship with the person was severely damaged. My anger scared people. They either became cautious around me, or dropped me out of their lives.


In more recent years, I tried softer forms of expressing and communicating my anger. Most of the time that didn’t work either. It finally became clear to me that for almost 100% of the time, being focused on my anger didn’t free me from anger, nor did it create understanding and connection with others.


In 2005, I finally put some key pieces of the anger puzzle together. I discovered a secret solution for freeing myself from my anger when it arises. The good news is that the solution works just about every time I use it. The bad news is that is doesn’t feel natural. In fact, using this new approach feels counterintuitive. But it works to resolve anger where little else has.


The first piece of the puzzle was when I discovered that my anger, defensiveness, criticizing, hating, resentment, and withdrawing were all instinctual protection modes. I then recognized that the only reason I would be interested in protecting myself is because I am feeling threatened, scared. So, when we are scared, the survival brain instinctually and blindly reacts by fighting or fleeing. This is automatic and instantaneous. Unfortunately, reacting from instinctual protection modes when life and limb are not threatened keeps us stuck in emotional upset and increases the upset of others. Protection modes almost never work to bring connection and understanding. They usually serve to create more problems and feeling disconnected from others.


The next question I asked myself was, “If protection doesn’t work, what does?” I found a wonderful, but surprising answer.


Before I tell you the solution for freeing yourself from anger, think of an example where you responded in anger or resentment. Use this example as you read the rest of this article. Stop reading and find an example now.



The solution for freeing myself from anger is being vulnerable. I know, “Yikes!”


I don’t mean vulnerable as in letting yourself be abused or mistreated. I mean being vulnerable as a way to 1) diffuse your anger and 2) to let others know you aren’t a threat to them. [Note: There are times when using anger is the most appropriate approach, such as when confronting a dangerous situation, and at times when someone is being unkind. The problem is that anger is often the only tool in our toolbox.]


What does being vulnerable look like?


Okay, you’re wondering what the heck does “being vulnerable” look like. Being vulnerable starts with me shifting my focus away from the other person and onto my inner experience. Marshall Rosenberg in his work on nonviolent communication refers to this as looking within. I had to train myself to stop focusing on what I don’t like about the other person and what I think they should change. I saw that focusing outside myself kept me mired in my anger.


The first step of looking within is noticing and acknowledging my anger reaction. It helps to recognize that my reaction is an automatic protection response, and therefore to not be judgmental with myself.


The next step for looking within involves understanding that anger is not the true emotion. The fundamental emotion behind all anger is fear. Fear is often hidden from our view. The other fundamental emotion is grief—hurt and sadness. Grief can be hidden from our view as well, but is more easily recognizable. I discovered that when I acknowledge my fear and/or my grief, the anger dissolves. When I communicate from a soft place, the anger felt by the other also begins to dissolve—at least in most cases.


Part of the catch-22 of being vulnerable (speaking my fear and hurt) is that being vulnerable creates an increase in my fear. Although I’ve taught others the value of being vulnerable over the last 25 years, I didn’t see the depth of its value in my personal life until the last few years. I was in the trap of blindly jumping back to protection modes when the vulnerability got too scary for me. Usually my protection mode was to just shut down and not talk—and hate the other person.


I believe this “increase in fear when being vulnerable” is the reason we as a species haven’t figured out how to free ourselves from anger, arguing, avoiding, and distancing. We stay protected and are blinded to our real feelings.


Childhood influences


Frequently, my fear is hidden and not easy to identify. I might think: “I’m not afraid. I just don’t like being criticized.” I’ve found that there’s always-always a fear behind my anger. One way for me to make sense of my fear is to shift my focus away from the present situation, and begin looking for a childhood connection. I have learned that unpleasant childhood experiences are usually the source of emotional upsets that we can’t seem to resolve. The present situation has been a trigger for old memories and old emotions.


I can guarantee that if you’re stuck in anger, childhood emotions have been unwittingly triggered. The connection will often not be obvious. I’m certainly not thinking about childhood when I’m upset. I’m looking at the person in front of me. They appear to be the obvious source of my anger. I explain my emotional upset with,  “I was feeling just fine until you ______. You are the reason I’m angry. You have to change so I’m not feeling angry anymore.” 


Get support for the emotions you can’t clear on your own


If identifying the childhood connection is difficult, you may need someone’s support to figure out how your childhood is related to your present emotional upset. There are times when I can’t see the childhood connection without the help of another.


I have created an entire science around healthy relationships. Don’t expect every new step you take to work perfectly. Utilizing these ideas can often generate a quick fix. At other times, the clearing of an emotional upset can be very much like arranging the pieces of a puzzle. It can take some thought and experimentation to free yourself.


I want to be clear that I’m not advocating calm relating when you are fuming with anger. As I mentioned, anger is instinctual and instantaneous. In fact, I tell people, “When you’re screaming, yelling, and breaking things, you’re on the right track.” The brain has triggered the body to produce adrenalin to fight the tiger or to run. So, in the midst of severe anger, you DO need to physically and verbally express yourself until the adrenalin and rage is depleted. However, do this in private. Don’t traumatize others with your rage. When the energy of the rage is spent, then look for the fear, the hurt, and the childhood memories.


An example of how one can resolve anger by looking for the fear


A couple of years ago I was out to dinner with my former wife, Noel. [Hey, some of the best lessons are the hard ones. We still deeply value our friendship and didn’t end our marriage in upset]. On the way back to her place I was talking to her about something important to me. As we approached the gate to her apartment complex, she started fumbling in her purse looking for the remote to open the automatic gate—mumbling to herself, “Where is my remote?” I immediately felt upset because she was not listening.


My automatic (and habitual) response was to shut down and hate her. Although I was very angry, I pretended I wasn’t. I was certain that the reason I was upset was because she was insensitive. I had a right to hate her. I had written her off.


Neither of us said anything about my upset. I dropped her off and headed home.


As I drove away, I noticed I wasn’t feeling good. I also saw I was stuck in blame and resentment. I wanted out of this, but didn’t readily see how to start. So I asked myself, “Okay, if I were one of my clients, how would I coach a person in this situation?” [Note: Even when I know the tools, the automatic protection modes kick in and I find myself stuck in the mire. It takes a conscious act to put the tools in place.] I began to observe and process my reaction.  It was clear to me that my reaction was an overreaction to the present situation. But note, I still hadn’t realized I was feeling fear. I thought I was just ticked off.


What I discovered in my processing was that Noel’s “not paying attention to me as I talked” represented the many times as a child when I wasn’t listened to by either Mom or Dad. The message I felt as a child was: You’re not important to those who are most important to you and nobody cares if you get to express your thoughts and feelings. The true feeling that got triggered was not anger. The true feeling was a fear of not being heard and of not being important to others. Grief was also a part of the true feelings, however I wasn’t present to the grief until I first saw the fear.


Clearly those fears were not the truth of the present situation with Noel. She cares about my being heard. She wants to know my thoughts and feelings. However, in that moment– on an emotional level– it was the absolute truth for me that Noel didn’t care and would never care.


The emotional level is coming from childhood. When a child feels important in the moment, the child experiences “not being important” now and forever. Those deep childhood feelings are what surface in our relationships. It’s the childhood influence that has us get crazy with anger over such little things.


The next day I called Noel and told her what happened to me. I apologized for shutting down and hating her. She was compassionate for my plight and we restored our love and friendship.



What you must put in place to have these approaches work


You must make an agreement with yourself and others to live by the Golden Rule. That is, you must treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Not because it’s right or wrong to do so, but because, on a soul level, you are love. You don’t feel right when you aren’t treating another the way you’d like to be treated. On the flip side, you feel right when you do live by the Golden Rule.


Below is an explanation of what I mean by ‘living by the Golden Rule’.


  1. Don’t do anything behind another’s back that you know will hurt the other person or the relationship. If you keep secrets, you hurt the relationship because you have to distance yourself in some way. You also introduce a feeling of distrust in the relationship that others pick up on.
  2. Commit to eliminating unkind and disrespectful relating. You have to have a “cease-fire” before you can end any war. Immediately cease acts of aggression towards others. You must stop harming others either physically or emotionally. Almost all forms of protection are acts that hurt others. Therefore, you will want to train yourself to respond from a place of softness and vulnerability instead of protection.


You can’t expect the approaches to work if you aren’t keeping these 2 guidelines in place. If you’re interested in feeling good and having healthy relationships, this is the first place to start.


If you’re keeping secrets or treating the other with unkindness and disrespect, you have to find a way to just stop. And you have to apologize and make amends.


In summary, the next time you find yourself angry, stop focusing on your anger and don’t express your anger. Look to identify any protection mode you have put in place. Next, look for the hidden fear or hurt, and the childhood influence. Then speak about your fear and hurt. If you can’t figure this out by yourself—and most people can’t—get support from someone who knows how to use these tools.


Bill White, M.A., is a love relationship coach for singles and couples in Tucson. He has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Bill offers coaching by phone, e-mail, or in person. He can be reached at 520-319-9132 and at

You are offered a free, no obligation consultation to find out what Bill does, for Bill to find out what you want, and for you to discover if there’s a match. Brochure-type information and articles are available via e-mail and at his web site:

Copyright Bill White January 2008

Revised 3-09

[This is copyrighted material. You are welcome to share this information with others as long as my name and the copyright information are included. You are not permitted to reproduce or repackage this work for your business or organized program without written permission.]






Something happens that scares or hurts us. Usually we have no idea we’ve been scared or hurt. In a split second, the survival brain kicks in and the thinking brain goes into cruise mode. This enables the body to instantly react to the threat.


The survival brain also pulls up all memories that are at all similar to the present threat and pain. It’s an instinctual survival mechanism to make sense of the danger. These memories are not sorted logically and are full of childhood memories.


The first thing we’re aware of is in an emotionally upsetting situation is usually some form of anger, judgment against the other, or defensiveness. (Note: If we really don’t feel safe, we actually might be aware of our fear. Then the first response is about how to avoid more attacks. We usually freeze up, run away, or somehow placate the other.) We are now in a protection mode, an automatic response designed to feel safer. Some form of fight or flight.


Our protection modes (yelling, blaming, threats, shutting down, leaving, defensiveness) are perceived as threats to the other person. In turn, they are instantly triggered into their protection modes. Their protection modes threaten you, so you escalate your protection modes so you feel safer. They do the same.


The above describes humanity’s natural but dysfunctional approach to emotional upsets.


There is one solution. It feels unnatural and counterintuitive. But it works. The solution is to be vulnerable when you least feel like it.


Being vulnerable is something you will yourself to do. It doesn’t come natural at first. In fact, being vulnerable scares us and has us jump back into protection modes. Thus, humanity has been in a trap. What works to resolve emotional upsets is in itself scary and upsetting.


Being vulnerable is

  1. Training yourself to look inside yourself when you experience emotional upset.
  2. Noticing the anger response inside.
  3. Stopping yourself from reacting towards the other person.
  4. Look to identify the fear and/or hurt, and the associated childhood pain.
  5. Speak about your fear, hear and childhood pain. Speak about your unmet needs and your wants.
  6. Apologize for what you’ve done to cause distress in another.


In order to have a conversation for resolving an emotional upset, you must be talking to someone who is not steeped in their own upset. People in emotional upset need one thing: Someone to fully listen to them with acceptance and compassion. If both people are upset, no one can listen. This multiplies the level of emotional upset.


If the person you’re upset with cannot listen, you have 3 options.

  1. Be the listener.
  2. Find someone else to listen to you.
  3. Become your own listener. (This can be hard to do when you’re upset, but with practice, you will become good at this.)


The steps in this summary often seem preposterous. We feel justified in our feelings and our reactions. You will do whatever you do, however, if what you’re doing isn’t working, this is the path out of the misery.


I recommend that you do the inward looking first, connect with true feelings and the influence of childhood pain. Get that out of the way and then see what steps to take. Sometimes those steps are about tough love. This isn’t about not drawing the line. But drawing the line is often done in a half-blind way.




Bill White, M.A., is a love relationship coach for singles and couples in Tucson. He has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Bill offers coaching by phone, e-mail, or in person. He can be reached at 520-319-9132 and at

You are offered a free, no obligation consultation to find out what Bill does, for Bill to find out what you want, and for you to discover if there’s a match. Brochure-type information and articles are available via e-mail and at his web site:

Copyright Bill White April 2009

[This is copyrighted material. You are welcome to share this information with others as long as my name and the copyright information are included. You are not permitted to reproduce or repackage this work for your business or organized program without written permission.]





1 Comment so far
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WOW! OUCH! WOW!!! I have to re-read this…Thank you Bill

Comment by Debi

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