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Marriage 911 02/19/18

5 Ways to Deal with Your Anger

Angry man

Have you exploded in ways that later embarrassed you? Have you acted in ways that surprised you and caused you to wonder what is wrong?

This is often the case with anger — many try to control it, suppressing it until it leaks out. It can come out in an explosive tirade or more indirectly. It has been said if we are passive long enough we will become passive-aggressive, or aggressive. Anger cannot, will not be suppressed indefinitely.

Anger is a natural, adaptive response to a threat of some kind. Anger is an emotional state varying in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury or rage. It ranges from feeling tense to feeling enraged.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

Anger begins by feeling threatened in some way, leading to a surge in blood pressure and an increase in energy hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline. We are ready to 'fight or flight' to defend ourselves. Our pupils constrict, our muscles tighten, our breathing becomes shallow and we ready ourselves for combat.

Unfortunately, too often we fail to understand and deal with our anger appropriately and the result is you may be surprised by your angry eruption.

In my book, The Power of Emotional Decision Making, I share the following story:

"My father would come home in the early evening after a long day at the office and find dishes in the sink. He was obviously displeased about this, expecting the house to be orderly and peaceful. He subsequently spewed anger at my mother and my sisters, ultimately turning his anger onto me for failing to take the garbage out.

"What have you been doing all afternoon? I told you to have those dishes in the sink cleaned when I got home!

And then, he turned on me.

"Why haven't you taken out the garbage, David?"

I'd sputter something, having no good excuse.

"I'll do it, Dad."

"Do it now!"

The unpredictability of my father's eruptions was the most confusing part. Generally a happy and even playful man, his anger frightened me. When I sensed he was in a foul mood, ready to pounce on someone, I'd head for the basement to hide out. I didn't like his anger and most certainly didn't like to be the recipient of it." (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008, p. 105)

How can we understand my father? He snapped, much like a volcano erupts with molten lava. My father had 'molten lava' buried within him and the impact of his suppressed anger on himself and those around them was destructive.

Anger is generally considered a secondary emotion. When we look deeper, we often find that 'molten lava' is really hurt, sadness, fear and other emotion not metabolized. Again, this emotion must go somewhere. That is one reason why the body cannot help but contain all this unexpressed tension.

Most of us feel uncomfortable with our anger. Most of us have a sense we are carrying around some molten lava and seek ways to suppress it. However, anger, like most emotions, is e-motion, energy in motion. You cannot simply suppress it. You cannot wish it away, but can pretend it isn't there and doesn't exist.

Unexpressed anger, however, creates all kinds of problems and leaks out in indirect ways. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger such as the following:

  • Passive-aggressive behavior:We find ways to 'get even' with those we carry grudges against. We might avoid them, withdrawing from them, or find ways of not supporting them. We may 'forget' to do something they have asked of us;
  • Sarcasm: Sarcasm has been called 'anger in a clown suit.' Sarcasm is derisive and hurtful, always concealing inner turmoil and tension;
  • Physical tirades: Sooner or later anger erupts. Anger eruptions may take the form of slamming doors, throwing things or stomping around;
  • Verbal tirades:Molten, eruptive anger may take the form of a temper tantrum, spewing forth of verbal accusations. The verbal tirade may include name-calling, threats and ultimatums;
  • Sulking: Withdrawing from our mate, we punish them with our silence, all the while justifying our right to do so. The 'silent treatment' is a particularly lethal form of passive-aggression;
  • Cynicism: Carrying around the molten lava for a period of time leads to a cynical spirit. We tend to be negative, critical of others, and this sour attitude impacts everyone in our world;
  • Criticizing everything: Closely related to cynicism, harboring anger often leads to being critical about little things. We become perfectionistic and watch for others failing to live up to our standards and then point it out.

What can we do with this molten lava we carry within? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Tune into your body.

Our body generally tells us the truth. Our body will give us needed information on how we are doing with the stresses of life. Listen to it. Attend to it. See what it has to say to you.

2. Listen to the unmet need being expressed in your anger.

Anger suggests you have unmet needs. Again, listen to the emotion and see what it might be saying to you. Who are you angry with and why? What do you need different in your life?

3. Assert yourself.

No one can read your mind. Speak up. Ask for what you need. What is the worst that can happen? Being aware of your needs and asking for what you will want will, at the least, inform others of your desires. You will also learn a critically important skill.

4. Set healthy boundaries.

Say 'no' at appropriate times. Set limits on what you expect from yourself and others. Live in balance and notice your tension decrease.  

5. Take your burdens to the Lord.

Scripture tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) The Lord cares about everything happening in our lives and waits for you to call on Him. Take your burdens to Him in prayer and notice the relief.    

Do you carry smoldering anger within? Do you erupt at times, surprising yourself and others around you?  

We'd love to hear from you. Share your feedback below or email a confidential note to Dr. David Hawkins and his team and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on my website: marriagerecoverycenter.com. You'll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency, and affair-proofing your marriage.

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