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'I used to hit my husband'

Intense anger caused Florence Terry to hit her husband. An anger-management course helped her regain control, and changed her life.

"The first time I hit my husband was about 14 years ago. I was cross with him and lost my temper. He was upset and I felt dreadful, and cried and apologised. I felt scared and ashamed, but thought it was a one-off.

"It didn’t happen again for many months, maybe as many as 18 months. During that time there was verbal criticism and crossness from me, but nothing violent. I can’t actually remember the second time I hit him. I’m sorry to say it became a pattern.

"Looking back, I was under a lot of stress from my job as a divorce lawyer, and I was packing my free time with other commitments, such as charity work."

Losing control

"I began to lose my temper every few months or so. When it happened I would think that, despite being angry, I was calm and talking rationally. But I was actually getting enraged without realising. One minute I’d be talking with a raised voice, and the next my limbs would be doing things I didn’t want them to.

"I remember feeling as though I was out of my body, watching myself and telling myself to stop, but I couldn’t. On one occasion I picked up a table and banged it down so hard it broke. On another, I poured a can of my husband's fizzy drink on the carpet because I was angry about his unhealthy diet.

"He said my outbursts weren’t a big issue, but I felt it was completely unacceptable. I felt ashamed, and didn’t talk to anyone about what was going on. It was a secret. I felt like a hypocrite. Everybody thought I was a sweet, calm person.

"After losing my temper I’d be in tears and apologise, but also had to say, ‘I can’t tell you it won’t happen again because I know it will’. I knew I was out of control."

Getting help for anger

"The turning point came when I saw a leaflet for the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM). I’d been looking for help but there didn’t seem to be anywhere apart from probation services that offered it. I’d even contacted a domestic violence group, but they only helped men.

"I enrolled on a weekend course called Beating Anger, run by BAAM. There were about 15 others. I was scared at first, but it really helped me. I realised I wasn’t alone, and I learnt that angry behaviour is a physical response you can control.

"I had thought that I went straight from talking to hitting, but there is an escalation from one to the other, and if you recognise the warning signs you can back off. For me, the warning sign is my heart beating faster. When I feel this, I know I need to leave the room.

"After the course I was able to say to my husband, ‘I am sorry, and it won’t happen again’.

"It did happen again, two years after the course. I got over-confident and thought I could control my anger without backing off, even though I felt my heart beating faster. Suddenly my hand was striking his cheek. It hasn’t happened since. I get angry less often now, and much less angry when I do."

Making some life changes

"The course also helped me look at other areas of my life, such as work and looking after myself.

"I decided to make fewer commitments in my free time, and I also pay more attention to eating healthily. I avoid having a lot of caffeine as it can make me agitated. The course raised some issues about my childhood, and therapy has been really effective in helping me deal with that. 

"A key issue for me is sleep. My husband used to come to bed later than me and I’d wake up, which left me tired and annoyed, so I now often sleep in another room. It sounds odd to some people, not to sleep in the same bed every night, but it works well for us.

"I realised work was putting a lot of stress on me, and I’m now self-employed. I still work in law, but I also work in mediation and run anger management courses. It’s challenging, but makes me deeply happy to see other people gain control.

"I’m passionate about helping people learn how to deal with anger and conflict. If I had found the course earlier I’d have been saved so much pain.”

For more information about Florence’s work, see the Stop Seeing Red website.

Page last reviewed: 16/07/2014

Next review due: 31/10/2016


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