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  How to Replace Bad Anger with Good Anger New Hope Now / New Hope Notes  
     
 
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William ("Dr. Bill") Gaultiere, Ph.D.
Director of New Hope, Psychologist ChristianSoulCare.com

Anger. It causes more problems for more people. Angry outbursts, harsh words, passive-aggressive behavior, blaming, resentments, and depression are all signs of "bad anger." Some people think that they just need to try harder to be nicer. Others think if they "vent" enough then they can get their anger out. These are bad anger in disguise. Anger can be good. Let me show you how.

I Feel Guilty!

"I feel so guilty whenever I get angry," Monique (not her real name) said to me. "I'm a Christian. I shouldn't yell at my kids or lash out at my husband. I want to be pleasant and nice, as God wants me to be. What's the matter with me? How can I "button it up"?

Monique was making her angry feelings all bad. She didn't know that sometimes her anger can be good!

We learned that she'd feel guilt whenever she felt angry because it reminded her of her father's verbal abuse of her mother. She didn't want to hurt anyone like her father hurt her mother and her! So she kept repressing her anger. Then it'd leak out in snippy comments, critical words, and irritability. And sometimes she'd explode by yelling or lashing out at her family.

Realize Anger is an Indicator

I teach people like Monique that anger is a normal feeling to have when you've been hurt or you're needs are unmet. Like a red light on the dashboard of your car, anger is an indicator that says, "You've been hurt." "Your needs aren't being met." Or, "That isn't right!" Something is wrong and needs your attention. The initial feeling of anger isn't something to feel guilty about, as anger only becomes good or bad depending upon how you respond to it.

In fact, anger can be "righteous," or from God. In the Bible God gets angry at people over sin and models how to deal with it righteously an lovingly. What God demonstrates and what the Bible teaches is to deal with anger honestly, assertively, and with respect for God, others, and yourself. The following table, "Good and Bad Approaches to Anger" summarizes the differences between good and bad anger.

 
Good and Bad Approaches to Anger
Style Passive (Bad) Assertive (Good) Aggressive (Bad)

Emotions

Depression, fear, anxiety, resentment

Anger, hurt, grief, fear, confidence, compassion

Rage

Process

Implosion

"I'm bad."

Repress/deny

Integrating feelings

"I matter. You matter."

Feel < > Think > Do

Explosion

"You're bad."

React/rage

Behavior

Withdrawal, slander, victim role, provoking, manipulating, "act out"

Containing, seek support, "speak the truth in love," boundary setting, forgiveness

Dumping, blaming, criticizing, raging, abusive

 

Process Your Angry Feelings

If you struggle with anger, don't feel guilty about your angry feelings. (If you deal with your anger in hurtful ways "bad anger" - then it's appropriate to feel guilt, apologize, and work to change your way of responding.) And don't just try harder to be nice. Instead, try to understand your feelings. Process your anger by feeling it and thinking about what it means what you want to do about it. It helps to talk to someone you trust about your anger to help you to calm down and get perspective.

For some people, it's counterintuitive to think that feeling and sorting through your anger helps you not to react and lose your temper, but it's true. They're so afraid of their anger because their association to anger is that it's explosive or hurtful. Indeed, their behavior or that of a loved one may be harmful, but that's the reaction to the feeling, not the feeling itself. I find that people who say or do things in anger have been repressing their feelings and that once they learn to process their anger then they achieve better self-control and peace.

Here's a diagram that illustrates how to process angry feelings in good way instead of reacting or repressing:

Using the "Feel-Think-Do Triangle" to Deal with Anger

Do respond! Feel and think through what happened before you act or speak.
 
 
 
Don't react! Don't act or speak in anger without thinking through your angry feelings.
 
Don't repress! Don't avoid acting or speaking rightly without feeling through your angry thoughts.

Don't Hold On to your Anger!

After you feel and sort through your anger what do you do next? Sometimes your anger is more about you (your sensitivity, your unmet needs, or your past unresolved issues) than what somebody else said or did and in that case you need to overlook what happened and re-direct your energy toward addressing your personal issue.

Underneath your anger you may feel hurt or scared in some way. Understanding these feelings and getting support are an important part of dealing with your anger. This helps you to let go of your anger and not become resentful and bitter.

If you're angry because you've been violated, sinned against in some way, then in along with processing your anger, hurt, and other feelings you'll need to forgive. Ultimately, forgiveness is a gift of God. Sometimes it's the last thing you want to do, but you need to work at it, if for no other reason then for you own self. Harboring unforgiveness is bad for your soul, draining energy and positive emotion, so it's important that you let go of your anger and forgive, even though the other person doesn't deserve it!

Become Assertive

And, if the issue that you're angry about is significant, then you need to take an assertive step to deal with it. You can't just "vent" and get rid of your anger. Many people think this way, but it isn't true. When you're angry because you've been mistreated you need to use your aggressive energy in a way that appropriately and lovingly (towards you and others) addresses the issue at hand.

If you struggle with your anger here are some examples of assertive actions that may help you to replace bad anger with good anger:

  • Focusing on getting your needs met physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
  • Saying no to set a limit on what you will do.
  • Setting a boundary of self-protection.
  • Speaking the truth in love to someone who has hurt you.
  • Stating your disagreement with an issue.
  • Holding someone accountable to do what they told you they'd do.
  • Refusing to rescue someone from the negative consequences of their actions.
  • Learning from the situation whatever you can about yourself and those concerned.

For more insight into how to replace bad anger with good anger read my summary "What the Bible Teaches on Dealing with Anger."

 

William ("Dr. Bill") Gaultiere, Ph.D. is the Director of New Hope Crisis Counseling at the Crystal Cathedral and a Psychologist with ChristianSoulCare.com

 
     
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