“Anyone can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not within everyone’s power, and that is not easy”. – Aristotle
Anger can be a powerful and positive motivator, useful to move us toward loving action to right wrongs and correct injustice—but it also can become a raging, uncontrolled force. Gary Chapman shares some very great insights on the very powerful emotion: “Anger” with lots of examples and learnings from the Christian scripture.
The dictionary describes anger as “a strong passion or emotion of displeasure, and usually antagonism, excited by a sense of injury or insult.” Although we normally think of anger as an emotion, it is in reality a cluster of emotions involving the body, the mind, and the will. Anger is a response to some event or situation in life that causes us irritation, frustration, pain, or other displeasure. Thousands of events and situations have the potential for provoking anger.
“The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” – Seneca
Here are my favourite takeaways from reading, Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion by Gary Chapman:
- Anger is fed by feelings of disappointment, hurt, rejection, and embarrassment. Anger pits you against the person, place, or thing that sparked the emotion. It is the opposite of the feeling of love. Love draws you toward the person; anger sets you against the person.
Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way
- Anger is everywhere. Spouses are angry at each other. Employees are angry at bosses. Teens are angry at parents (and vice versa). Citizens are angry at their government. Television news routinely shows angry demonstrators shouting their wrath or the weeping mother of a teen gunned down in an angry quarrel. Spend some time around a major airport when bad weather has canceled flights, and you will observe anger in action.
Anger is “nature’s way” of preparing humans to respond in times of danger.
Effect on the Body
- The body also gets in on the experience of anger. The body’s autonomic nervous system “gets the adrenaline flowing.” Depending upon the level of anger, any or all of the following may happen physically. The adrenal glands release two hormones: epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These two chemicals seem to give people the arousal, the tenseness, the excitement, the heat of anger, and in turn these hormones affect the heart rate, blood pressure, lung function, and digestive tract activity.
Anger is the emotion that arises whenever we encounter what we perceive to be wrong. The emotional, physiological, and cognitive dimensions of anger leap to the front burner of our experience when we encounter injustice.
Types of Anger: DEFINITIVE OR DISTORTED?
Two questions are important in determining the validity of anger. The first is, What wrong was committed? And the second is, Am I sure I have all the facts?
Two kinds of anger exist: definitive and distorted.
- Definitive anger is born of wrongdoing. Someone treats us unfairly, steals our property, lies about our character, or in some other way does us wrong. It is valid anger.
- The second kind of anger, however, is not valid. It is triggered by a mere disappointment, an unfulfilled desire, a frustrated effort, a bad mood, or any number of other things that have nothing to do with any moral transgression. The situation simply has made life inconvenient for us, touched one of our emotional hot spots, or happened at a time when we were extremely tired or stressed.
Distorted anger is based upon a perception of wrong, whereas definitive anger is based upon genuine wrong. It becomes apparent that if we treat all anger as definitive, we will make some serious blunders in judgment.
In processing anger toward someone with whom you have a relationship, two questions are paramount:
1. Is my response positive—does it have the potential for dealing with the wrong and healing the relationship?
2. Is my response loving—is it designed for the benefit of the person at whom I am angry?
Sometimes examining our anger will lead us to question the person with whom we are angry. If we understand that we may not have all the facts, then we should be motivated to seek the facts before we jump to wrong conclusions.
Good vs Bad Anger
Definition: Anger toward any kind of genuine wrongdoing; mistreatment, injustice, breaking of laws
Sparked by: Violation of laws or moral code
How to recognize: If you can answer yes to the questions, Was a wrong committed? and Do I have all the facts?
What to do: Either confront the person or decide to overlook the offense.
Definition: Anger toward a perceived wrongdoing where no wrong occurred.
Sparked by: People who hurt us; stress; fatigue; unrealistic expectations
How to recognize: Feelings of frustration or disappointment feed the anger.
What to do: Halt the anger, and gather information to process your anger.
Five-step process of handling Anger
(1) consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are angry;
“I am angry about this! Now, what am I going to do?”
(2) restrain your immediate response;
Restraining our response is not the same as storing our anger. It is refusing to take the action that we typically take when feeling angry.
“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” – Author Ambrose Bierce
(3) locate the focus of your anger;
WHY ARE YOU REALLY ANGRY?
Why am I so angry? Is it what my spouse has said or done? Is it the way he or she is talking? Is it the way he or she is looking at me? Does my spouse’s behavior remind me of my mother or father? Is my anger toward my spouse influenced by something that happened at work today or in my childhood years ago?
“The bottom line in locating the focus of your anger is to discover the wrong committed by the person at whom you are angry. What is the person’s sin? How has she wronged you?”
The secondary issue is, how serious is the offense?
You may find it helpful to rate the seriousness of the issue on a scale of one to ten, with ten as the most serious of offenses and one as a minor irritation. Numbering the level of offense will not only help you get it in perspective, but sharing the number with the person at whom you are angry may prepare him or her mentally and emotionally to process the anger with you.
(4) analyze your options
It is now time to ask the question, What are the possible actions I could take? You may want to write down the thoughts that come to your mind or verbalize them aloud to yourself.
(5) take constructive action.
HOW TO HANDLE YOUR ANGER
1. Consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are angry. Say it out loud: “I’m angry about this! Now what am I going to do?” Such a statement makes you aware of your own anger and also helps you recognize both your anger and the action you are going to take. You have set the stage for applying reason to your anger.
2. Restrain your immediate response. Avoid the common but destructive responses of verbal or physical venting or their opposite, withdrawal and silence. Refuse to take the action that you typically take when feeling angry. Waiting can help you avoid both saying and doing things you may not mean and later will regret.
3. Locate the focus of your anger. What words or actions by the other person have made you angry? If the person has truly wronged you, identify the person’s sin. How has she wronged you? Then determine how serious the offense is. Some wrongs are minor and some are major. Knowing its seriousness should affect your response.
4. Analyze your options. Ask yourself: Does the action I am considering have any potential for dealing with the wrong and helping the relationship? And is it best for the person at whom I am angry? The two most constructive options are either to confront the person in a helpful way, or to consciously decide to overlook the matter.
5. Take constructive action. If you choose to “let the offense go,” then, in prayer, confess your anger and your willingness to turn the person over to God. Then release your anger to Him. If you choose to confront the person who has wronged you, do so gently. Listen to any explanation; it can give you a different perspective on the person’s actions and intentions. If the person admits that what he or she did was wrong and asks you to forgive, do so.
HOW TO HANDLE “BAD” ANGER
“I NEED YOUR HELP”: SHARING INFORMATION”
- Sharing information rather than judgment is the first step in processing distorted anger. In sharing information, you are focusing on making the other person aware of your emotions, your thoughts, and your concerns. You are focusing on the event that provoked your feelings, not on the person. You are more likely to be able to do this if you have first determined that the person has not wronged you.
- Negotiating understanding is an important part of human relationships, whether the relationship be in the family, church, vocation, or any other area. All of us feel better about our relationships when we negotiate understanding. Even distorted anger indicates that something needs attention. Such anger seldom dissipates without open, loving communication between the parties involved.
- In all human relationships, people will find certain behavioral characteristics irritating. Though the particular behaviors may differ, the resulting irritations often stir anger within us. For the most part, this anger is distorted in that the other person’s behavior is not morally wrong; he or she has not perpetrated an evil against us. If the relationship is a close relationship and the person is one with whom we spend a great deal of time, such as in family or vocation, it is sometimes helpful to seek to mitigate these irritations by requesting change.
Dealing with Implosive Anger
- Definition: “Implosive” anger is internalized anger that is never expressed.
- Sparked by: Fear of confrontation; belief that feeling or expressing anger is wrong.
- How to recognize: Person denies that he or she is angry; responds by withdrawing; says things like, “I’m not angry, but I’m disappointed.”
- Results: Physiological and psychological stress; “passive-aggressive” behavior; can lead to resentment, bitterness, and even hatred and violence.
SIX STEPS TOWARD DEALING WITH LONG-TERM ANGER
1. Make a list of (significant) wrongs done to you over the years.
2. Analyze how you responded to each event or person.
3. If the person is no longer living or available to reconcile, release your anger toward them to God.
4. For those still living, decide whether to seek reconciliation or to let the offense go.
5. If you decide to proceed with reconciliation, bring a trusted third party, such as a pastor, to the meeting. This third party can act as a mediator or facilitator during the dispute and keep the dialogue on the main issue.
6. Seek forgiveness. Reconciliation almost always requires forgiveness, usually by you, but sometimes by the other party, whom you have perhaps unintentionally offended.
FORGIVING WHEN YOU’VE BEEN WRONGED
1. Rebuke the offending person—bring the offense to his or her attention. Do this only after you have calmed down emotionally.
2. Wait for the person to admit his wrongdoing and express a desire to turn from practicing that wrong in the future. When the individual does this, you should forgive him or her.
3. Even after the person repents, realize that there might be lasting scars from the event. You may still struggle with anger or disappointment, but remember that forgiveness entails a commitment to accept the person in spite of what he or she has done.
“In reality, our anger is at the very heart of who we are. Tell me what you are angry about, and I will tell you what is important to you.”
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.