I recently had an unusually high influx of new clients complaining of frustration and their inability to manage anger; sometimes bordering on rage. This entry contains my musings on both personal and professional encounters with anger…
Anybody can be angry…
Aristotle wisely wrote that “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, But to be angry:
– with the right person
– to the right degree
– at the right time
– for the right purpose
– and in the right way
that is not within everyone’s power and is not easy.
I admit that I had some serious anger issues years ago. I recall one of my sessions and expressing to a counselor that this person or that person made me mad. Whether it was someone or something these things were responsible for my anger. I’ll never forget his response, “Dan, those people and those things do not make you mad.” I really did not know this person and wondered how they knew so much about me so I asked, “what is it that makes me mad?” The answer that followed was not expected. “Dan, you make you mad”; well… that really made me mad! It took some time before I was able to recognize and accept that I did have choices as to what I thought, felt, said and how I acted which are all basic responsibilities that we all need to own. These choices are freeing and powerful in the way that we commune and communicate in an imperfect and sometimes crazy world.
How do you experience Anger?
I found Les Carter and Frank Minirth’s work in the “The Anger Workbook” and five ways that we experience and express anger simple and insightful. They include suppression, explosive/reactive, passive aggression, assertiveness and letting go (forgiveness). They are common to all and we’ve each experienced some or all of these. These concepts are mostly self-explanatory but require a little more fleshing-out and are beyond the scope of this post. Forgiveness and assertive expression are the best approach in managing one’s anger.
What are you really feeling?
Anger for many is a secondary emotion. Many times hurt, fear, frustration, rejection, etc. are the true emotions felt, yet one of the three negative types of anger are expressed/experienced. During these episodes anger is more a guardian or protector of these more vulnerable emotions. You may have encountered in relationships a sense that you are expressing your true emotions (assertively) and are either ignored or attacked. If this happens on more than an occasion you may “get angry” at the person and let them know – by way of the three negative types. This reactionary experience is ineffective and will never result in healthy resolution and growth in communication. God didn’t say “don’t be angry”. He did say “be angry and sin not” and “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”. Also, “speak the truth in love”.
Sometimes we have past experiences where conflict or confrontation has been ugly. It may cause you to avoid or dread conflict in the future. These new ways of communicating anger can be learned and old ways discarded. At times deeper burdens from the past can still get triggered in the present confrontation and make the interaction all the more difficult. With these situations it is best to work with a counselor to root through the past so that any hurt, offense, or disappointment can be put to rest. At times we may also have distortions in our perceptions of people, places and things. In other words, our defining, representing and interpreting of such is not true. Again, while speaking the truth in love, we also need to know the truth as “the truth will set you free.”
If you can stand back and identify more vulnerable emotions if sensing anger, learn new assertive ways to communicate those emotions a new peace and understanding can grow out of confrontation and conflict. An understanding of others may come as we determine what might be at the root of their anger, i.e., sadness, fear, rejection, worry, etc. When we take responsibility for managing our emotions we can experience an inner peace that is not dependent on circumstances, or situations that are outside of our control. “Be at peace with others as far as it is possible!”