Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coping with Anger

A metaphorical visualization of the word Anger.

Image via Wikipedia

There are times in which the situation that has you upset is not going to change or at least not change in the short term.  It is at these times that we have to learn to cope and work through the difficulty.  Here are some strategies for coping with anger. 

Express Feelings through�

We have an extraordinary ability to channel strongly held emotions in to all kinds of activities.  We can do this with anger.  The possibilities are as varied as people are varied.  I tend to express my feelings through writing.  But you could also write music, make music, create art and so on.

Go for a walk

Walking often takes you away from the anger provoking situation.  It lets cooler heads to prevail.  It also uses up some of the excess energy that comes from being upset.  When you walk try to clear your mind using CALM MIND

Physical Exercise and/or sports

Doing something physical helps to release the energy and can also be a acceptable way to release anger.  A little bit of an edge can be gained through anger.  I know that when I am lifting weights for example I can lift a little more weight or a couple more sets when I have been angry. 

Continue to relax

Relaxed and angry states are incompatible.   That is to say you cannot be physiologically angry and calm at the same time.  Here are some ways to practice relaxation.

Avoiding trouble

"Don't do it,  Don't say that!"  Your conscience is sounding off the alarm and you just plow right through with your own way.  Ever done that?  Well it seems silly to point this out, but in reality we need the reminder.  Approaching troublesome situations while you are feeling angry it a bit like pouring gasoline on a fire. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Sometimes our anger comes from the fact that we have not set healthy boundaries for ourselves.  We want to say, "NO!" but cave to other's desires at the expense of our own well being.  In this case the anger is resentment toward the other person for taking advantage of us.  We bear some of the responsibility. If we become good at setting boundaries with others then we can avoid situations where we reluctantly go along with things that hurt ourselves in the end.  Boundaries can be hard to set for someone that has been reluctant to do so.  First you have to guard your heart.  If people can hurt you at a heart level you are unlikely to set firm boundaries.  Then you have to give yourself permission to say "NO."  Next you have to learn to be assertive in a positive way rather than passive or aggressive way.  Finally you have to be clear and firm with what your boundaries are.  I think the topic of boundaries deserves a post to itself.  Maybe in the near future I will do some on the topic. 


Humor is good medicine.  You may not feel like it when you are upset, but humor can lift the spirits.  Whether it is you adding a little levity to a tense situation or if it is finding something humorous to be entertained with.  There is a strong indication in research that humor is one characteristic of a mutually satisfying marriage.  I believe that humor keeps us out of the hurtful bitterness that comes from unresolved anger. 

Personal Reflection

Sometimes when we are annoyed and irritated it is not clear to us why.  Sometimes we are upset with ourselves and we take it out on others.  Sometimes we are just plain selfish.  In these cases I believe personal reflection is in order.  Finding the root cause of your anger even if it is yourself or is a reflection of self-centeredness is useful in sorting things out.  Personal reflection can take the form of meditation over the situation to understand (not stew or blame).  It can be through writing it down (in a journal or a log).  The goal is to be more aware of your thoughts and pay attention to your internal dialogue. 

Meditation on Scriptures

I find that the Bible is like a mirror to the soul.  We look into a mirror to fix our hair and see our faces.  But we do not see the deeper self, our soul.  When we look into scriptures and we allow God's Holy Spirit to do His work the Bible becomes a powerful force in our lives to reveal our inner nature.  Meditation on scriptures not only is revealing, but it is also transformative.  Meditation will take your anger and change it to love and forgiveness. 


The highest act we can do in our lives is to forgive one who has offended us.  Forgiveness is an act of the will choosing to live peaceably with consequences of someone else's missing the mark (sin).  In so far as it is possible with you you choose to live at peace with the person who has offended (Romans 12:18).  Forgiveness is not saying what someone has done to hurt you is right.  Forgiveness is not the elimination of external consequences.   Forgiveness is not putting yourself back into a situation to be hurt again. 

Unforgiveness hurts you more than it hurts the person you do not forgive.  In reality the person you refuse to forgive does not likely  think of how they offended you.  If they were thoughtful of you then they would not have offended you in the first place.  Or if they do care about how they offended then they would have quickly sought reconciliation.  As it is when you hold on to the hurt it becomes bitterness and bitterness becomes despair and despair robs you of life. 


In the end anger is a complex and rich emotion.  We have to learn to respect and use anger in a healthy way.  Anger itself is not bad, but much evil can come from anger if we let it.  On the other hand if we use anger to push us to greater action and to transform our lives and the lives of others then it can be a force for much good.  The choice it yours.  What will you do the next time you are affected by this passionate emotion we call "anger."


God Bless You

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