Anger is a secondary emotion.
That what the workbook I use to lead women through a study on relationships says. The truth of that statement recently catapulted me into a season of discovering the source of my anger.
And that what feels like anger isn’t always…well, anger.
The inexplicable rage that builds like a volcano preparing to erupt feels like anger. Looks like anger when I give full vent to it with slamming, flinging or throwing (which only a fool does according to the Bible – good job, Laura). Sounds like anger to my spouse and children…
But surprisingly, is actually not anger.
Well, it is in part. The past part. The little kid who got hurt instead of protected, ignored instead of forgiven or lashed at without warning. That little kid’s feelings of fear, confusion, being unloved or unimportant turned to anger.
Anger at self – nothing is your parent’s fault when you’re a kid. Or anger at the person hurting you but stuffed away – since nothing can possibly be your parent’s fault when you’re the kid. Anger becomes a defense.
Stop hurting me!
Rebellion, tantrums and angry outbursts are often a sign of fear, anger, confusion or other emotions when a child’s world isn’t right.
During my current season of delving into my emotions and learning what it means to control them well (not stuff, ignore or minimize), I jotted down a list of feelings I experienced in regard to a recent event. (I had the help of a list to look at. You can find the list of “Soul Words” at www.howwelove.com)
Initially, anger surged through me.
I wanted to react in anger. Instead, I took a deep breath. (Remember that count to 10 thing? Not a bad idea.) I managed to keep self-control, speak calmly and cry later, asking God what I was really feeling. Here are the emotions I listed that described how I felt:
betrayed, worried, unloved, shocked, hated, injured, beaten down, tired, unwanted, cut off, crushed, grieved, heavy, bewildered, misunderstood, let down, distrustful, unimportant and disregarded
Yep. Not ONE word of anger. But truly, each of these words really described my feelings. When I read through the list of words describing anger, none of them resounded with me. Go figure.
This opened up new insight about myself, my emotions and the way I respond to situations. If I allow anger to be the go-to reaction, I miss out on understanding my true feelings and communicating them to others.
Not only that, but when I don’t deal with the actual feelings, anger spins around like a tornado in my heart and mind. When I try to squelch it because I don’t want it’s destruction, I end up feeling depressed and aimless. (An indication something deeper is going on.)
In addition, my outbursts of frustration hurt those I love, making them defensive. And how can they respond well to me if I am “always angry” at them? Instead, if I share accurate emotions, I invite understanding and intimacy.
Maybe even compassion.
So, here are some practical steps I’m learning to implement to get a handle on anger:
- Every time I feel “anger”, ask myself what I am REALLY feeling.
- Share those feelings in a journal, with a trusted friend and/or with God. I do all three in the reverse order: God, journal, friend.
- Ask myself when I felt those same or similar feelings as a child – usually where it started, but now is being triggered by a similar interaction or experience.
- Grieve over the past situation. Cry, pray, journal. Let myself feel.
- Forgive anyone that caused past hurts. Looking at the past isn’t to blame, it is for us to acknowledge so we can grieve, forgive and move forward in life.
- If I displayed anger in an inappropriate way to someone, I need to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. (God’s too.)
- Share with the person involved my true feelings. If necessary, do this with a third party like a counselor or pastor. Sometimes defenses created by our previous anger may require additional outside help to work through and heal.
- Move forward. Let go of the situation.
- Repeat as needed. Years of these patterns aren’t changed in one time.
- Have grace for myself as I establish new patterns.
The Bible says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) As we analyze the way we’ve thought and the emotions established due to past pain, we can be changed and healed. Not simply by “trying harder” not to get mad, but by examining our true feelings and submitting them to our loving heavenly Father.
Here’s to the journey ahead!
I’d love to partner with you in prayer as you address your anger. Please let me know how I can pray in the comments below.