Robin D. Webb
Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is defined as an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable, and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, hurt, or threat. It is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility that leads to anger problems.
A person experiencing anger would also exhibit physical effects such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline (a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, especially in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and preparing muscles for exertion) and noradrenaline (a hormone that is released by the adrenal medulla and by the sympathetic nerves and functions as a neurotransmitter. It is also used as a drug to raise blood pressure).
It is also reported that anger is viewed as an emotion that triggers the fight-or-flight response resulting in the individual reacting in behavioral, cognitive, or physiological ways. The effects of anger problems on relationships occur more often than we realize. Anger can have a detrimental effect on healthy relationships, particularly when anger is uncontrolled and expressed in destructive ways.
What does a healthy relationship look and feel like?
A healthy relationship provides the individuals involved with the security, support, validation, and comfort that allows them to flourish as individuals. As social beings, it is pertinent that we find ways to implement nurturing into our relationships.
For those relationships to meet our needs, there must be elements of honesty, trust, respect, and open communication between the parties involved. These healthy relationships require effort and compromise from both parties for the relationship to be successful.
It has been stated that although healthy relationships are robust, they can also be very delicate depending on several factors including culture and ethnicity, family of origin, life experiences, morals, values, faith, and belief systems. It is only in a healthy relationship that individuals can respect and speak honestly to one another without the worry of causing permanent damage to the relationship.
One of several key elements in a healthy relationship involves trust. Trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. However, trust takes time to build. It encompasses many shared experiences, which demonstrate reliability and confidence in another individual to place oneself and one’s life experiences in the hands of others.
Yet, trust can also be shattered in an instant. For example, a husband and wife can build a life together over many years, but that trust, respect, and intimacy can be undermined through one violent outburst of anger, which is why healthy relationships are described as being robust, yet simultaneously delicate.
What are some signs of unhealthy anger problems?
Anger usually flares up when we feel threatened, belittled, dismissed, taken advantage of, or experience injustice to ourselves or others. Anger alerts us that something in our world is not quite right, and it provides us with an instinct to resolve whatever is wrong. Just like all the other emotions that God created us to experience, anger can be used in ways that promote growth and maturity for ourselves and others.
Unbridled anger can be destructive, and as the Book of James reminds Christians, human anger does not lead to the righteous life that God desires for us. (James 1:19-21) Anger can be a bit like using a sledgehammer in a situation that requires fine tools. Some of the signs of anger problems are as follows:
- If you find yourself feeling angry most of the time, and that is your dominant emotional posture, you may have anger problems.
- If you get angry at the slightest provocation, and your reaction seems way out of proportion to the situation, you may have an anger problem. It is hard to self-diagnose and gauge whether your reaction is over the top, but if the people around you arrive at the same assessment, which is a good indicator that there is something amiss.
- When you get angry, people tend to get hurt. Hurt may mean physical violence ensues, whether that is punching, kicking, throwing, or breaking objects. It can also mean verbal abuse by way of shouting, making threats, cursing at people, making demeaning or abusive statements, and so on. This may result in feeling regret or grief at the loss of the relationship. Additionally, it may also mean that you get in trouble with the law for damaging property or for assaulting others. Anger can be directed inwardly as well as outwardly; that means your anger can be directed toward yourself, such as through self-deprecating remarks, negative self-talk, and self-harm.
- You struggle to control your anger and what you do when you are feeling angry. Our emotions are meant to inform us about what is going on inside of us, and they inform us of our actions. However, we should be in control of our emotions and not allow our emotions to take the lead.
- You have health problems due to your anger. Anger increases your risk of physical and medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, anxiety, and depression. If you are always angry, that can weaken your immune system and in some cases cause impairment of lung function due to inflammation linked to an increase in stress hormones.
How anger problems affect relationships.
Anger can serve a positive function in a relationship when expressed well. It alerts both individuals about the person getting angry. For instance, a spouse who experiences anger over certain types of jokes that the other spouse makes about him or her becomes more aware of his or her boundaries.
That anger provides an opportunity for discussion about why certain jokes are degrading, and the result can be a deepened mutual respect and renewed commitment to love and respect one another.
However, if anger is an uncontrolled, ever-present reality in a relationship, and it gets triggered over even the slightest provocation, it can make the relationship difficult to enjoy meaningfully. One of the main issues with uncontrolled anger in a relationship is that it makes the relationship and the other partner feel unsafe.
If your friend, spouse, colleague, parent, or sibling has an anger problem, then you might live in fear that they will have an outburst that results in verbal or physical abuse. Thus, you either have to walk on eggshells whenever they are around or be yourself, or risk incurring their unpredictable wrath.
When a relationship feels unsafe, it means that it is difficult to be vulnerable and honest. In relationships such as marriage that are rooted in interconnected intimacies, feeling afraid and unable to be vulnerable undermines the very foundation of the relationship.
Anger problems have the potential to end relationships because they create a hostile environment that is not conducive to the relationship or the other partner’s flourishing which results in the relationships with the individual with the anger problem, often ending abruptly.
Addressing anger problems.
The first step to addressing any problem is to admit that you have one. Sometimes we can be blind to our behavior until someone that cares for us tells us and it sinks in. Unfortunately, sometimes it often takes something as dramatic as losing a friend, getting arrested, getting hospitalized, fired, or divorced to realize that there is an anger issue. If the people around you express concerns about your anger and behavior, please take those concerns seriously.
From a Biblical perspective, perhaps the Holy Spirit has been prompting you and urging you towards changing your behavior and to begin to develop and grow spiritually in patience and self-control (two of the “fruit of the Spirit” found in the Book of Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). You need to listen to these promptings for the benefit of yourself, your relationship with your loved ones, and your relationship with God.
There are several ways to address anger issues, and one key element is to identify and understand the triggers driving these unhealthy expressions of anger. For some people, being angry is a learned behavior that they observed from a role model such as a parent. When you do not know how to express emotions in a healthy way, it may simply be a learned behavior.
In other situations, anger problems are the result of some underlying condition such as chronic stress. It could even possibly reflect an early onset of symptoms of dementia and depression. What this means is that the anger is being driven by an underlying condition for which you require targeted treatment. A mental health professional can help you assess and address the root cause of anger problems that you may be experiencing.
If a person’s anger is not attributable to mood disorders or other purely circumstantial causes, anger problems can be addressed through a combination of self-help techniques and therapy. Sometimes, having a good outlet for anger like regular exercise helps to reduce stress levels and elevate mood.
Getting a good rest every night can help you regulate your mood and engage in difficult situations with greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Learning how to meditate on the Scriptures or take deep breaths can be the difference between an outburst or calmly expressing your concerns constructively.
Learning how to deal with anger is also a matter of learning how to communicate better. This means learning how to express oneself and to listen empathetically, which includes resisting the urge to jump to conclusions, which also often invokes anger.
Therapy for anger problems can assist you by providing exercises to practice healthily expressing your anger, and that may even include learning how to use humor to diffuse a potentially tense situation. Therapy can help you begin to identify and understand not only the things that trigger your angry responses but new ways of thinking and being that promote healthy interactions with others.
Anger can cause enormous destruction in relationships, not to mention the health risks it introduces into your life. Surely, human anger does not lead to the righteous life that God desires, nor does it result in the abundant life God desires.
If you have anger problems, consider seeking help from a Christian counselor who will help you address your anger issues and begin restoring your relationships with others, and with God. Take that first step today and reach out for help.
“Rage”, Courtesy of RobinHiggins, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Conflict”, Courtesy of Johnhain, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Ready to Explode”, courtesy of 95C, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Heart of Divorce”, Courtesy of Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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