Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. Like all of our emotions, there's nothing wrong with it in and of itself. It's our human response to something that occurs, or at least to our perception of the problem. In fact, some anger is good; we should get angry when we see some injustice or when someone is trying to violate our personal property lines. In such cases, our anger is what motivates us to take appropriate action. But after anger motivates us to do something good, we can't afford to let it linger inside us. We have to get it out. Anger is a good emotion when it gets us moving, but if we let it take root, we set ourselves up for a great deal of potential harm.
When it is expressed appropriately, you are letting go of the stress and frustration that you are experiencing, and those around you understand and accept that you are upset. When anger is expressed inappropriately with blame and aggression, it can be a destructive force - both to the person experiencing it and for those subjected to it.
Living with angry people is like living in a minefield. If you say or do the wrong thing, kaboom! They explode all over everyone. And you're left thinking, Oh, I had no idea that one thing I did would cause such a reaction.
As with other things that are negative, there is a tendency to hold something or someone else responsible. When you hold someone else responsible for your stress, anxiety, or frustration, you feel that you have the right to express it in an aggressive manner.
Many times we feel anger to avoid feeling some other emotions, such as anxiety or hurt, or when we are frustrated because we want something and can’t have it. Sometimes, feeling angry is a way of mobilizing ourselves in the face of a threat or is a way to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
Anger may also be a response to stressful situations, such as being in a hurry, feeling overwhelmed or overworked, feeling attacked, feeling out of control. For example, you may have been rushing all day in your home office to meet an impossible deadline. Your daughter bounces in after school and gives you a big hug as you furiously type on your computer. You snap, “Not now! Can't you see I’m busy!”
Actually, anger is a secondary emotion, not a primary feeling. It arises out of fear, frustration, hurt, or some combination of these three.
Primary feelings we feel deep down within us, such as fear, hurt, sadness, loneliness, or joy, peace, and love. Secondary feelings are surface feelings, such as anger, stress or tiredness. Secondary feelings are usually the first signals that we feel. They act as communicators giving us feedback on what is happening inside of us. They act as dials or indicators on a car dash board, where we are giving instant feedback in how the engine is feeling.
Once we begin to feel angry, there are several things we can do to stop the anger from getting out of control.
Stop the anger by calling a Time-Out. Everyone needs to agree to use it. Anyone can call a time-out. And it’s understood that everyone will come back at a later time to resolve the issues.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”. James 1:19-20.
Ask yourself, “Why am I angry?” Check out the anger. If the other person is angry, ask the person, “What’s bothering you?” or “What do you need right now?”
Listen to the three message channels. Ask yourself, “Am I listening to all the message channels – the verbal (10%), the tone (40%) and the behavioural (50%) channel”.*
“What am I hearing, seeing, and feeling in this message?”
“What is the underlying message?”
“What is my spouse really trying to say?”
“What is he feeling right now?”
“What may be causing her to feel angry or frustrated?”
The real and true message is found within the three message channels. If you just listen to the verbal channel, you will only get about 10% of the message.
Filter your thoughts and feelings and the other person’s thoughts and feelings. The same way as you filter your drinking water, we need to use our filter to keep the dirt away from our bodies and to produce clean feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Go and make positive “I” statements, not accusatory “You” statements. We often feel the need to blame our unhappiness on someone or something. We say statements like, “You made me angry?” If you would only listen to me, I wouldn’t be so angry all the time”.
Use “I” statements, such as: “I can take care of my own needs”. “Her needs are just as important as mine”. “I’m able to make good choices”. Don’t be passive and discount your own wants and needs, always giving in to what others want.
Don’t be aggressive, demanding, hostile or rude.
Be assertive – directly, honestly, and appropriately state what your thoughts, feelings, needs and want are. You take full responsibility for yourself and are respectful to others. And you are an effective listener and problem solver.
Anger is our choice. We choose to respond in anger when something happens to us that's outside of our control. It's a normal response, even a good response, when it's controlled. But we are the ones who choose to hold on to anger or to let it go. We can choose to see its powerful potential for destruction and take the steps to reduce it within us. Otherwise it's an iceberg that will sink our love.*Three Message Channels: verbal values for 10% of all communication, tone for 40% and behavioural is worth 50% of all communication.
Recommended Workbook to help you get a complete grip on anger: Anger Control Workbook
(2000) Matthew McKay & Peter Rogers.
I'm Not Bad, I'm Just Mad: A Workbook to Help Kids Control Their Anger