How do you feel when others do not meet your expectations, or when you do not get what you want? Do you “bite your wife’s head off?” Do you lose your voice yelling at your kids? Do you secretly obsess and seethe at something your neighbor did, wondering how you can get even?
Depending on many complex factors, we can react in many different ways. Sometimes we are simply irritated, frustrated, or impatient. Other times we rage, at least on the inside.
Anger brings with it a great deal of physiological arousal. Your heart beats faster, your breathing rate increases, your pupils constrict, and your blood flows more to your active muscles – all signs that your adrenal glands are pumping more hormones which signal your body to go into “fight or flight” mode.
Here are a few tips to help you cope in a way that can diminish the damage that poor anger management does to both you and those around you.
Delay your response. It essential to break negative automatic and habitual ways of expressing your anger that hurt others and yourself. “Counting to 10” is age old advice that really does serve a purpose. It helps you engage the thinking portions of your brain so you can evaluate the potential consequences of the angry comments you would like to make.
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20
Contemplate ways that you can delay your response without shutting down completely or repressing your anger in unhealthy ways.
Resist acting out anger inappropriately. This can be verbal or non-verbal behavior. Saying or doing things intended to hurt others will only escalate your problems. Be slow to speak. This is the path of mature, responsible adult behavior.
“He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:1-6
Consider the contrast in ways that Jesus handled his anger and how the Pharisees handled their anger toward Jesus. In what appropriate ways did Jesus direct his anger?
Listen attentively and objectively. What is the other person really communicating? How is the person feeling? Seek to really put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Research shows the high value of empathy in overcoming habitual expressions of anger.
“He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13
Recall a conversation in which you became angry without really understanding the actual situation. How did you feel when you realized your mistake?
Next week we will continue Seeking Balance in Coping with Anger.
Modified from an original article written for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2016.