Anger: a strong feeling that one has when something has happened or someone has done something that one doesn’t like
Anger is both part of grieving and being human. Anger is frequently felt not only by those of us with a chronic illness but by healthy people every day. But just as illness and health can have an effect on our lives, so can our responses to anger. Sadly, research has shown that there is a correlation between supressed anger and colitis. Responses that try and deny the wrongs that have been inflicted without processing them means that anger is unresolved.
Reading Gary Chapman’s book, “Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way” has encouraged me to reflect on the anger in my life as well as the way anger is viewed in general.
Gary Chapman believes that when dealing with anger we need to ask ourselves what the origin of anger is and what the purpose of anger is. His belief is that understanding the origin of anger is essential to understanding the purpose of anger which is essential to learning how to process anger in a constructive way.
Anger is a response to an event or situation in life that leads us to feel irritation, frustration, pain or displeasure. Chapman explains that anger is fed by feelings of hurt, disappointment, rejection and embarrassment and that anger is the emotion that emerges when we are confronted with something we perceive to be wrong.
It is important to remember that anger itself is not evil or sinful or wrong, but that our response to anger often is.
I like Chapman’s assertion that anger’s fundamental purpose is to motivate us to positive loving action that will leave things better than when we found them. For many of us, healthy anger control is something that we learn as adults, which means we have to reset our default style of dealing with our anger.
For me, the most helpful advice he gives for people processing anger towards someone with whom we have a relationship is the five-step process:
1) Consciously acknowledge to myself that I am angry
2) Restrain my immediate response
3) Find the focus of my anger
4) Analyze my options
5) Take constructive action
When I try and apply these steps to my processing of anger, I have to deal with some uncomfortable and painful truths.
Because the onset of the emotion of anger is so sudden, I often respond verbally before consciously acknowledging what is going on inside me. That is the reason that consciously acknowledging to myself that I am angry is an essential step.
I now understand that restraining my response is not the same as storing my anger. Rather, it is refusing to take the action that I typically take when feeling angry.
Locating the focus of my anger requires me to be intentional and honest about exactly what is making me angry. I need to determine the primary cause of the anger as well being realistic and reasonable about the seriousness of the offence.
Analyzing my options helps me to take responsibility for my actions because I am not allowing myself to be a powerless victim, but rather a powerful person who has choices and options. And it is helpful to try and remember whether the options I am considering are positive and loving. This is an ongoing challenge for me.
Chapman’s book has taught me a new term and hopefully a new way of thinking and acting on anger. Forbearance. This is giving up the right to take revenge as well as refusing to allow what has happened to undermine my sense of well-being.
This is an intellectual insight rather than a practical application in my life at this stage, but I feel assured that the process has begun which gives me hope as well as allowing me to take constructive action.