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Freedom from Anger Problems

By learning to identify the possible causes and expressions of anger, you’re already on your way toward being free from your anger. Now, I’m careful how I word that statement, because there’s a big difference between being free of anger (rid of it) and being free from anger (in the midst of it). Again, anger is not a bad thing, but being captive to it, rather than learning to use it to bring life and establish righteousness, is a very dangerous and destructive thing.

The most important part of your freedom from anger is learning to identify the real needs behind your anger. As we’ve discussed, anger is often a sign of deeper pain—a need that is unmet or a value that is not upheld that needs to be protected—and it can become a blanket expression for a host of other emotions. You may be angry at your husband for going out with his friends the other night without calling you to say he was going to be late, but what you’re really feeling is lonely, and you feel you’ve lost the closeness and time together that you once had when your marriage was young. You may be angry about your coworker’s promotion at work (the one you should have had), but you’re really feeling devalued and unappreciated for the hard work and extra hours that you’ve put in so faithfully over the past five years.

When we get stuck in a pattern of responding to our problems with anger, it can be hard to accept responsibility for our own emotions. It’s too easy to point the finger—to hide our real feelings behind the perceived faults of those around us. But to be free from our anger, we must learn to identify, accept, and respond appropriately to our real feelings and needs.

Sometimes, the biggest challenge we face when we look objectively at our anger is that we can no longer identify our emotions. Many of us only know anger, and don't know how to identify anything deeper. The link below is an exercise that can help you identify your true emotions and learn to communicate and respond properly to them when they arise.

The worksheet is based on a tool from Dr. Douglas Weiss for use in marital counseling, and lists out hundreds of emotions (yes, there are hundreds), and helps you to identify your feelings by associating them with pas and present experiences. We encourage you to uilize this tool, and even to look up the definitions of each emotion as you go through it to hel you better identify and understand the way you feel. You can do it with your spouse, friend, or counselor, or you can simply go through the list by yourself. However you do it, it's important that you get in touch with your feelings, so you can express your emotions properly and so you can be assertive in expressing the unmet needs behind your anger.

Click here to download the Emotions Worksheet

Now, there’s often a lot of fear in this area, because we’ve seen so many examples of emotions gone wild. We have witnessed so much pain from people who were controlled by their emotions and who broke down, lashed out, withdrew, or did whatever else when they could not deal with them properly. This is where it's so important to trust God to let you hurt. He gave us our emotions as a gift, and as a reflection of His own heart (He made us in His image, after all), and they are for our benefit and blessing if we learn to feel them and respond to them appropriately.

Once you’ve identified the feelings behind your anger, you can better communicate and acquire what you really need. For example, when you know you’re feeling angry from loneliness, you can talk to your spouse about wanting to spend more time together instead of fuming about his late nights out and giving him the cold shoulder. When you feel devalued and unappreciated for your hard work in the office, you can remind yourself of the Scripture that says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them . . . your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

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