Recommended by a Christian Counselor
Part 2 of a 2-Part Anger Management Activities Series
Anger might just be the most misunderstood and misused of emotions. It has been likened to a beast that we either feed or fear. Can anger be leveraged for good? We have all taken our anger and used it to punish others or ourselves. Some of us internalize our anger so that its energy gets absorbed into our bodies. We turn against ourselves, and this results in associated conditions such as stomach ulcers and hypertension. Alternatively, our anger may cause us to be verbally violent, to use profanity, raise the volume, and to target the other’s flaws and vulnerabilities. We can also be very covert, withholding, stone-walling, or withdrawing into silence.
What other options do we have for dealing with our anger? What activities channel anger constructively, build our relationships, and minimize damage? In my previous article, I addressed the first two steps in healthy anger management: Awareness and De-Escalation. In this article, I address two more major goals and suggest helpful activities for managing anger.
3) Express Your Anger Constructively
…in your anger, do not sin. – Ephesians 4:26a
Anger is a morally neutral emotion until we use it or direct it. It is a physiological response to a real or perceived threat. It is how we express our anger that is crucial in either building or destroying others and relationships. In his letter to the early church in Ephesus, Paul admonishes his readers not to sin in their anger. He goes on to exhort his readers to address their anger as soon as possible. They are to choose words that build up, eschewing rage, bitterness, slander, and every expression that is aimed at revenge. They are to be kind and forgiving. Anger needs to be acknowledged and expressed without hurting oneself or others. In order to do this, here are four suggestions for expressing your anger constructively:
– Work it out physically without harming to yourself, others, or property. Physical expressions of anger, such as hitting or screaming into a pillow, taking a walk or run, or working out can be safe yet effective. This can be accompanied by verbally releasing your frustration to God, or by visualizing your hurt and anger going into the Cross of Christ.
– Write it out. Some people find it helpful to write out their angry thoughts and feelings, either on paper or digitally. The resultant composition can then be thrown away, shredded, or deleted.
– Pray it out. Expressing our hurts, frustrations, and anger to God is a feature of many of David’s psalms in the Old Testament Scriptures. For example, “Why is this happening? Where are you, God?” Or, “I’m crucified with Christ, please take this hurt and anger, Lord Jesus!” In addition, asking God for insight into your underlying hurts and into the sources of the intensity will be helpful when you need to talk to repair relationships.
– Talk it out. When we are hurt, we often need to talk out our anger with others in order to find resolution (more about how in the next section).
The point of expressing anger is to find release. And, in doing so, we may also be able to gain some insight into the sources of our intensity and to identify our underlying hurts.
4) Address Your Hurts and Needs
…speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up; don’t let the sun go down on your wrath; let no unwholesome talk come from your mouths, get rid of all bitterness, forgive. (Ephesians 4:15, 26b, 29-32)
Anger is usually a secondary emotion that often covers a primary emotion, such as hurt, fear, or shame. And anger management is incomplete until these underlying hurts have been addressed. Having expressed anger constructively, and gained some insight into our hearts, we can engage with others. This involves being honest in love, and speaking of and acknowledging our hurts. When we have been hurtful, choosing to be empathetic facilitates healing in the one we have offended. Hurts, whether intended or not, are often the result of unmet expectations, which can be adjusted and re-negotiated. Our expectations come from needs, which can be addressed. Paul concludes his instruction about how a follower of Christ is to handle hurt and anger in Ephesians 4 by urging us to be self-controlled, to renounce hurtful anger, and to forgive those who have injured us, just as in Christ God has forgiven us.
It has been said that forgiveness, or canceling the debt another owes us, is the only real means to heal from relational wounds. Forgiveness can be a progressive process rather than a once-of
event and requires time. It is not simply an intellectual exercise, nor a dispassionate decision with an immediate result. Forgiveness is always a unilateral choice based on one’s own experience of being forgiven by God and is not dependent on how the other responds. It is a work God does in those He has forgiven and loved. Addressing hurts and needs leads to the restoration and repair of relationships.
Christian Counseling for Anger Management
Christian counseling can help you to express and address your hurts and anger in safe and effective ways. A Christian counselor can coach you in anger management skills. If you need support and change in how you deal with your anger, I encourage you to contact any of our counselors at Seattle Christian Counseling.
“I wanna hold your hand,” courtesy of Josep Ma. Rosell, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Photographers at dawn” by Richard Fisher, Flickr CreativeCommons, (CC BY 2.0)