Anger doesn’t have a good reputation. Many believe that it is a “bad” emotion as if there are such things as bad and good emotions.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. – James 1:19
Emotions can better be classified as comfortable and uncomfortable. Anger is better understood as one of the uncomfortable emotions. It is not bad. The only time anger can be bad is if someone handles it poorly.
Each individual person handles anger differently. Some hold it in, and it becomes bitterness or when it comes out, it comes out in explosions. Some are passive-aggressive when angry. Some yell and throw things. Here we will talk about healthy and unhealthy reactions to anger in order to help you find better ways for controlling anger.
Unhealthy Reactions to Anger
Many people will avoid their feelings of anger by saying things like, “I am choosing to focus on the good in my life, not the bad.” This is ignoring the feeling, and their anger is there to communicate something to them that they probably should not ignore.
For example, someone close to you does something hurtful to you and betrays your trust. If you ignore the emotion this experience brings up in you, you will be putting on a false sense of happiness when you are actually feeling very angry with this person.
The anger and hurt that you may feel are telling you that something is wrong in your relationship. If you ignore it, you also ignore the problems in your relationship. Avoidance can also come in the form of distraction, like watching too much Netflix or overworking. Avoidance is unhealthy because the anger gets set aside on a shelf, seemingly forgotten, but it does come back around if not handled.
Most people who seek counseling for controlling anger issues come in because they react in aggressive ways when angry. People can react in verbal and nonverbal ways that can be hurtful. It is a good thing to outwardly express your anger in appropriate ways, but these are not helpful in any way.
Some may say that these provide the short-term outcome that they are looking for. However, they do not think about long-term outcomes. For example, yelling at someone may get their attention temporarily, but it may also in time turn them away from you so that they do not even listen to you anymore.
Verbal: Some will turn to verbal aggression — yelling, cursing, name-calling, or other emotionally abusive language. This can be just as, if not more, painful when said to another as nonverbal forms of aggression.
Nonverbal: This could be throwing something, punching, hitting, kicking, breaking, and other physical expressions. When these are violent, you could hurt yourself, someone else, or something in your environment. These are very dangerous.
Because anger can be very uncomfortable for people, they often do whatever it takes to not feel it. This is a bit different from avoidance in that they want to completely numb the feeling because it is too painful. They may turn to alcohol, drugs, food, and other numbing behaviors.
They believe it is best not to feel anger at all. This is harmful for many reasons, but it is good to remember that anger is not the enemy. It is good to allow oneself to feel it so that healing and growth can happen.
When anger sits too long, it grows into bitterness. Bitterness does not hurt the person you are angry with. It hurts you. It can be toxic and dangerous. Hebrews 12:15 says this, “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many.” It is like a weed that can quickly overcome you. It becomes like a volcano. Eventually, it will erupt.
15 Healthy Methods for Controlling Anger
Here are fifteen helpful reactions you can practice when controlling anger.
Think before you speak
If you can picture a big STOP sign in front of you before you react in anger that reminded you to slow down, it could help you think about what you want to do or say and what is best to do or say. This can help you consider the long-term outcome of what you are about to do.
Take 10 deep breaths
Focus on your deep breaths. Breathe in and count to four. Breathe out and count to four. And repeat for ten breaths.
Sometimes the best thing that you can do in the moment of intense anger is to walk away for a bit to clear your head. If the situation merits a conversation to resolve the issue, then you could come back when calm or when you have thought through how you can respond in a productive way.
Exercise/ physical activity
Exercise is one of the best ways to work out the anger building inside of your body. It releases tension in the body, stress, and releases endorphins which can help you feel better. Getting regular exercise is a key to effective anger management.
It teaches you body and breath control, as well, which can be very useful in anger episodes. If you are someone who gets aggressive when angry, you could punch a punching bag or go for a run or do an intense workout.
Use “I” statements
When able to remain calm, the best way to express anger in an assertive, productive way is through “I” statements. This could be as simple as this: “I feel ____________ when you do ____________ because ____________. What I need from you is ____________.” You are not blaming your anger on the other person. You are simply stating how you feel and why. You are working to solve an issue by using “I” statements.
Relax your body
You can do this in many different ways. You could simply go into a dark, quiet space to sit and be still, taking deep breaths. You could engage in a progressive muscle relaxation in which you tense and relax each muscle group of the body at a time, taking deep breaths in between. You could also practice yoga, visualize yourself in a calm place, or take a nap.
Meditation or Prayer
When you choose to still your mind and focus for a minute through meditation or prayer, you are often able to consider your anger and work through it a bit on your own. Abide is a great app that walks you through prayerful mediations if you need guidance in this practice. You could also practice praying the Psalms.
Listen to music
Music can bring calm to your mind and body, so it can be a great tool to use when angry.
Take time out
Similar to walking away, a time out is a brief period of time that you need in order to calm down. For example, your kids are misbehaving, and you feel the anger rising in your body. You tell your kids that you need a “time-out” to calm down.
You take five-ten minutes in a quiet space to take deep breaths, relax your body, and think about what you need to do in order to handle the situation. You come back to them calm and clearheaded so that you can deal with them in a healthy way.
Writing out your angry thoughts and emotions is one of the best and most healing forms of processing through anger. It is a safe way for you to say whatever you want. It gives you a glimpse of the state of your heart, and it can help you gain wisdom and clarity over the way to handle this anger.
Doing something creative can also be an expression of anger. Some of the most beautiful pieces of art come from places of intense emotional pain. Use what you are experiencing to make something profound.
In some small situations that trigger your anger, it may be appropriate to allow humor to help you bring laughter into a situation.
Know your anger triggers
If you are not aware of what triggers your anger, then spend time paying attention to yourself. This will help you manage it better in the future, especially when you can expect a trigger to occur.
Talk with a trusted person
Like journaling or prayer, this is a healthy way to let your anger out instead of holding it in. Talk with a spouse or close friend or seek a professional counselor. Talking through your anger can help you move past it and heal from the hurt.
Consider the best solutions
Think about the best solutions that will bring the best outcomes. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, and you are angry, think about your next step. You could do something to retaliate, which could lead to a potentially dangerous situation, or you could let it go without worrying about it anymore, which would make the whole situation fizzle out to be soon forgotten.
Christian Counseling for Controlling Anger
Anger is one of these emotions that feels like it can get the best of you, but it does not have to. It is time to get back in the driver’s seat and let anger take the back seat. Anger can be destructive when mishandled, and it is vital to you and your relationships that you choose to work on managing it in healthy ways. If you are struggling with controlling anger, seek a Christian counselor. They can teach you effective strategies that can benefit you for a long time.
“Fight”, Courtesy of OpenClipart_Vectors, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of Olichel, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Pouting,” Courtesy of Martakoton, Pixabay.com, CC0 License “Crazy”, Courtesy of RobinHiggins, Pixabay.com, CC0 License