In this counseling answer:
The underlying emotion commonly associated with anger tends to be fear of a loss of control. Therefore, it is important that instead of ignoring, family members openly discuss their problems. In addition, the counselor also offers some tips from the Sunnah for anger management.
As-Salamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu sister,
This problem you describe is a common one, and the effect of its destructiveness is well known. The Sunnah gives us much advice and warning about managing and reducing one’s anger.
Living with a family member who has an anger problem is very difficult since it creates an atmosphere of tension and aggression as the norm. Families can suffer an ongoing underlying stress which makes life in general harder. Most often, the person who is expressing anger may not even realize the impact of their behavior because the fear of further arguments with the angry person means that the anger is rarely challenged. This takes a lot of energy on all sides.
I understand that is not easy, sister, but in sha’ Allah it is a problem that can be solved with some persistence, family unity, and a strong resolution to solve the problem.
My first thought is to ask, has anyone sat down with your mother and discussed this problem? Is she aware of it and the effect it is having on the family and their relationship with her? My experience with managing anger problems is that the fear and disruption it creates leads people to avoid rather than manage the problem so the anger controls people’s reactions to the anger as well as controls their behavior.
The problem is that rather than rejecting the angry behavior, it is being accommodated. This causes further disunity and personal unhappiness and distress whilst keeping the anger alive. You would be surprised how often people accommodate other people’s bad behavior and make excuses for it and so the behavior continues and the person does not even know they are behaving unreasonably.
Yes, it is true that we must try and find excuses for some behaviors, but when the behavior creates problems that are unjust and go against the advice of the Sunnah and Islam, then we need to look at the behavior directly and solve the problem. The problem needs to be managed at a number of levels, both at an individual and family level:
Practically, this is a situation for your father to deal with as the „shepherd” of the family (as the husband is described in the Sunnah). He must help his wife understand that her behavior is disruptive to family life and causing rifts and is far from what is advised in the Sunnah.
We are told in Quran,
“…. and for Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for Al-Muttaqun (the pious). Those who spend (in Allah’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (3:133-135)
And clearly in hadith,
„The strong one is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Bukhari)
„A man said to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), ’Advise me!’ The Prophet said, ’Do not become angry and furious.’ The man asked (the same) again and again and the Prophet said in each case, Do not become angry and furious.” (Bukhari)
So, to ignore anger is not beneficial at all. We assume if we ignore a problem it goes away or will not affect us, but the reality is it tends only to persist and becomes part of our everyday lives. The adjustment to it fools us into thinking that it is easy to cope with or we are used to it. But this is rarely the case, and sometimes one needs to highlight the problem and address it directly.
Psychologically, the underlying emotion commonly associated with anger tends to be fear of a loss of control. So anger is used to protect oneself and maintain some form of power in a given situation where the individual has some insecurity about their life. Of course, it is more complicated than this, but this is the most common explanation around anger.
So I am wondering: is your mother upset about things in her life? Has her life changed that she has lost control and had problems or circumstances taken over her own life choices and needs? Is she happy with her life? Does she feel every decision is a struggle of power within the family? Of course, since I have not spoken to her, I can only make tentative suggestions. It may be the case that your mother is not thinking in these terms but it is perhaps some form of explanation.
Alternatively, it may be that the initial reasons for the anger may have been resolved but the anger has become habit as it has gone unchallenged for so long. Again, this is something that perhaps your father needs to think about with her.
If it is the case that she has some underlying distress, then clearly she needs to see a psychologist for some therapy. However, my feeling is that she may not readily admit to this or appreciate the suggestion so you may have to take some measures at home also to directly deal with the anger itself.
Anger is a portion of the Hellfire; therefore, we are told in the Sunnah:
To read ta`awudh i.e. read: a`udhu billahi min Ash-Shaytan ir-rajeem (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan).
Sulaiman bin Surad narrated: while I was sitting in the company of the Prophet (saw), two men abused each other and the face of one of them became red with anger and his jugular vein swelled (i.e., he became furious). On that the Prophet (saw) said, ’I know a word, the saying of which will cause him to relax, if he does say it. If he says, ’A’udhu billahi minash-shaitan (I seek refuge with Allah from Satan).’ Then all his anger will go away…’”(Bukhari)
Also, if you are standing then sit down, and if you are sitting then lie down.
To drink water since this cools the effect of the fire/heat in the body when one is angry
To make wudu’ (ablution)
Perhaps, though this is not in the Sunnah regarding anger, since one has wudu’ anyhow, one could pray two nafl rak`ahs (supererogatory Prayer), since we are told in Quran, “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (13: 28). This is clearly one form of remembrance.
Research has revealed that the positions one gets into during two nafl rak`ahs cover all the positions and benefits cited in yoga. So, clearly, there is a benefit in just doing this for the mind and body.
Consider also the instances where you have predicted an argument with your mother but it did not take place. Can you identify the factors that prevented the anger being expressed? These are the factors that you need to reinforce.
So, while you are trying to sort out the anger, if you are aware that certain behaviors allow you to express your view without an argument, keep doing them. These might be environmental factors i.e. talking in a specific manner or at certain times or with certain people. Using these will help you reduce the effects of the anger until you have resolved the overall problem.
Regarding your own intentions of separating from your parents after marriage, I believe this is a planned breaking of silat rahimbarakah (blessing) in your marriage if this is the first thing you do after it.
If you find the relationship with your mother is difficult, then try and stay away from those topics of conversation which creates arguments between you and your mother. Also try reciting ta`awudh and doing a little anger management of your own.
If you enter the conversation with your mother with an expectation of anger, then you are likely to react quicker and create the angry situation than if you decide that there will be no aggression, no matter what the topic is.
The difficulty is that you have now built up a direct association between your mother and anger. You need to break this association. That takes hard work and practice. The hadith tells us that Allah (swt) keeps a place in Jannah for the person who prevents himself from arguing.
If your parents feel their relationship cannot be improved and they agree to separate, that is between them. It is not something you use to justify your own breaking of silat rahim. Try not to convince yourself that this is a justification for breaking relations. It is not.
May Allah Al `Alim (The Knower of All) grant us all guidance from arguing unnecessarily and bring you closer together at this important time. May He Al Wadud (The Loving One) bring you peace and comfort in your parents for He is the Turner of Hearts.
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