Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Anger * Emotional Health Series

What I have found is that, yes, we all have the right and need to feel and own our anger. It’s an important human experience. And it’s critical to recognize that maintaining any level of rage, anger, or contempt (that favorite concoction of a little anger and a little disgust) over a long period of time is not sustainable.  
Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempt to create change and forge a connection. 
It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice…..Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.
Brene Brown 




Angry.  Who, me?

We like to pretend that anger's not an occasional or frequent companion.  We'd prefer to believe that it never rears its ugly head, that we are somehow immune from its presence in our lives.  Or as more than one client has told me, 'Good Christians don't get angry.'

Don't believe that lie.

God's no stranger to anger.  In the Old Testament, we see Him repeatedly respond to sin and evil, disobedience and injustice with wrath over His children's heart-attitudes and behavior ... matters of eternal significance.

Our anger usually erupts or leaches out over issues that don't matter in the light of eternity.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes, 'If you are angry, don't sin by nursing your grudge.  Don't let the sun go down with you still angry' {Ephesians 4:26 TLB}.

He acknowledges that yes, anger happens.  And we are obliged to responsibly deal with it sooner rather than later.

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Actually, anger is a secondary emotion.

It's really about primary emotions such as hurt, frustration, fear.

Anger is a natural, biological response, a survival mode that God has created that occurs when we feel threatened.  As adrenaline escalates, a rapidly escalating process occurs that can quickly lead to a point of no return.  The good news is that we are able to make pro-active choices to interrupt that process and communicate our feelings and needs in ways that are healthy and respectful.

We must claim these two truths: 
I never have a right to hurt anyone unless it is in physical self-defense.

and

When I hurt someone inappropriately, it destroys our relationship and it also hurts me.




What to do?

STEP 1 - Acknowledge that you have an anger problem.

STEP 2 - Make the choice to accept responsibility for managing your own anger, instead of managing another’s behavior.

STEP 3 - Identify the feelings behind your anger.
Hurt, frustration, fear, feeling disrespected, whatever it may be.

STEP 4 - Identify the first physical sign of anger.
Dry mouth, racing heart, churning stomach, pounding head, clenched fists, raised voice.

STEP 5 - Quickly and quietly take a time-out.
At the first physical sign of anger, without a word, quietly leave the room for at least 20 minutes.  Make it impossible for you to show your anger to those around you.  Do something physical to reduce the adrenaline and release physical tension.  Take a walk, go for a run, or work out.  Do not get behind the wheel of a car.

STEP 6 - Cool down and process.
Sit quietly with God. Through prayer or journaling, talk with Him about what you’ve experienced.

- Acknowledge the situation, own your feelings and how you reacted.

- Ask for forgiveness for any reactions that were inappropriate, unhealthy, or unkind.

- Make a plan to respond in a more positive way the next time you feel hurt, frustrated, fearful, or disrespected.

STEP 7 - Re-engage, listen well, and communicate with love and respect.
Engage in positive interaction with your companion. The goals are to improve the relationship and to solve a problem.

- Use respectful words to communicate your feelings of hurt, frustration, fear, or disrespect.

- Use 'I' statements, not 'you' statements.

- Ask for forgiveness for your responses that were inappropriate, unhealthy, or unkind.

STEP 8 - Pray together.
If appropriate to the situation, this might be the hardest step of all.  But it certainly can be the most rewarding ... and bring the two of you together to talk with the only One who is able to equip you to communicate in ways that are Christ-honoring.

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And if we dare pride ourselves in not making it a habit to fly off the handle, be aware that passive aggressive anger prowls around and makes itself disrespectful and obnoxious in the form of sarcasm, negativity, chronic tardiness, playing the victim, blame-shifting, button-pushing, and other destructive attitudes and behaviors.

I think it's fair to say that God is speaking to us all.  And the beautiful reality is that He is powerfully ready, willing, and able to give us 'everything we need for life and godliness' {2 Peter 1:3}.






P.S.
I love that you're sharing this little Emotional Health Series with your Facebook friends and on your other social media spaces ... thank you, thank you!  And if you're new around here, I invite you to subscribe!




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on Wednesdays

40 comments:

  1. Amazing advice as always, Linda!
    Yes, we will become angry (I was there just the other day and certainly could have used your tips then), but it's knowing how to deal with those feelings that get us past the anger and on to healing. I will remember these steps in the future.
    Blessings!

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    1. These are familiar steps to many of my clients ... and maybe most especially, to me!

      'Cause it's hard to take others to a place you haven't yet been yourself ...

      ;-}

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  2. Excellent take away's here Linda. I've saved it for personal reminders and counseling moments. I especially like this line from Brene Brown: Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion. I suppose I need to crack open her book that's been in my house a couple of weeks now :)

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    1. My copy of Brene's new book is 'in transit' to my library, Debby. I can't wait to read it, but have learned that her words are ones to be savored and mused over.

      She's never a quick read! But her take-aways are tremendous, aren't they ...

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  3. Great insight again, Linda. I love the description of anger as "an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice." Anger scares me. I guess because I've seen adverse results of it in my dad as a child. If someone gets angry, not necessarily at me, I feel myself cower inside. Subconsciously I think I don't want to express anger at anyone and hurt them, so instead, I direct it inwardly at myself. Then it becomes "life-sucking." I'm still a work-in-progress... Thank you for portraying anger as "a natural, biological response, a survival mode that God has created that occurs when we feel threatened." Thank you for helping me to reflect on anger and all the emotions you're bring out. I appreciate it more than you know!

    I have listened to Brene's videos, but I have never actually read one of her books, though they have been on my Amazon wishlist (as so many books are!). I have recently heard from two people that Gifts of Imperfection is their favorite. Do you have a favorite? Love and hugs to you! ❤️

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    1. You're right, Trudy. When you look at that word ANGER, it can so easily fill us with dread and fear.

      I love the idea of reclaiming it for a better purpose ... and I'm thinking that in the process, healing can have a chance to do its work.

      And yes, anger turned inward can lead to all kinds of ugly stuff including depression and anxiety. I forgot to put that in there, so I appreciate that your thoughtful comments are prompting me to mention it in this followup conversation!

      Blessings to you, dear ...

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  4. Anger can sometimes be a justifiable emotion. If it was not for anger we would not stand-up to wrongdoings in this world. Jesus was angry enough to overturn the traders' tables in the temple. That said, anger should be controlled and used proportionally to suit the situation.

    God bless.

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    1. Yes, anger, properly managed, can fuel our battles against injustice and evil.

      Oh to respond as Jesus did ...

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  5. My angriest moments are behind the wheel of a car so I chuckled about your comment “not to get behind the wheel of the car.” The way others drive makes me feel threatened - the MH Bridge can be a harrowing experience at times. I do recognize at times my need to follow steps 1-4 while I maneuver around someone swerving in front of me.

    I don’t agree with all Brown writes but she explains internalizing/externalizing anger well. Internalizing anger kills joy and externalitizing anger makes us less effective in attempting change and keeping connections. No fear, road rage is not my style.

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    1. I agree, Carol! Not much is more frightening than feeling powerless behind the wheel ... or in the passenger seat watching craziness zoom past your windows.

      Now that I live out in the middle of nowhere, any venturing back on to major interstate roads brings out my worst side.

      I'm happy puttering along at 30 mph.

      ;-}

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  6. Very helpful suggestions, thank you. I don't tend to blow up at people, but I do experience anger in other unhealthy ways which are no better. I just had an incident this week when I got unnecessarily and overly angry over a very small thing, and acted in a mocking way when out of the other person's sight, and then was afraid they saw me. I don't think they actually did, but the shame over that and the inappropriateness of it all drove me to confession and prayer. I didn't speak to the person, because they didn't act as if they had seen it, and I figured if they didn't, it might make things worse for them to know. Somewhere in all that, Proverbs 19:11 came to mind: "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression."

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    1. You're so right, Barbara! It's often the smallest and most insignificant of things that sets us off ... which is usually my clue that something of significance is going on inside of me that needs examination.

      And there's nothing like a journey through Proverbs to point out our foolishness and need for God's wisdom, is there ...

      ;-}

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  7. I will link you on Facebook. WELL SAID! I seldom get angry, but when I do--BOY--WATCH OUT! I do claim the right to righteous anger--BUT it has to be let go of also! It's a poison that will eat us from the inside out!
    Thank You for a great post!
    Blessings!

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    1. Yay! Thanks for bringing your tribe over this way, friend!

      And I hear exactly what you're saying about the righteous anger ... it doesn't give us license to react in ways that are unhealthy and ungodly.

      Poison. Yes, yes ... anger, unforgiveness, all that stuff.

      Yuck.

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  8. Wonderful advice, Linda! I love your 8-step process. I honestly wasted so many years wrapped up in anger. It fueled a lot of my time stuck in addiction. I've made great strides with it but it still rears its ugly head every once in a while. Your description of it as a secondary emotion stemming from hurt, fear... is so eye-opening! I need to remember that to help get to the core of the problem in those heated moments. Thank you, my friend.

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    1. For sure, Candace ... anger and addiction are a toxic mix where one fuels the other.

      These 8 steps have been a huge help to clients, Christian women, who have been determined to walk away from anger. I'm happy to share them today.

      Don't you just love that we're not defined by our emotions or addictions, we're defined by our Savior?!!

      Amen.

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  9. This is all great advice, Linda! Learning to recognise our anger and deal with it in a positive way is so important. For a long time I felt I shouldn't be angry and held it inside, not even realising it was there.
    This is such a helpful series, and emotional health is a topic that seems to be coming up everywhere for me right now so I'm grateful for your insights. Our talk at church on Sunday was actually very similar to your post!

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    1. Oh I love that you're in a church where you find hope and healing, Lesley, and practical help to navigate life. It's hard to separate our emotions and our spirituality. We surely are fearfully and wonderfully made ... every part intertwined with the other.

      So glad you're finding something of value here, too, friend. Thanks for that encouragement!

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  10. Such a good post, Linda. I have two boys who default to anger when they are stressed or provoked. It's been hard to help them identify what their triggers are and help them divert before they go into anger mode. anger is one of the hardest emotions to get a handle on. We've tried to help the boys begin to understand that anger is an emotion God has given us, but He tells us in our anger do not sin. SO HARD.

    But I love your tips. They are spot on. Great post, friend!

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    1. Oh Jeanne. I don't know if I could live through those teenage years again ... personally or as a parent. As I read your words, my heart goes out to you and my prayer goes up to Him.

      May you find God giving you everything you need for parenting in this challenging season where so much is assaulting our kids. He is so very able.

      May your sons grow up to be men of character, integrity, and godliness. Like their mama ...

      Bless you.

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  11. fascinating series, Linda. Interesting to ponder that anger is a secondary emotion - makes sense. to me.

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    1. It kinda shifts your perspective when you realize that there's something vulnerable that needs tending to beneath the all that bluster ...

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  12. I really like this post Linda. I grew up with a person who was, and still is, although not to the same degree, filled with anger. It took me a very long time to be able to understand that her anger wasn't really because of me. I hadn't done anything to deserve her anger and there wasn't really a time when we could "talk it out" because she would always be angry and there wasn't really anything I had done to deserve it. In your step 3, I think it's important to acknowledge your own participation when identifying your anger. Many times we become angry over situations we cannot control or we don't have the life skills or means to control. Sometimes we take that anger out on people in our lives. In those times, we need to acknowledge the feelings of the other person and not just ourselves. Anger is very selfish. Jesus teaches us to walk in our neighbor's shoes...or our families shoes. When we are only acknowledging our own feelings we are alone but when we acknowledge the feelings of others we become one with them. I don't disagree with any of your post...I just wanted to add my rambling thoughts on some of it.

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    1. I'm so sorry you've had such a difficult relationship for so long, friend. Just like you said, sooner or later we realize that their anger isn't about us at all, but about their own woundedness and need for healing.

      I love how you talk about the need for each of us to own our own stuff. When we come from that place, it becomes more possible to create healthy boundaries where grace and truth can mingle well.

      Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I'm guessing that others who read it will resonate strongly.

      Bless you, my New England blogger-buddy!

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  13. Linda, this is all so good, but two things really hit home with me in this post. First, this line: "Our anger usually erupts or leaches out over issues that don't matter in the light of eternity." That's convicting my heart right now for sure. And then that last bit about priding ourselves in not flying off the handle? Yikes! You're right ... God is speaking to us all!

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    1. He most certainly is, isn't He.

      And sometimes, most especially when we're writing!

      Good to 'see' you, girl ...

      ;-}

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  14. I found myself angry with my son recently, and we were driving somewhere so couldn't walk away. But I kept thinking, 'where am I not taking care of myself so I can handle this situation better?' My son has special needs and some of my fears around him have come true. I can recognize those fears may not go away, yet sure don't have to react from them! I find I can ride out those moments of frustration better when I'm just feeling overall happier about life. :) Great post and important message to help the world overall.

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    1. Oh, you said this, Lynn and I loved it -->'where am I not taking care of myself so I can handle this situation better?'

      Wow. That's a powerful question. I'm betting you're a fabulous coach!

      The whole issue of fear for our children / grandchildren is huge ... and I've found when I operate from that place, it's never healthy. I"m really resonating with where you're coming from.

      Yes, yes.

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  15. So much wisdom here as always, friend. I like how you point out that anger doesn't have to be a flying off the handle or lashing out. It can be quiet, but also deadly. In the country where I use the "Silent Treatment" is used A LOT. So sad to see people hurt each other with that weapon.

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    1. Hi Betsy! You make an important point about the impact of culture on how we 'do' emotions. I'd stretch that to say the same about gender, personality, life experience, and other factors.

      These factors aren't excuses, but they are certainly worth considering.

      Ah, the silent treatment. It's a trust-slayer, for sure ...

      I appreciate your wise input. Always.

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  16. I was just trying to explain this to a four year old the other day... I have discovered I suck explaining things to toddlers... - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. Sometimes I can't help but think that the kiddos know alot more than we think ...

      ;-}

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  17. What a great series you are sharing Linda! Such wise advice. Anger is an emotion we all must deal with it, and it is in how you deal with it, whether it becomes a tool to better our world, or poison it. Your steps are forthcoming, to the point, and most helpful in properly channeling the emotions that kindle the anger fuel so that it is not dangerous. Always such a blessing to visit with you :)

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    1. I like the way you put that, Marilyn ... a tool to better the world or to poison it.

      God knows that we're already drowning in poison. I'm going to remember that 'better our world' wisdom.

      Thank you!

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  18. Sorry to be so late, Linda.

    Anger's sometimes interesting, in regard to the expectations of others. I'm supposed to be angry at my illness, or angry at God, and when I say I'm really not, it's QUITE obvious that I'm repressing it.

    It's funny, really, as if my admitting to anger might somehow justify anger in their lives. or something.

    But why be mad, under these circumstances? Sure, a lot has been taken from me, I'm in constant pain, and it's scary...but so many others have it worse. Anger, under the circumstances, would equate to a base ingratitude.

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/12/your-dying-spouse-413-meaning-of.html

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    1. Well this here is profound and most certainly true, Andrew -->'as if my admitting to anger might somehow justify anger in their lives. or something.'

      It's easier to look and point and try to fix and manipulate someone else than look deep into our own hearts at the mess inside ... and then choose to do something about it, along with yielding ourselves to God's control.

      You are so right. And not late, either, by the way.

      ;-}

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  19. Wise words, Linda. I especially like this: we never have the right to hurt someone unless it's in self-defense. Totally agreed.

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  20. I don't know if he was speaking to us all, but I know he was speaking to ME. For so long I wouldn't acknowledge the anger, I'd push it down and pretend it didn't matter. But it would come out in passive aggressive ways. I'm trying to deal with anger in healthier ways now, I'm journaling. And being more direct and open about my feelings when someone hurts me. Old habits die hard and I catch myself repeating them, but I think progress is me seeing the habits and correcting them. It was so good to pop in here and see the topic you wrote on. Always a blessingss

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    1. Welcome back, Alecia! You've come laden with wisdom, your story resonates with so much of what people are telling me in recent weeks.

      And this you said? 'progress is me seeing the habits and correcting them.' Absolutely. Let's give ourselves grace in the process of learning to live in ways that truly honor Christ - inside and out!

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda