Many years ago as a counselor in a stake Relief Society presidency, I had a most unusual assignment: The stake president had asked for one counselor from each auxiliary to attend a 3 day anger management course presented by a mental health foundation. I was to attend with the counselors assigned from primary and young women. We were to take careful notes, participate fully and then be able to present the workshop with gospel perspectives on a ward basis to both presidencies and members. Clearly there was a common problem among the members that needed to be addressed.
As we drove to the workshop together, we joked endlessly about being “angry” about being asked to spend the time to learn and teach about anger. “After all,” we joked in playful wrath, “As peaceable, loving daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are never angry’ with anything or anybody! Our pure and undefiled hearts are always filled to overflowing with love and forgiveness, acceptance and meekness for ourselves, our families, and the world at large!” Oh yes. Of course.
We got to the workshop and learned the definition of anger. It is “a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.” Those feelings can evolve into a brief journey where a problem or perception is resolved, or a lengthy (even deadly) detour where the lives of individuals, families, and communities can be shattered. (The shocking number of mass shootings in the U.S. over the past year is a quick testimonial to that truth.)
We had a great time over the course of the workshop and emerged with new understanding and compassion, then learned even more as we put together and presented the workshops. I was able to personally implement the information, and apply it even more in the years to come as I became involved in weight loss coaching through Weight Watchers.
One lovely lady who lost 100 pounds with me shared “I was just so constantly furious with my husband and grown kids! Their lives were a mess! Why wouldn’t they listen to me and follow my advice?? And there was me … 100 pounds overweight and always yelling at everybody!”
For another, it was a situation existing from childhood where her mother had wanted her to behave and become a different kind of person. She had found that hiding/sneaking food into her room to eat by herself was the easiest way to defy her mother and to soothe herself. The anger and overeating festered well into adulthood.
For another it was growing up with three very slender and exceptionally attractive sisters. “I was the only one with a larger bone structure and body type. They could all eat whatever they wanted and not gain an ounce. They could share and wear the fashionable teen clothes. It seemed so unfair that I just went ahead and ate like they did and then ate even more out of a sense of sheer frustration and injustice. When we all left home, my anger and my inferiority challenges did not go away.”
How about you? Does anger ever dictate how/when/what/how much you eat?
If so, it’s time for Anger 101, especially as it applies to daily eating.
1) Anger is acceptable! It is a very important, very human, very real emotion at every age. Those who are not allowed to understand, feel, and express anger will experience problems.
2) Anger is a messenger! It says there is sense of personal violation.
3) Anger is helpful! It only becomes harmful only when it goes unexpressed.
Anger is Acceptable
In our car rides to and from the workshop we discussed the idea that somewhere in our quest to follow the Savior, many of us had acquired the belief that if we are truly Christ-like, we would not not experience anger. Even upon the cross He had expressed the thought, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We sincerely couldn’t imagine any of our beloved leaders or the Prophet being personally angry. But, we agreed, we did not live with them, and they are human! How did they deal with feelings of anger? And the Savior had shown anger in the cleansing of the temple! He was not one to avoid a conflict or dodge an issue, but rather to address a problem directly or in a personal way to get a grip.
We got home and through scripture study determined that although the Savior had told us not to kill and a lot of other things, he had NEVER told us to not be angry! Rather he said, “Whosever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.“ (Matthew 5:22) So it was okay to feel angry if there was a reason! And then the scripture goes on to say to “go thy way and be reconciled to thy brother … agree with thine adversary quickly whilst thou are in the way with him.” (Matthew 5:25)
In short, the Savior’s counsel is to address differences quickly and to resolve them. This was something we could easily imagine our leaders and the Prophet doing, and we conveyed this impression in our workshops.
What a precious gift this information was to a number of the sisters who had compounded their feelings of anger with feelings of guilt about being angry.
Anger is a messenger!
The message your anger is sending is that one of your standards, values or important beliefs is under attack. If your stomach or fists are clenching, you feel like hitting something or someone, or your breathing becomes rapid, lengthy dialogues of what you’d like to say are playing and replaying themselves at warp speed in your head, then there’s SOMETHING WRONG.
Take a minute to think back to the last time you were angry. Explore the situation and what your anger is telling you. Which strong belief is being violated? That will be the gateway to understanding yourself and the principle or situation that need to be addressed.
Anger is Helpful
Safely functioning systems have a release valve. Our bodies, our cars and our homes have both pumps and drains to keep the operating systems in check. When something is wrong, there is a warning signal or dysfunction to tell us that something needs to be fixed.
Anger is simply that! It is both a pump and a drain indicating something needs to be addressed and resolved. A tub of chocolate chip cookie dough is not the answer, in either the short or the long run.
Our workshop focused on finding someone to talk to about the issue. Whether it was the person you were in conflict with, or a neutral party to help you find peace, they stressed that along as there was a release somewhere, you were headed in the right direction. The sooner, the better.
What if there’s no one to talk to? Or if you’re just not ready to talk yet?
Here are some ways to vent out the frustrations, sadness, and anger that arise as a normal part of growing and a healthy life:
1. Cry. How long has it been? Children know instinctively that this is a good way to release stress and get the issue out. We can learn from that! Often when we cry, we want a shoulder to cry on. If none is available, cry to yourself and receive it with love. Either way, allowing yourself the space to cry can work wonders on freeing up the stored up energy inside that is too much to contain within. While crying, connect with the pain you feel and cry into it.
2. Punch. If you feel very angry find a pillow! It’s a very healthy way of exerting this powerful energy. Hit it to release that tension. Say what you’d like to say and feel exactly what aspects of it are making you angry.
3. Write. Writing can help to clear the overwhelming amount of information in your head. It allows a pouring out of what is going on inside. Once you’ve written all you can, some things will still stand out or certain feelings may still be felt strongly. These are the largest lessons in the situation. Writing provides a great clarity that other ways may not give. You can easily reflect on what you were feeling in the situation once the emotion has passed in an effort to keep the lesson fresh in your mind and heart. Some people enjoy tearing up the pages after they’ve written as a way to exert their frustration.
4. Exercise. Some of the most frustrating days in your life may turn out to be your best days after all! Getting outside and some fresh air through brisk walking is a great ways to vent. Many find their best prayers and answer come while walking. Exerting energy in this way, with a regular commitment to their health, opens them like nothing else.
Tiger Woods’ first wife Elin Nordegrn, a beautiful model, found that in the early days of learning of his betrayal to him and their children, regular running was by far the best therapy … and it is surely more flattering in the long run than a box of donuts!
Pamela Hansen’s remarkable weight loss story after a series of personal tragedies is documented in her book “Running With Angels” (Deseret Book) where she overcame her difficulties and lost the weight by running — eventually in full marathons.
5. Create Art. I know of a woman who knows that her sewing machine is her best friend when she’s upset. And the great thing is that you really cannot eat chips or anything gooey when you’re sewing, embroidering or working on any kind of craft project. What better to do than to channel this energy into creating something beautiful?
6. ASAP: Do Talk! If possible, with the person causing the angst. If not then with a wonderful friend, or confidante. If neither is available, here’s one that’s good at least for a laugh, or even to try someday: I heard of a woman who, when angry, got on the bus and waited for a passenger to sit near. She’d ask if they minded listening to her and if not, she’d share her dilemma. Once she’d talked it out, she’d thank them and get off the bus. Often times, we can learn so much just by hearing ourselves speak and we don’t need much feedback at all.
Of course, the ultimate one to talk to is our Heavenly Father and prayer. He is there to comfort, guide and allow us to be ourselves in our times of deepest frustration and sorrow. He and His Son can allow us to determine the source of the anger, and then to help us release ourselves from its dark and clawing grip.
In becoming like Him, here are 5 Christ-Like Anger Management Strategies–
1. Distinguish between good and bad forms of anger. Anger is a natural emotion that arises whenever you encounter a situation you perceive to be wrong or that you have been violated. Ask Heavenly Father to help you see situations that make you angry from His perspective, so you’ll learn to recognize the difference between good and bad anger.
2. Understand your true identity. Your true identity is a child of God. Anger and emotions, however, can take over your thoughts and behavior and temporarily define who you are. When you get angry, remind yourself of who you really are, say a prayer and quickly take some kind of physical action in the six tricks above to release the feelings.
3. Turn to God for the respect you need. Heavenly Father knows we need respect, but that need can become distorted so that any real or perceived act of disrespect can trigger inappropriate anger. When injustices arise, remind yourself of how much God loves and respects you. Have a few scriptures in mind that comfort you.
4. Let go of attempts to control others. Heavenly Father’s ultimate gift to us was free agency People who don’t comply with our wishes can cause deep anger. But you can’t control other people. While it’s fine to give people advice, you can’t make them take it. Ask Him to help you respect other people’s freedom to make their own decisions and decide to trust him, then pray that He will work in other people’s lives, changing from them from within in ways, if necessary that you could never do yourself.
Then forgive and let go.
5. Trade pride for humility. Pride can deceive you into thinking that you must be right on all topics, which leads to anger when others disagree with you. If we pray for humility, we will receive an accurate view of ourselves as a person with weaknesses who needs Heavenly Father’s help.
So! Chocolate chip cookie dough go away! Far better answers to address our deepest hungers are ours today … and every day, along with the freedom to act upon them with grace and cheer.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She is the owner MyMiracleTea.com, an herbal detox tonic in keeping with the Word of Wisdom, now used by Meridian readers and missionaries everywhere. CLICK HERE
She is mother of five and the grandmother of a growing number of delightful grandsons and granddaughters and lives with her husband, Bob, in Springfield Virginia, where they serve as the nursery leaders.