Would you say that you’re the kind of person that is led by their emotions? Our emotions are an important part of our lives. They are like bells that go off periodically, alerting us to what’s going on inside us, and how we are responding to the world around us. Laughter tells us that we are enjoying ourselves, and it feels pleasurable.

We can usually pinpoint what we’re laughing about without much difficulty, and we know the kinds of things that make us laugh. Typically, we don’t even have to think about it in this way because we are self-aware enough to know what we’re feeling, and why we’re feeling it, and our responses to whatever we’re feeling are appropriate. Emotions are important in every aspect of our lives, including our prayer and spiritual life.

The problem usually comes when we feel things but can’t explain why we feel them, or when we know what’s going on, but our reactions aren’t desirable or appropriate. Anger is one of those emotions that energizes and stirs us up with unpredictable results. How people deal with anger is often shaped by one’s family of origin. Let me paint two scenarios, and you may identify yourself in one or the other, or perhaps somewhere in the middle.

Scenario #1

In some families, gatherings at the dinner table, in the family room, or the backyard are spaces where the volume is dialed up to 11. If there are tensions or issues that someone has with someone else, everything is let out, the volume goes up, and you let fly precisely what you think.

In those families, you don’t hold anything back, but you give full vent to your emotions, and with your emotions firmly in the driver’s seat, you wind up saying and doing things that you regret almost immediately.

Perhaps, if things go well, people end up saying they’re sorry, they cry and hug one another, loving on each other, and everyone is okay with everyone else again. If things go poorly, that marks the end of that family gathering, and you may not see one or another family member at a gathering again for a while.

Scenario #2

On the flip side of this kind of situation, some families would rather deal with emotions of any kind by pushing them down and pretending they do not exist. In such settings, if a tense moment comes up, it is denied altogether, and it isn’t spoken about openly. Those emotions are denied existence, let alone expression, and the family carries on quietly as though nothing happened. Growing up in such a situation, you learn to keep your emotions at bay and hold off on expressing yourself.

What these scenarios demonstrate

These two situations describe the two ends of a spectrum for how people tend to deal with their emotions. Your situation may be echoed on one end of the spectrum or the other, or it may be something of a mix of the two. In dealing with anger, the appropriate response to it is neither letting anger rule over you nor is it best dealt with by stuffing it down and pretending it doesn’t exist. Both options lead to serious problems.

Why does anger need to be controlled?

Our emotions can be unruly, and they can get us into trouble (ask anyone whose sense of humor often leads them to laugh in serious moments.) However, emotions need to be controlled not because they are inconvenient or annoying, but because they can direct our actions and affect our communication in significant ways with profound consequences for our relationships.

Anger is a powerful emotion. It is often triggered when we feel threatened in some way, or when a personal boundary is violated. You can feel threatened by someone questioning a cherished opinion or long-held value of yours. This is often the spark that fires internet debates about hot-button issues like vaccines, abortion, politics, the environment, gas prices, sports teams, parenting, television and movies, and anything else under the sun that people care about.

You can feel threatened if your loved one is placed at risk, or if a colleague steals an idea to make themselves look good in front of the boss. When your boundaries are violated, that too can be a source of anger. If someone takes advantage of you, or they take you and your time for granted, that can make you feel angry.

When anger is triggered, it affects your body physiologically, which includes what your muscles and heart are doing. It can also cloud your judgment, making you more susceptible to jumping to conclusions. If you constantly subject your body to these physiological changes, you’ll be at risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.

A powerful emotion like anger needs to be controlled so that the actions that flow from it aren’t harmful. Often, people say and do things in anger that they wouldn’t otherwise. The damage to relationships can be irreparable, and people go to jail or lose their families because of the damage they cause to persons and property when they’re angry.

Controlling anger isn’t about simply not saying or doing certain things when you’re feeling angry. The kind of person that feels more comfortable stuffing their emotions down would likely think that’s what they’re doing by denying their feelings. Controlling your anger has a more constructive outlook.

Exhibiting control over your anger is about expressing yourself and how you’re feeling in a way that lets the other person know what’s going on inside you but does so without causing them, their property, or yourself any harm. This is hard, whether you come from a family that taught you to stuff your feelings away or one that modeled giving full vent to your emotions. It requires learning a new way to deal with emotions.

Tools for controlling anger

It is possible to control your anger so that you neither have to deny its presence nor express it in harmful ways. Some of the ways you can begin to do this include:

Learn to accept anger

Anger is a natural emotion; it should neither be demonized nor should it be given free rein. When you begin accepting that anger has a place in your lives, that change in mindset helps to overcome unhealthy views of anger that keep you trapped in negative patterns of thought and behavior.

Learn how to breathe

There are several techniques that an anger management counselor can teach you to bring your anger under control. One of these is using breathing techniques to calm yourself down. The physiological changes anger brings about include rapid and shallow breathing.

Doing deep breathing exercises helps you to slow down your breathing and it gives you something to focus on besides whatever is angering you. Other relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation also help in this respect.

Visualization for calm

Another technique that helps control anger is visualization for calm. You picture your happy place, and then you imagine yourself there, fully immersing yourself in the details of that place. You can train yourself to go to your happy place when you’re in a pinch, making this an effective tool for getting anger under control in a variety of circumstances.

Anger thermometer

An anger thermometer helps you gauge how angry you are. It is a simple construction that lays out how you may be feeling – mildly irritated, frustrated, angry, livid, furious – and then it can also have several techniques that may be helpful to help you calm down, such as the ones mentioned above.

The purpose of an anger thermometer is to help the people around you know how you may be feeling so they know how to come alongside you. Additionally, creating an anger thermometer can help you label your emotions, which helps gain control over them.

Recognize your triggers

Even if you don’t use something like an anger thermometer, knowing your anger triggers is a great help for getting your anger under control. If you know certain conversations, situations or circumstances trigger your anger, you can plan ahead and be better prepared to deal with it.

If you know traffic is bad and you get hot under the collar because of how people in your town or city drive, why not carpool or have a podcast you love that you can listen to while you drive? That way, the traffic isn’t your issue, and you have something to focus on while you’re on your commute.

Give yourself room

Sometimes, you just need to walk away. Go to another room or leave the house and go for a walk if you feel yourself about to blow your lid off. Giving yourself that space will allow you room to calm down and see things from another angle.

It may even be that you may see the humor of the situation with enough physical and emotional distance from the source of the problem. And on that note, humor is also a great way to deal with angry feelings. Finding the humor in the situation helps you not be too self-serious, and it can defuse tension.

Learn how to express your anger through the Psalms

To express anger well requires finding a good model for doing so. The Psalms are fascinating because we find many kinds of emotions. Some Psalms sound angry, and they just sound like venting. However, sometimes their artistry is obscured because the Psalms are translated from Hebrew, and we don’t always see the nuances of poetry.

The psalmists choose their words carefully and express themselves in vivid images. This is emotion tightly controlled and expressed powerfully through carefully crafted poetry. Not only that, but the Psalms also guide one through the anger toward faith and trust in the God who is at work in our circumstances. Thus, even while angry or sad, the Psalms are hopeful and exemplars of faith in God.


A professional such as a counselor will help a person learn to deal with their anger. A counselor may provide tools for controlling anger and coping under stressful situations. Sometimes, dynamics in the family may contribute to anger issues, and family counseling can help to address those dynamics so that the family relates to one another in healthy, constructive ways.

Anger is too unpredictable an emotion to allow free rein. Your counselor will help you understand the underpinnings of your anger and constructive ways to handle it. Instead of letting anger rule you, pursue counseling for anger so that you get it under control and have a healthy relationship with your anger.

“Stressed”, Courtesy of Keira Burton, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Long Day”, Courtesy of Budgeron Bach, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Down”, Courtesy of Liza Summer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Journaling”, Courtesy of Michael Burrows, Pexels.com, CC0 License


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