Posted by on Jun 26, 2012 in Instructive Cases

So many millions of people struggle with anger. It seems humans can’t get it quite right. Some people suppress it all their lives long and others can’t control the expression, so they hurt those near and dear to them. Why is anger such a problem when it is as universal, natural and normal as sleeping?

The following are facts about anger:

  •        Anger is inevitable. It can’t be avoided by anyone.
  •        Anger is both human and divine.
  •        Anger comes from, in descending order of frequency: 1) pain, especially the pain        from being neglected, 2) fear, 3) protecting the young and the mate, 4) territorial        defensiveness 5) territorial conquest.
  •        Anger is useful:
    a)     it discharges built up emotion;
    b)     it produces energy and drive necessary to do difficult tasks;
    c)     it communicates strong feelings;
    d)     it indicates purpose and determination;
    e)     it indicates pain and distress;
    f)      for knowing oneself because it is usually honest;
    g)     it can cover fear and pain when people need to face the threat.
  •        Unexpressed anger is damaging to body, mind, and spirit.
  •        Expressing anger gives only temporary relief. The reservoir quickly refills.

Biblical Perspective

God frequently got angry, particularly at idolatry. Jesus got angry, particularly at religious leaders who obscured the truth.

The bible has two major injunctions. 1) When you express your anger, don’t get carried away and let it make you sin against God and your neighbour. 2) Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. You must deal with it daily, otherwise it can be very bad for your health, partly because it interferes with sleep.

Jesus got angry when his disciples seemed to be studiously ignorant or forgetfully afraid. He got fed up, frustrated with the people he had been trying so hard to teach and coach. Jesus also got angry in defense of his reputation and his holiness.

It appears that God can handle anger, hot anger, honest anger, but he does not like the cold alienating anger that emanates from our pride.

Dangers of Anger

  1. It is contagious. One member in the family can affect everybody, and the result is an irritating, insecure place for children.
  2. Anger can result in scapegoating, when people will not deal with their problems but project them onto others.
  3. Anger often puts children into damaging double bind conflicts, e.g. “Johnny, come here!” This shout immobilizes Johnny in a bind. The words say, “Come” and the tone says “Take off!” The double bind occurs when Johnny can’t protest or stay immobilized. “What’s the matter with you, stupid, don’t just sit there!”
  4. Anger can produce internalized conflicts which result in repetitive re-enactments that are so tragic.
  5. Anger produces an empathetic response of anger that makes those closest to the angry person struggle, e.g. “You kids stop fighting. Now!” The children’s anger produces a response of anger within the parents. They don’t need this because they are already struggling with their anger.
  6. Anger can result from engineered self-pity, “Poor me, everybody is against me. Boy, I’d like to get even!”
  7. Anger can come from exaggerated hurts.
  8. Anger can make people do desperate things (drive too fast), but that helps the person avoid dealing with their own underlying difficulty.

Dealing With Anger

  1. Identify the pain, fear, etc. at the root of it.
  2. Express that pain, fear, etc. when you feel angry.
  3. Identify all the triggers to your anger and trace them to their historic roots.
  4. Don’t be submissive (it invites sadism) or aggressive (it provokes escalating aggression) but be assertive.
  5. Learn how to be assertive from an expert.
  6. When fighting, constrain it with fair fighting rules.
  7. When angry with God, tell it like it is.