Verbal Fight Scenes: 2 Dysfunctional Anger Types


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I am going to introduce the Viper and the Ostrich. These are my (impromptu) names for two opposing anger management styles. It might help you, as you develop your characters, to consider them at two ends of a spectrum of dysfunctional styles. Both feel anger and react to it but accidentally do so in ways that prevent resolution of the deeper problem that they are reacting to. Their behavior patterns beg for you to write verbal fight scenes.

The Viper lashes out at others. Often only a tiny surface piece of the issue is addressed. She has a reason for being angry but because she attacks people, the injustice, imbalance, or threat does not get resolved. After the verbal fight, she may feel bitter or even more determined to solve the problem. Unfortunately, she will probably use the same methods as last time and people will respond in the same way as before. Further, her emotional outbursts can undermine her future attempts (“she’s just hysterical”). If only the Viper learned effective anger management, she might actually become a champion for herself and her cause.

The Ostrich hides from her anger until that anger bursts into angry motion. She (and others) sees herself as “nice”. She often denies feeling anger – even to herself – and fights it by trying to bury it in guilt, justifications, and excuses. The “nicer” she acts, the greater the internal pressure of the anger. It builds and builds until it geysers forth – often at inappropriate moments and over minor things. The verbal fight scene often ends with the Ostrich feeling fearful, tearful, hurt, and/or guilty. The opponent often bolsters this reaction. After all, a “nice” person puts others first, sacrifices her own needs to meet the needs of others, right? The Ostrich often has tremendous empathy and compassion for others. If only she learned effective anger management, she could channel these strengths while meeting both her needs and the needs of those around her.

The Viper and the Ostrich provide just one spectrum of dysfunctional anger management for you to explore. Knowing different dysfunctional styles of anger management is important since these types allow for more conflict, greater character growth, and more nuanced characters. Good places to get ideas for anger management types are books,articles, and videos on fixing these problems. To create characters with room to grow, just take the self-help book’s ideal, then flip it backwards and turn it inside out.

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