“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11
Anger is probably the most misunderstood of all of our emotions. We generally think of it as more of a behavior than an emotion: rage, screaming, throwing, intimidating and even harming someone. But it is an emotion, one that is common in all humans. It is important to differentiate between the feeling of anger and the expression or behavior of anger! It can certainly be a powerful, controlling and even dangerous emotion when not appropriately understood and dealt with. But anger in and of itself is not bad; it is an emotion like our others that is neither good nor bad. There are times when anger is incorrectly associated with trivial matters; and times when associated with legitimate concerns, but managed in a way that is irresponsible. So what is anger?
Anger is a strong feeling of frustration, irritability, annoyance or displeasure. It is a secondary emotion experienced in response to primary emotions of hurt, fear or frustration and is an emotion of self-preservation- an intent to preserve something about ourselves. Carter and Minirth (1993) relate this attempt at self-preservation in three areas: Personal worth- a perception of rejection or invalidation; our dignity is demeaned, there is a lack of respect or we feel de-valued; Essential needs- unmet needs such as affirmation, appreciation, love or security trigger anger; and Basic convictions- we become upset at imperfections or wrongs in the world around us related to our beliefs, values and morals. Whatever area anger comes from, healthy expressions of the emotion are possible and we can choose how we respond. Anger can serve as an alarm for intense feelings inside that need to be dealt with in healthy ways. It can motivate us and give us mental and physical energy to take actions that are necessary. It can also reveal a need or a growth area in a relationship.
Anger also has definite physiological effects. There are distinct impacts on our physical bodies regarding anger. In Taking Charge of Anger, Robert Nay advises that we look at signs and symptoms of anger: Heart rate and blood pressure increase to supply more oxygen to brain and muscles; Breathing rate will increase to get more blood to brain and muscles; Stomach and GI system: Look for stomach upset, queasiness, acid reflux, sometimes nausea; Muscles begin to tighten especially in the shoulders, neck, forehead, jaw; Vascular/Skin Temperature Changes: Look for the face to feel flushed, warm, or hot; Senses: Vision, hearing, smell and touch all are more sensitive and magnified; and chemicals are released into your blood such as Adrenalin.
The steps to handling anger in a healthy manner are to first be aware of the emotion. Identify within yourself the hurt, fear or frustration you feel; identify the source and cause of the anger and your own behaviors. Do you withhold praise, attention or affection? Are your words cutting or sarcastic? Do you withdraw or avoid other people for periods of time? Do you show signs of hostility by a raised voice or through aggressive actions such as pushing, shoving or hitting? Next, accept responsibility for the way you respond, that you can choose how you will respond to anger. Hesitating or refusing to admit anger will do nothing to change or eliminate it. Communicate your emotions with others in a constructive manner and consider the needs and feelings of others. You can also choose to forget about it, or drop it. Lastly, evaluate the experience so you can discover more about yourself, your emotions and the underlying issues that may need to be dealt with and resolved. This may take some time, or other resources and support may need to be added into the process. Anger does not have to be acted out in inappropriate ways and can be a catalyst for healthy change if acknowledged and understood.
God’s best to you,