Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I so angry all the time?” If so, this article is for you.
A tightened jaw, clinched fist, flushed skin, and feelings of rage can be signs of anger that is out of control. The minor annoyance that leaves you feeling frustrated and wanting a different outcome for a situation can also be a form of anger. Anger can also be a stage of grief. Most of us have felt our blood pressure rise when we are cut off on the highway. But how can one little word, ANGER, be so multi-faceted and enigmatic?
We say, “I’m angry” when we spill soda on the interior of our car or our favorite article of clothing, and say the same when we hear that someone was intentionally harmed, or maybe even killed. There is such a spectrum and we often don’t know how to correctly label our level of anger or understand where it came from in the first place.
First, I think it is critical to understand that anger is a secondary emotion, not primary. That simply means that we felt another emotion prior to anger. We often are left wondering, “Why am I so angry all the time?” because the primary emotions go undetected and unnamed in a multitude of situations.
Let’s take the example of being cut off while driving and having to stop suddenly. We may find ourselves shaking our fists, yelling and glaring at the offending party. But let’s do a mental replay of the situation. In about a nanosecond, we probably feared for our safety and that of any passengers in our vehicle. Before we engaged in showing outward signs of anger, we quickly, on a pre-conscious level, experienced genuine fear.
What about when a friend you thought was true and always in your corner is found out to have lied to you? Before you become angry, you may feel betrayed or hurt that your relationship was seemingly of such little significance to this other person in whom you entrusted some confidences.
What about when you’ve told your child or spouse for what seems like the thousandth time to please stop tapping the pencil on the table, turn down the volume of the television, start preparing dinner before you arrive home from work, et cetera? You swallow your frustration time after time until one night you scream, eyes bulging, heart pounding, and find yourself making extreme statements such as, “You never do anything I ask you to do” or “You don’t care about my feelings and the needs of this family at all.”
Are you some hot-headed maniac that is truly angry all the time, or are you someone who primarily feels disrespected, disregarded, or truly unseen and unheard by those closest to you?
I submit it is the latter. Yet, I imagine that you beat yourself up over your outburst, taking on not only your part of the responsibility but even more than your part. And, if you don’t deal with the root/primary emotion and work through things calmly with your family, you will begin to repeat the angry behavior until it seems like an unending cycle, thus confirming, in your mind, that you are in fact an angry person. So, now what?
Once you have identified that you are truly discontented with the frequency or intensity of your anger (remember there is a full spectrum here ranging from mildly annoyed to rage), you may feel good that you have identified a goal of wanting to overcome your expressions of anger and master them instead of them mastering you.
However, you may also feel overwhelmed and defeated, not knowing where to go from here. Perhaps if you had tools in your toolbox to help you recognize and intervene on the primary emotion, you would be able to stop moving into the secondary emotion of anger.
Tools to Overcome Anger
What are some of the tools that can help you on your quest to gain control of your feelings and behaviors related to anger?
Journal about each situation where you have seen your anger rise. This can help you identify your primary emotion and prepare to strategize for future situations.
Write what happened, who was involved, where it happened, and how your anger was demonstrated to yourself and those around you. Both men and women should also note if there is a pattern to the anger, as both sexes have hormonal fluctuations. Recognizing patterns can better forearm you to avoid repeating a cycle of angry behavior.
Pray for God to open your eyes to see yourself and others the way He does. If we develop more compassion for self and others, we tend to be slower to jump to anger and the responses that arise from it.
Seek wise counsel. Sometimes this can be a trusted friend or your pastor. Other times, you will benefit greatly from talking to an objective party that has professional training and a similar worldview, such as a Christian who is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Professional Counselor, et cetera.
Find an Accountability Partner
Find an accountability partner with whom you can share the realities of your struggles, from identifying the original or primary emotion in a situation to whether you chose correctly or incorrectly how to manage your emotions from that point forward. I suggest someone who will keep your confidence and tell you without equivocation when you need to hold yourself accountable for your choice of behavior.
Well, there is a can of worms we just opened: choice. What a concept when we may feel that we have been victimized, disrespected, or even abused. Sometimes there are legitimate evils that we have suffered, whether domestic violence at the hands of a spouse or parent, or our colleague who lied and took credit for our work, getting the promotion that was rightly ours.
So, now might be a good time to clearly state that not all anger is bad, evil, or meritless. We might do well to remember when Jesus drove merchants from the temple as they were misusing it for their gain and treating their Creator with contempt. Please read John 2:13-17 in The Passion Translation.
Or who amongst us wouldn’t feel violated and enraged to learn that our child was sexually molested? Who wouldn’t feel at the depths of despair and then move to feelings of profound betrayal and anger when we find that our spouse has been unfaithful to us? What about when an innocent young life is taken from SIDS or another form of tragedy?
Yes, it is not only understandable and okay to allow ourselves to experience some anger — sometimes it is indicated in order to purge ourselves clean in our souls (mind, will and emotions).
The key is learning to release the anger and not let it be a seed that germinates and grows into a plant that will overtake the garden of the soul, strangling out the life and verve that is who you are and intended to be.
From a biblical worldview, we are in fact told in Ephesians 4:26-27, “But don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day. Don’t give the slanderous accuser, the Devil, an opportunity to manipulate you!” (The Passion Translation). Scripture does not tell us that we should never be angry and that if we are, we are giving ourselves over to sin. We are told to not allow our anger take us into sin.
Ways to Take Control of Your Anger
In addition to the tools noted above, here are some other ways to take control of your anger:
- If you’ve behaved in a hurtful manner, forgive yourself. If you have been the recipient of someone else’s ill or even abusive treatment and you allowed yourself to become controlled by your anger, forgive them.
- Ask for forgiveness. If you’ve wronged someone in anger, ask for their forgiveness.
- Turn from the angry behavior and insert other thoughts about the situation so that you can more easily choose to use new, more productive behaviors. This is definitely something with which a therapist can assist.
- Practice new behaviors. Instead of yelling, engage in pro-active, productive conversations with others to plan how you can best operate as friends or family in situations that have led and can lead to frustration, anger, or even rage.
- Show mercy. When you fall back into the behavior you are trying to change, give yourself some mercy and try again.
- Remove yourself. If you are in an abusive situation, consider the best option for you. This could include permanently exiting a situation/relationship or may include separating for a time period while you both seek individual therapy to make necessary changes.There are many resources across the nation that can help you break free of a domestic violence situation and provide you with a safe place to live as you transition out. Reach out to your local church, Salvation Army, crisis hotline, or other community resources.
- Ask others what has worked for them. Maybe you grew up in a household filled with anger. Did you see transformation in your angry family member or someone else in your life? Where did they turn for help? Did they identify the source of their out-of-control anger?It is always better to learn from others who are where we want to get to rather than being determined to go it alone to our prolonged detriment and that of those around us who become victims of our displays.
In addition to personal responsibility and accountability for our behavior, including what type of relationships and situations we choose to live in, we do ourselves a great disservice to overlook the spiritual components that can be at work.
What do I mean by that? Who influences us to choose destructive self-expression? I submit that both angels and demons are real. If we choose Jesus and His ways, we will be less and less influenced by Satan and the demonic realm.
Nevertheless, evil has some level of control on the earth, and we have to decide if we are going to sow seed that will bring about anger, discord, and the like, or if we will ask the Holy Spirit to help us in His strength to use self-control, kindness, gentleness, and all fruits that He has to offer the Christian.
If you don’t know that you are in a war of epic proportions, may I say in all manner of concern and brotherly love, that you, my friend, are operating in ignorance. There are eternal consequences for our choices.
It’s not simply about you and being angry all the time. It is about the destruction of your marriage to discourage your children and bring division to the church. It is about leading as many as possible to take their eyes off of Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, into apathy and hopelessness so that they forfeit the plan of God for their life here on earth and ultimately find themselves in eternal separation from God.
If your anger is righteous, complete the task at hand and then release it; but if it is not, seek a new path. You deserve to find the freedom the Lord intends for you to abide in on a daily basis. Your kids deserve the mom or dad that is emotionally healthy and available, and your spouse deserves to know who they are coming home to at the end of the day.
You can’t do it by yourself. If you could, you wouldn’t need wise counsel that the Bible advocates you to embrace. Nor would you need the Holy Spirit to be active in you. You would be a non-human superhero.
God created you in His image and to need Him. Don’t forget example after example in the Word of God where Jesus prayed to the Father and showed us to do the same. He said that what He said and did, He didn’t do of His own accord but because He saw the Father do such (John 5:19). So, you’re weak. That’s awesome; because now you are in a position to look up and let Him demonstrate His strength in you, for you and those you love the most.
“Fist Through Glass”, Courtesy of WenPhotos, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Fighting Mad”, Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Lioness”, Courtesy of 263582, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Screaming Girl”, Courtesy of Mandyme27, Pixabay.com, CC0 License