Anger is one of many emotions that can and will be felt and experienced throughout life. Anger is what is called a primary emotion. A primary emotion is an emotion that is typically universally recognized and is displayed in the person’s body language and facial expressions and can be a result of anger issues.
The other primary emotions are: sadness, disgust, surprise, joy, and fear. Despite what many people say, or even teach to their children, anger is not always bad or wrong. We even see Jesus display anger when He flips the tables in the temple.
We are often taught in our family of origin (many times by unspoken words) that anger is bad, something to fear, or flat out unacceptable. However, no emotions are innately bad. Can anger be expressed poorly? Absolutely, and it often is! It is important to remember, though, that emotions are simply feeling states that come and go and can provide us with information about what we are thinking.
Where does anger come from? Let’s look to the truth of the Word of God to inform us about where anger comes from by reading this well-known passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
A tree is known by its fruit.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matthew 12:33-37
We could dissect this passage using more space than we have in this particular article, but the point I want us to focus on is where emotions come from. It says here that they come from within us – they come from our hearts! “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Here we have an excellent opportunity to practice self-reflection.
Questions to ask yourself when you’re feeling angry.
The next time you find yourself getting angry easily (even if it stews inside of us or we don’t actually speak the words), ask yourself some of these questions to self-reflect and check in on your own heart:
- “What is going on in my heart that is creating this anger?”
- “What other emotions are there alongside the anger I am feeling?”
- “Do I feel hurt by something or someone right now?”
- “If I act on this anger (being critical, silent treatment, yelling, etc.), what am I hoping to accomplish by doing so?”
- “Is this anger helpful or harmful to myself and others?”
- “What am I telling myself right now that is bringing up this anger?”
- “What am I not believing about God or believing about God in this moment? Does that need to change?”
We often attribute the source of our anger to something outside ourselves, such as a co-worker, a toxic work environment, our rebellious child, our spouse, our parents – the list goes on and on. Again, there are things worth being angry about, such as injustices and sin that are to be validated and brought to Christ in belief that He is a good God who promises to right every wrong and redeem all things.
However, we see that the source of anger is most certainly flowing from the inside out. An anger problem is first and foremost a heart problem, not only an environmental or situational problem! Yes, these can certainly be factors, but we need to always consider our heart in these things. Keep this in mind and self-reflect as we dive into different ways anger can manifest.
Am I angry? Seven signs of anger issues.
People sometimes misunderstand anger. They think just because they don’t “explode” with anger outwardly that they aren’t angry. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here is a checklist of other ways anger can be expressed:
The Silent Treatment.
When the person goes silent and suppresses the anger inside of them, but doesn’t verbalize it with words. You will likely still see this anger held in the person’s body and on their face (constricted lips, furrowed brow, clenched jaw, tightened shoulders or fists).
I would also equate this to the popular term “ghosting” – where the person completely cuts themselves off physically, emotionally, and verbally (in varying degrees) from the other person. This is a more extreme version of the silent treatment.
Ever met someone who is overly critical? That criticism is often focused on the person’s external environment or others around them but could also be geared towards themselves. Being critical is a sure sign that anger is lurking beneath the surface.
Someone who is constantly angry is also often someone who is hurting. Maybe this comes out looking more like sadness—being teary and isolating themselves from others but anger is close by to those who are hurt, which we will talk about more later.
This is what we typically think of with anger – raised voices and heated verbal exchanges. This anger can be very intimidating to the receiver of it and feel very out-of-control.
Another way to express anger is being “short” with our speech. Maybe your tone is more monotone than normal and your sentences are short and to the point. You are in a sense “checking” verbal boxes in order to maintain communication at a minimal level while also disengaging emotionally.
This looks like someone “throwing in the towel.” The person doesn’t care much about anything anymore. There isn’t a motivation to try and the repercussions of decisions seem not to phase the person. Their face may be “blank” with little to no expression. It is impossible to be totally emotionless, but the apathetic person likes to believe they are and are very accomplished at pushing down emotions such as anger.
Which of these forms of anger do you identify with? The first step to addressing anger issues is to become aware of its presence and the way it is expressed or manifests in your life. Denying the presence of anger (or any other emotion, for that matter) in your life will only give it more power over you.
Once we can identify anger issues, we can begin to look at the thoughts that fuel (or give life to) your anger. Our thoughts and feelings (and behaviors) are closely tied to one another. Therefore, the presence of anger in someone’s life gives us insight into what narratives we are speaking over ourselves that encourage angry emotions to manifest.
In fact, once we take a closer look at someone who struggles with anger, we often find someone who is also very hurt. Feeling hurt is a much more vulnerable emotion and anger can help us to guard ourselves or protect ourselves from those people and situations that poke at those already raw hurts.
I want to take a moment to reiterate that anger does not equal sin or negativity. I also think, because our hearts are deceitful and because we are to take every thought captive, that we should practice reflecting on the thoughts and motives surrounding anger (and other emotions, for that matter) instead of reacting out of anger as an automatic response.
Seeking counseling for anger issues.
Were you surprised at any of the ways anger can manifest itself? Maybe you were already in touch with the fact that you have some difficulties with anger issues and are struggling with the self-reflection piece or don’t know what to do with the answers to those aforementioned questions.
If you need some guidance about how to apply this in your relationships and daily life or you just want to understand where all this anger inside of you comes from in the first place, reach out today. Counseling can be a safe place to unpack these questions and more!
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Simran Sood, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gnarled Tree”, Courtesy of Adarsh Kummur, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Frustrated”, Courtesy of Jeremy Perkins, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bible Study”, Courtesy of Fa Barboza, Unsplash.com, CC0 License