It’s a good day for me to be writing about anger. I’ve been working at getting my computer up and running since 8 a.m. It is now almost noon. Slow, slow internet; can’t access email; takes everything forever to load. Computers. Ya gotta love ’em. They’re great when they work 🙂
Well, anyway. I closed last week’s post by saying that anger can most certainly be controlled. We do not have to be the victims of our anger. I need to clarify that I’m talking about a normal person who has no underlying medical or mental health problems. There are some conditions that exacerbate anger. If you are dealing with a truly uncontrollable anger, then you need to get to a medical doctor and/or a biblical counselor, post haste. Don’t wait another minute.
In the meantime, those of us who just think we have the right to throw a temper fit whenever we want to need to understand what’s really going on.
First, I want to remind you of the personality study I’ve mentioned before. There are four different temperaments, and each of them shows and processes anger differently. The choleric leader “get it done” person is capable of furious rage, and he can keep it going as long as he feels necessary to get the results he wants. He’s intimidating.
The sanguine people-person, who loves attention and praise, has an explosive but short-lived temper. He forgives easily.
The melacholy “get it right” person has a quiet, cold, removed anger with which he punishes people until he gets the desired results.
The phlegmatic “get along” person is rarely obviously angry. He, too, clams up. His anger tends to land in the passive-aggressive category. He just quietly resists until those who must deal with him throw up their hands in frustration and leave him alone.
Whichever mode you recognize in yourself, please also recognize that uncontrolled anger is simply a temper fit that you have decided to throw (and yes, clamming up and refusing to talk is a temper fit). How, you may ask, can I make such a blunt statement? Well, let me see if I can answer it a couple of different ways.
Now and then, a man will come to my office and tell me he was sent to counseling for “anger issues.” (Are you as tired of “issues” as I am?) So I begin to interview him, and I discover, almost 100% of the time, that his anger is allowed full roar ONLY at home. He keeps it contained everywhere else. Now, keep in mind that this guy has told me he can’t help it; that he just loses control and doesn’t even know what he’s doing; that people just need to quit annoying him. When I quietly, in a gentle tone, point out to him that he seems able to control his anger when he knows he has to, he will go red in the face, his eyes will change, and I’m wondering if I need to make a quick exit. Amazingly, though, he reins it in and tries to argue with me. I have to be very confident, firm, and unmoveable in my position that he chooses when to allow his anger to explode; and that he generally chooses for it to explode on his wife/family.
Once we get over that hurdle, we can begin to figure out exactly why he’s so angry, and gives his anger free rein at home.
Working with the cold, silent anger of the melancholy and the phlegmatic is more difficult. They won’t admit they’re angry. They refuse to acknowledge that their silence is a control tactic, seeing it instead as a way to avoid unpleasant confrontation. These folks truly hate unpleasant confrontation, and they see their withdrawal as a way to calm things down. They don’t like to admit that they’re angry because they tend to see anger as sinful, and they’re perfectionists. It’s very hard for them to admit they’re not perfect. So it takes a lot more patience on my part, a lot more digging, to help them understand why they’re so miserable and why people tend to avoid them.
Can you imagine how difficult this whole process is for a hot-tempered, my-way-or-the-highway choleric/sanguine?I am quick to jump on bandwagons, to fight like a tiger for what I believe. Keeping all that under the control of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process. I’m thankful to say that I don’t remember the last time I threw a wall-eyed hizzy fit. I do know that the potential is there, and that it is my responsibility to stay filled with the Spirit.
Next time, we’ll look at some specific causes of anger, and what to do about them.
2 thoughts on “Friday Counseling Issues: Anger”
Hmmmmm…..Now, I’m beginning to wonder about myself! Since I’m a 44-year veteran of a marriage to a man with a hot temper, I have learned to let him vent, then I take a step back (figuratively) and try to sort through, piece by piece, his “issue.” (Yes, I’m tired of that word!) When other events occur, I find myself using the same technique, as I have learned that the calm, rational approach is much more productive than the explosive approach. The expression “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” seems to be the way I try to handle difficult situations. I’m not even sure which of those four personality types fits me these days, but I like to think that God has shown me some wisdom over the years, and that it enables me to handle conflicts with a bit more grace than I might have done several years ago. I DO know that a bad temper can close doors of communication faster than anything else, and once communication ceases, the possibility for real resolution is also gone. Thank you for your insight!
Glenda, you seem like a very wise woman, to me. The goal is to always become more Christ-like. That means to become a perfect blend and balance of all four personality types, with their strengths far more obvious than their weaknesses. Of course, we won’t be perfect until we see Jesus. But it’s my experience that a person who has walked with God over the course of his life definitely shows a Christ-like spirit, so that it’s difficult to easily spot what the basic temperament may be. What a blessing.