I have been dealing with some emotions over the past week and a half that have not plagued me in quite some time. I have been extremely agitated, short-fused, lacking in joy, and downright ticked off. Anger has reared its ugly head.
I know a lot about anger. I used to teach an anger management class to violent offenders. Here’s a little of what I learned working with that population. At its core, anger is a hard emotion. It’s easy to see, easy to recognize. Everyone around you knows when you’re mad. The problem is that anger only serves as a sort of “check engine” light that gives you some indication that something else under the hood is wrong, but it gives you little to no indication as to what that something else is.
You see, anger is always, always, always, 100% of the time about some softer emotion that it is covering up. Let me describe with a simple example. If you were sitting in my living room and my little dog ran up to you and bit you on the leg, what would you do? More than likely you would react by kicking the dog away from your leg. That kicking response is the response of anger that is a natural self-protective mechanism to the dog biting you. The dog bite hurt. And therein lies the essence of anger…anger is really about being hurt and attempting to protect yourself from further harm.
So, now that we know this, it’s time to do the hard work of finding out what those softer emotions are that the anger is serving to protect you from. Here it is – I feel:
· Uncared for
Now, wouldn’t it be a whole lot simpler just to blow off some steam, lash out in anger over my situation, chew some people out, stand my ground, etc., etc.? These softer emotions are more difficult to know what to do with.
The trouble is that in expressing my anger, I end up hurting the people around me. And that’s not loving. Jesus told us that other people would know that we are his disciples, if we have love for one another. That’s important to me. And I’m a long way from doing it well.
What I’ve learned is that to be really good at loving others, I must first learn to love myself in light of God’s amazing love for me. When my softer emotional needs are being met through my relationship with my heavenly Father, I can begin to display compassionate responses in the midst of trying circumstances, that would otherwise cause me to lash out in anger.
If you’re dealing with anger, please contact one of our counselors today who can help you talk through and sort out what’s really going on under the hood, embrace God’s amazing love for you, and begin to live of life of compassion toward others.
-Jeff Faulkner, M.S., LPC