HOW DO I MANAGE MY ANGER?
Is your anger getting the best of you in this season of restrictions, social distancing, masking, working from home, and an increasing amount of deaths and job loss?
Parents are overtaxed keeping their kids occupied while coping with the pressures of this covid season with little relief in sight. What is this anger that keeps popping up for no good reason at times and for good reasons at other times?
A Definition of Anger may be a good starting point. Anger is physiological arousal triggered by an internal or external event, cognitively labelled, and expressed in an outburst verbally, physically, or even in your imagination. Anger is more than an emotion; it involves the imagination, thoughts, body and will.
Even our soul and spirit can experience restlessness within, a deep unsettled accumulated frustration with circumstances outside our control. Anger can be a primary response, directly provoked by another person, or more often a secondary response, masking deeper emotions of fear, insecurity, hurt, betrayal, or rejection.
Anger pops up to defend vulnerable emotions from being exposed. Just think of a dog actually in fear of a trespassing person, angrily baring its teeth and growling to drive them away. Here are some of the triggers causing anger to arise.
1. ANTICIPATION – “What if this or that happens in the future?” Such exercising of the imagination in negative possibilities or scenarios causes threat and fear to overwhelm, alerting the barking dog to defend!
2. FRUSTRATION- Entertaining a goal that is important to you. However, it is being blocked by circumstances beyond your control. “I have to be in control” is the underlying declaration. Anger can be expressed to attempt to cut through the barrier blocking the way.
3. UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS- We all have desires, dreams, expectations, that we look forward to. Expectations can fuel our hope for the future, motivating us to move towards fulfillment. When these are dashed, we can get discouraged, irritated, dissatisfied. Anger can more easily arise, even turning inward into depression. The dog can howl in the experience of discouragement.
4. TRIGGERING EVENTS-Present events and conflicts relationally can resurface painful memories of rejection, trauma, abuse, and betrayal. For example, friends exercising extreme precaution in social distancing can trigger memories of rejection and feelings of betrayal. Many are connecting the isolation of this season to memories of abuse, where shame kept them alone and isolated in victimization. This resurfaces anger from past-unresolved issues and fuels anger in the present as old wounds reopen.
5. LOSSES & GRIEF- Money, lifestyle, career, and relationships; these are important pillars that hold up the sense of meaning and purpose in Life. When any of these are threatened or removed, we experience profound loss. Family or friends getting sick and passing in this season of covid have interfered with the grief process necessary for closure.
To be denied access to a dying parent or grandparent, to relinquish care to facilities ill-equipped to support the needs of the aging and sick. To have funeral ceremonies delayed, burials postponed to a later date! These and many more scenarios fuel grief and anger, which is part of a healthy grief process.
6. CONFUSION- There are a multitude of voices through media sending out contradicting messages about Covid 19, numbers, risk factors, possible cures, vaccines, conspiracy theories, economic forecasts, 2nd wave threats! Trust in the medical system, political decisions, policing practices, corporate responses, spiritual interpretations, is at an all-time low.
Confusion breeds frustration and anger. Such anger can be expressed constructively in sponsoring movements for justice and change or destructively devolving into violence, anarchy, and division within families, between friends and even nations.
Here are seven steps to managing anger in this season:
1. DE-ESCALATE AROUSAL- Discover and practise healthy breathing and relaxation methods that shut down fight-flight arousal and turn on the relaxation response in our autonomic nervous system. Prayer, meditation, solitude, serving others, exercise, distraction and other forms of decompression is extremely important.
2. IDENTIFY & ACKNOWLEDGE PRIMARY EMOTIONS- Sincerely face and own your deeper feelings; the feelings masked behind Anger. Writing in a journal, opening-up to a trusted friend, seeking counsel & guidance, being more transparent within yourself, admission of vulnerability, uncovering, confession to God, admission of your need for support.
3. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS OF YOUR ANGER- Noting when you become angry and what circumstances and/or relationships set off your anger. What are the cues, themes that repeat in “lighting the fuse?”
For example, you may be in a line-up at the bank, or given a disinfected cart to push around at the grocery store or receive a media text or some crazy chain report from a friend on Facebook or Instagram. Knowing your triggers will help you be proactive to avoid or act ahead of time to defuse the bomb.
4. RESTRAIN IMPULSIVE RESPONSES – Be mindful of yourself and aware of arousal rising inside. Talk to and coach yourself through negative thought patterns. Distract yourself and divert your attention away from certain situations. Play music to keep calm while in line at the store you are hoping to enter. Ask God for grace and mercy to extend to others through you.
5. ANALYZE YOUR OPTIONS- Consciously examine the circumstances and situations surrounding you. Reason with yourself and create other options for change. Leverage arousal energy into creative outlets such as crafts, hobbies, exercise. Develop strategies of intervention for yourself, plans of action.
6. TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION- Implement strategies turning “lemons into lemonade.” Set healthy boundaries and take decisions that steer away from destructive expressions of anger. For example, skip the line-up of masked faces and bodies at the bank and use the bank machine. Become others focus and take the opportunity to encourage someone else producing good feelings within.
7. PRAY FOR DISCERNMENT & SELF-CONTROL- Ask God for help! Allow his love to flow through you. Allow His Spirit to produce the fruit of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. You can be met with supernatural strength and enablement.