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Domestic Violence & Anger

by Dr. Barry Lord, Psy.D

Dr. Barry Lord, Psy.D. LMFT

Southern California Seminary, 

Professor Emeritus 


The common difference between “out of control anger” and Domestic Violence is that D.V. is a choice and it is learned.  

DV is used as a technique for controlling others in the batterer’s family or when directed at an intimate partner. 

Domestic violence or family abuse is not about losing control; it’s a methodical technique for asserting and keeping control in an intimate relationship or a situation concerning a close relationship.

Power & Control – not the same

The terms power and control are often used interchangeably by very smart and educated people.  However, they are wrong.  

If we are to help people in these destructive relationships make any head way in resolving domestic or family violence, and protecting victim from further abuse, then we need to make the distinction that this is about choices and not anger management problems. 

When we make this distinction, then we can go about the business of holding the batterer accountable for their choices.  The real choice here is about choosing to control another family member and not about uncontrolled anger

Definition of power & control

 Control is the ability to get another person to do something (they probably don’t want to do) using force, fear or manipulation, no matter how slight. It is about reducing another’s personhood to that of an object. It is a form of objectification

Power is the ability to get another person to accept my definition of reality as their own.”

Note: The only thing that power and control have in common is that they cannot be taken, they can only be given. 

“On a Likert scale it might look as follows:


How we think

From Events to Consequences

Events–Self talk–Schema——Emotions-

                              Distinctions   Feelings

-Choices–Behaviors–Habits — Consequences

The Brain – Frontal Lobe (the executive brain)

The frontal lobe  involves :  

motor function,

problem solving,






impulse control,

and social and sexual behavior.

Parietal Lobe

Involves sensation and perception and it is concerned with integrating sensory input, primarily with the visual system. 

Functions integrate sensory information to form a single perception (cognition). 

Another function of the parietal lobe is to construct a spatial coordinated system to represent the world around us. 

Individuals with damage to the parietal lobes often show striking deficits, such as abnormalities in body image and spatial relations

The 5  ”F”  commands of the Amygdala






Awareness vs. dissociation


Anger Is A Message

It tells you that you are hurt and you don’t want to be hurt.

Anger is a valid, healthy emotion. 

It is an emotion that can help set limits and boundaries in relationships.

Anger is a tool to help identify needs and wants.

Anger is powerful and needs to be used with respect.


When you know how to respond to your anger positively, you can tap into an unlimited source of personal power. 

This personal power can in turn enable you to speak for yourself and to learn to manage the fear of shame or criticism. 

Anger Alternatives can show you how to work towards your wants without rage, violence, aggression, or controlling behaviors.

Frustration has long been regarded as a major cause of aggression.

Frustration can be viewed as having its roots in the need to control or the need to be in control.

An important feature of frustration is that it becomes very intense before it actually triggers an aggressive act. 

This suggests that a threshold is exceeded before the aggression occurs.

Steps to feel better about yourself

“Step 1: Identify troubling conditions or situations

Think about the conditions or situations that seem to deflate your self-esteem. Common triggers might include: 

A business presentation

A crisis at work or home

A challenge with a spouse, loved one, co-worker or other close contact

A change in life circumstances, such as a job loss or a child leaving home

Step 2: Become aware of thoughts and beliefs


Once you’ve identified troubling conditions or situations, pay attention to your thoughts about them. 

This includes your self-talk — what you tell yourself — and your interpretation of what the situation means. 

Your thoughts and beliefs might be positive, negative or neutral. They might be rational, based on reason or facts, or irrational, based on false ideas.

Step 3: Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking

Your initial thoughts might not be the only possible way to view a situation — so test the accuracy of your thoughts.

 Ask yourself whether your view is consistent with facts and logic or whether other explanations for the situation might be plausible. 

Be aware that it’s sometimes tough to recognize inaccuracies in thinking. These are automatic, long-standing ways of thinking about ourselves. These thoughts and beliefs can feel normal and factual, but many are actually just opinions or perceptions.

Pay attention to thought patterns that tend to erode self-esteem:

All-or-nothing thinking. You see things as either all good or all bad. For example, “If I don’t succeed in this task, I’m a total failure.”

Mental filtering. You see only negatives and dwell on them, distorting your view of a person or situation. For example, “I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I’m not up to this job.“

Converting positives into negatives. You reject your achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count. For example, “I only did well on that test because it was so easy.”

Jumping to negative conclusions. You reach a negative conclusion when little or no evidence supports it. For example, “My friend hasn’t replied to my email, so I must have done something to make her angry.”

Mistaking feelings for facts. You confuse feelings or beliefs with facts. For example, “I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.” 

Self put-downs. You undervalue yourself, put yourself down or use self-deprecating humor. This can result from overreacting to a situation, such as making a mistake. For example, “I don’t deserve anything better.“ (Mayo Clinic)

Step 4: Adjust your thoughts and beliefs

Replace negative or inaccurate thoughts with accurate, constructive thoughts. Try these strategies: 

Use hopeful statements. Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you think your presentation isn’t going to go well, you might indeed stumble through it. Try telling yourself things such as, “Even though it’s tough, I can handle this situation.“ 

Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes — and mistakes aren’t permanent reflections on you as a person. Tell yourself, “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”

Avoid ‘should’ and ‘must’ statements. Using these statements  puts unreasonable demands on yourself — or on others. Removing these words from your thoughts can lead to more realistic expectations.

Focus on the positive. Think about the parts of your life that work well. Consider the skills you’ve used to cope with challenging situations.

Relabel upsetting thoughts. You don’t need to react negatively to negative thoughts. Instead, think of negative thoughts as signals to try new, healthy patterns. Ask yourself, “What can I think and do to make this less stressful?”

Encourage yourself. Give yourself credit for making positive changes. For example, “My presentation might not have been perfect, but my colleagues asked questions and remained engaged — which means that I accomplished my goal.“  (Mayo Clinic)


Brizendine, L., (2010). The Male Brain. Crown Publishing. N.Y.

Comer, R. J. (2011). Fundamentals of Abnormal Psychology, Sixth Edition. New York. Worth Publishers

Carlson, N. (2001). Physiology of Behavior (8th Ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 

Goldstein, B. (2008). Cognitive Psychology, 3rd edition. United States. Wadsworth

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011). Self-esteem: 4 steps to feel better about yourself. Mayo Clinic Health Solutions/MayoClinic.com 

Werbach, M. R. (1999) Nutritional Influences on Mental Illness. (2ed) Firstline Press.

Maietta, K.  (2014). Domestic abuse is not an anger management problem.  Bangor Main Daily News. Retrieved July 7, 2021. From https://bangordailynews.com/2014/08/08/opinion/domestic-abuse-is-not-an-anger-management-problem/ 

Murray, K. (2021). Addiction and anger management. Retrieved 07-03-2021 from Addiction Center https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/anger-management/

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