I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing people seem a lot angrier these days than in years past. Maybe it was the mess of 2020, or lingering frustration over Covid, the economy, or political division. Whatever the source, it seems that the temperature of our society is running hotter, and many are struggling with shorter fuses and increased irritability. Maybe this is understandable given the circumstances, but it doesn’t bode well to have these emotions for a sustained period of time. Unresolved anger, even if only simmering, can still burn relationships, our health, and overall quality of life.
Anger can have a lot of sources. It can come from emotional hurts, abuse, or betrayals. It can come from stress or not being able to control our circumstances. These feelings of futility can boil over into rage, especially if there is a sense of injustice over what we’re angry about. I get it, these things are real and often warrant anger; however, anger does not have to overrun your life and destroy the things you still love. To manage your anger, you have to first understand it.
Find the Root
Anger is often referred to as a secondary emotion because it can mask or serve as a defense to other emotions that come first; typically shame, hurt, or fear. Taking some time out to consider what is at the root of your anger can help focus on the other emotions that need attention. Not working through them often leads to destructive behavior, which can be passed on from generation to generation. You may know some families that seem hot-headed. It’s not uncommon for anger to rub off on other family members, or be learned during childhood. Finding the root of anger by exploring what may be causing it can help break the generational cycle and do more than treat the symptoms.
Develop Some Coping Skills
One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is when Kramer and George use the mantra “serenity now” to help calm their anger. It helps at first, but then they explode because intense emotions need a place to go. When we’re angry, our brains release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline because it’s preparing our bodies to fight. This is why we feel so amped up. It’s harder to think clearly because our brains are essentially hijacked. We have to get ahead of our anger and try to diffuse it before we go nuclear. There are lots of things we can do to help diffuse: take a walk, do some cardio, deep breathe, and take a time out to allow our thinking brain to catch up to our emotional brain. It takes about 15 minutes for the hormones to burn off and our bodies to calm down. Give yourself a break and allow this time to pass before you choose to engage. You’ll be much more controlled and less likely to do something you’ll regret.
I think everyone has learned that stress will make you punchy and constantly on edge. It’s a bad state to be in for too long as it will wreck your health and mind. The ‘stress industry’ is a booming market because our modern culture can’t seem to stop producing it. Stress can be a major underlying factor of anger, so it needs to be managed. If massages and mental health days don’t go far enough, then you might have to consider making some lifestyle changes that can bring more balance and less stress into your life. If this is easier said than done, consider how you’re using your free time, and whether there’s a need to reprioritize your interests, finances, family time, leisure, or even the things that you watch or listen to that can be fueling stress and frustration.
The value of anger is to move somehow; whether to fight, flee, or take action. The reason our bodies surge with adrenaline when we’re angry is to help propel us into doing something to remedy the anger. Some people take the destructive route and hit, berate, or break. This is unrighteous anger that never produces a good outcome, only more damage. As well, vengeful anger only produces bitterness and is never spiritually satisfying, which is why God says to avoid it. Remember that anger typically masks hurt, shame, or fear, so it is typically useful to process those emotions as an action against anger. Counseling is a good tool for this because it can help isolate the true issues and find a constructive way forward. This could include mending broken relationships, finding healthy outlets, working through grief, or repurposing anger’s energy into productive pursuits.
It’s not sustainable to just choke down anger because eventually, something will blow. Anger by nature separates. It takes awareness, effort, and practice to learn self-control and a better way to express ourselves. We typically don’t tolerate our spouses or kids exploding in anger, so it’s not cool to expect them to endure ours. Families and friends can help keep each other accountable and encourage time-outs when needed. Our kids need emotional breaks as much as we do, so demonstrating anger management at home teaches useful skills to them as well. I know it’s always easier said than done, but you’re not alone and the peace of your home is worth it. You can find our Crossroads counselors at (225)341-4147 to help you walk through this process.