When I have asked clients to describe anger I hear words and phrases like hot, uncontrollable, rage, out of body experience, blackout, temporary release of tension, numb, exhaustion, explosive.
When I have asked clients to give anger a color there has only ever been two colors given: black or red.
When asked the result of anger I have heard embarrassment, regret, ruined relationships, hatred, isolation, physical injury, hardened heart, loss of morals and values, loss of employment, bitterness toward everyone and everything, loss of identity.
How would YOU describe anger?
What color do YOU give anger?
How has anger impacted YOUR life?
Anger is an emotion most people have experienced at some point in their life. It is also an emotion that, if not checked quickly, can escalate resulting in not-so-pleasant endings.
Is anger bad? Don’t I have the right to be angry?
Anger is an emotional response to a real or perceived threat or provoke. Anger in itself is not a bad emotion, but how you choose to express it makes it healthy or unhealthy. If you’re driving in your car and another driver cuts you off anger is an okay emotion to have: they have threatened your potential safety. Acknowledging you feel angry is healthy…screaming obscenities until veins pop out of your neck while lying on the horn for 45 seconds as you swerve into the next lane, accelerating with the goal to cut them off at which point you shake a fist at them….now that is unhealthy anger. That is the out of control, black in color, embarrassing regretful form of anger described earlier. Scripture states in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” For those who struggle with anger management quietly holding back emotional rages is not second nature…in fact it is not in their nature at all. If we know anger is a response to a threat and we know the antidote to it is wisdom and silence we now have a foundation to build on to learn anger management!
Learning anger management skills is important for all of us. Throughout life we will be provoked by various people and situations, having wise reactions prevents us from foolish outbursts! If you are someone who struggles with anger and recognizes the descriptions I gave earlier all too well, seeking help from a counselor is a fantastic way to work through your angry reactions. Often anger is not a primary emotion, especially if it is expressed frequently. Anger is actually a secondary emotion meaning instead of admitting we are sad, embarrassed, offended, anxious, etc. we create an emotional facade known as “anger.” This facade becomes our crutch and our go-to emotion and there is the birthplace of anger management issues. There is the birthplace of explosive, isolating, rage-type anger that shows its ugly face any time an emotional response is required.
Here are a few techniques to help you with anger management.
Counseling. There is no shame in seeking help for your anger. This is probably the fastest solution as you work to find the root of the anger, learn to identify the primary emotion(s) that are masked as anger, learn management skills, and have confidential professional accountability.
Anger thermometer. Creating a thermometer picture that alerts you to your thoughts and behaviors when you are calm-frustrated-angry-furious will give you warning signs about where you’re at. Color the thermometer the color you consider each emotional state (I.e. calm green, frustrated yellow, etc.). When you begin to feel frustrated you will be aware and use skills to bring you back down to calm. (create your own thermometer with your own colors or print this one in grey scale!)
Count to 10 sloooowly and breathe. When you recognize your signs of anger stay silent, take deep slow breathes while counting very slowly to 10. You may need to count higher than ten or try counting backwards from 50.
Walk away and be resolution focused. If you’re feeling a very angry towards another person, the best avoidance technique is to simply walk away. You owe no explanation, simply walk away to remove yourself from the situation. As you walk away ask yourself where you are on your thermometer, count and breathe, and seek an alternative approach to the situation that does not require an angry expression. Be the bigger person by only returning when you are capable of suppressing your anger completely.
Anger is a painful emotional facade to live with. Even those I have worked with who proclaimed pride in their anger and their ability to intimidate others to get what they want through angry expressions were hiding behind fear that if they were not angry they would have no self-defense. No one wins when anger is expressed. The angry person suffers and the victim of the anger suffers. Throughout history and according to biblical truth, anger is the result of swift reactions lacking a thought process. I encourage you to try these few anger management skills to reduce your emotional reaction and choose an alternative response to frustrating situations. If you feel you need counseling, www.psychologytoday.com offers an easy and effective way to find a counselor near you who works specifically with anger management.
I know changing your ways can feel like you’re losing a self-defense mechanism, but I promise you, you are gaining so many more healthy coping skills to replace an unhealthy emotional facade!
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. JAMES 1:19-20