When I get angry, I blow up so fast that I don't have time to stop and think or ask for God's wisdom. I know all of these things would help, but by the time I think of it I've already done the damage. What can I do to help get control of my temper?
Dear Friend; It seems to me that anger results from a combination of sources: low self-worth, recurring patterns, disappointments, revenge, spiritual warfare, depression, sin and/or selfishness, inability to communicate assertively, too much stress and other emotional or relationship problems. Anger immediately rears it's ugly head within 1-3 seconds of a provoking incident. You need to learn how to prevent such an overpowering emotional response & how to respond in healthy ways to the triggering events. Some people hold their anger inside and then, blow-up later on at a small trigger. I recommend taking the following steps:
- Write out and log recent times of anger. Explore what happened, what the issue was, how you felt and what resulted. Then think of some times in the past when you were able to control your anger... probably at work... how did you control it? What did you do or say? What did you tell yourself to calm down? Most people tend to be able to control their anger at times. thus proving that they can have control over it. Order the book and take the Anger Survey in the first chapter.
- Learn to take time-outs immediately. You can walk away from situations/people who trigger your anger. Give yourself time to cool off: 10-20 min. Take a run, pray and think about what it is that you are really upset about. What is the real issue and what are the feelings underlying your anger? What do you want to request from the person? How can you negotiate or compromise some conflict you are having?
- Avoid lots of caffeine. Completely avoid alcohol and drugs, unless you are taking a prescription. Caffeine increases the metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure, and causes mood irritability. Alcohol and drugs may give a person a "high" or mellow feeling at first and will seem to relieve stress but the effects are temporary and soon after you will actually feel more irritable, and depressed and angry feelings will not only return but usually escalate.
- You may be dealing with a lot of stress or loss. This needs to be explored and worked through possibly with the help of a counselor. Explore how you can decrease stress in your life. Begin an exercise program so that you can work off some of the stress in your life physically.
- Learning to communicate assertively is one of the most important tools for expressing your anger in a healthy way. See book suggestions below. Begin to share more openly & lovingly your needs, requests and opinions with others. Start setting boundaries so that you are not taking on other people's responsibilities. Order the Assert Yourself! audiotape and workbook!
- Depression can play a part in anger or vice versa. I would encourage you to go to counseling and see a psychiatrist for a diagnosis and the appropriate medication. You can call Rapha's hotline for a referral in your area to a counselor and psychiatrist at: 1-800-383-4673(hope). Read the article on Coping with the Blues. Exercise is an important way to decrease depression.
- Learn to forgive. Bitterness plays a big part in anger and rage. When you hold on to resentments from the past, then, when someone does or says anything hurtful or disappointing, you perceive it as more hurtful or disappointing. Your perception of events is skewed. Order the book and read the chapter on forgiveness. Learn to forgive as God has forgiven you.
- Begin your day with the Lord in devotions and prayer and studying the Word of God. Surrender your life to God.
Surrendering to the God is the key throughout the day in prayer and memorizing scripture to renew your mind and prepare against this enemy of anger and rage. The Holy Spirit will give you power to demonstrate gentleness, self-control, love and peace - the opposite reaction to anger and rage. Keeping in touch with God will help you react in humility to events and people who trigger your anger. You will also have faith that God will protect you and provide for your needs and not respond so angrily when people threaten your needs, rights or relationships. If you would like to know more about how to have a personal relationship with God, then read the article I have written on faith. Faith is the key to keeping your anger under God's control and responding righteously. The Lord gets angry (as we read in many scriptures) but it is always righteous.
Anger can be managed and expressed in healthy ways when God has control of your life.
You need to get to the root of the problem you are having with your temper. It may be partly physiological (talk with your doctor about the need for medication), emotional, psychological and maybe due to crises, stress or previous loss or trauma. There are many causes and a counselor can help you explore these causes and better ways to cope with your thoughts, symptoms and feelings.
Take a step now towards professional mental health counseling/treatment and towards God. Commit to making at least 3 or 4 of changes in your life as suggested above and Order the What's Good About Anger? online, home-study anger management courses, book and certificates.