Country music star Tim McGraw sings a song with this line: “I don’t know why you gotta be angry all the time.” It’s a good question for us to ponder, especially those of us who find ourselves expressing anger more than any other emotion. It’s easy, however, to become so used to the feeling of anger that it begins to feel normal. It’s not unusual for an angry person to fail to recognize that he or she is angry.
The internet and the bookstores are filled with all manner of tools under the category of anger management. There is no shortage of self-help items, some of them fairly effective and others not so much. The truth is that those of us who are truly angry and chronically angry have been this way for a very long time. It’s not that simple to “manage” that away.
Certainly, we can be strong-willed enough, if we want to be, to manage the behavior that is caused by our anger. But that’s just a case of behavioral modification. We can do that. We do it all the time when we walk away before slugging another person.
I’m suggesting another thing, something very different than just managing our anger. I want to suggest that rather than managing our anger, perhaps we should transform it, not merely changing our behavior, but literally changing the emotion that has the power to control us. Not just managing anger, transforming it. That is real inner change that lasts. That’s genuine emotional change that goes beyond having the will power to walk away from a fight or an argument. Just walking away changes nothing. Consider also, that just walking away simply stores up that episode of anger to erupt at another time.
We can only store up so much anger in the baggage we carry around with us in life. Pretty soon, the baggage will be so heavy that we won’t be able to move it.
So what’s all this rhetoric about transforming anger? How in the world does one go about doing that? I have a few suggestions, some of them quite simple and straightforward. Not all of them will work for every person, but some of them will work, and will give you the power to transform the anger that controls your life. Here they are:
~ DO walk away from a fight or an argument, but when you do, take some time to write your feelings in a journal. Reflect on what happened and write it down. Date the entry and keep it for future reference. After you have written about several instances of your need to have an outburst, you may begin to see a pattern that will help you better understand yourself. Writing down emotions, in some sense, allows you to own them and even transform them.
~ Find one trusted friend that will listen to your feelings of anger and give you a safe, non-volatile place to vent your anger. Use that person as your sounding board and someone who is able to reflect back to you what you are feeling.
~ Own your angry feelings to the point of trying to discover what might be underneath all that anger. When you feel anger, is sadness underneath it? Or fear? Try to discover what’s underneath the masks you wear.
~ Where does your anger really come from? Explore within yourself and try to determine the source of your anger. What is really hurting you? How long have you felt this anger?
~ Meditate and pray. Place yourself in a peaceful environment. Ask God to help you transform your soul. Ask God to help you dissipate your anger. Remember that disappointment can be a mask for the anger you are holding inside. The longer you hold it, the more normal it feels.
These simple suggestions will not transform your anger overnight, but they are self-reflective enough to be much more than anger management techniques. The next time you have a need to stop your angry behavior in its tracks, commit yourself to also do a little inner exploration. You will find at some point that you are not merely managing angry episodes, you are transforming anger at its very core. That’s real transformation.