Turn Your Life Around: Break Free from Your Past to a New and Better You
By Dr. Tim Clinton
Anger: A Power for Good or Evil
The smoke hardly clears from the ambush site on your life before the forces of anger swarm upon the scene. Flesh and blood naturally respond to pain, perceived danger, injury, or attack.
We used to have a crazy dog named Bear that exhibited bizarre behavior when it was chow time. When old Bear started eating, he always wagged his tail like a somewhat normal, happy dog. But something about the movement of his wagging tail or his shadow made him go crazy. Bear would start foaming at the mouth, growling, hissing, and barking in a ferocious attack on his own tail. Perhaps he thought someone or something was trying to get his food. Regardless of the reason, this was crazy-dog behavior.
When someone feels violated or threatened in some way, the fight-or-flight response is instant and instinctive. When life isn't the way it is supposed to be-whether real or perceived-our natural response is to get angry: Angry at life. Angry at God. Angry at people. Angry at circumstances. And anger always finds an expression.
At this stage, the journey to loss of heart looks like this:
Losing Heart: The Descent into Pain
Ambushed and Assaulted
Are you filled with anger right now because life isn't the way it should be? Anger usually requires a trigger, a cause, even if we don't understand what it is at first. Triggers include but go far beyond the categories of betrayal, disappointment, accusation, and abuse.
Portraits of Anger
When I think of anger, my mind goes to a little guy with whom I was doing play therapy. As he colored a picture of his family, I was amazed at the fury that pored out of him. I thought he was going to drive the crayons through the paper as he shouted, "I'm a screw-up! I will never have any friends!"
I also think of an e-mail a friend sent not long ago that said, "Boy did we have it out last night. Tim, I got so mad at her, I picked up the new vase we were given as a wedding present and threw it across the room. It broke into a million pieces. She just makes me so mad!"
Bobby Knight, the celebrated basketball coach at Indiana University, also comes to mind. In 1995, during a game at Purdue University, he became so angry over what he considered an unfair call that he picked up a chair and threw it across the basketball court! Referees, players, and thousands of fans and television viewers around the world watched the drama explode before their eyes.
When thinking about anger, many people remember the Edmond Post Office Massacre in 1986, when an angry postal worker named Patrick Henry Sherrill killed fourteen coworkers and wounded seven before killing himself.
Investigators learned that Sherrill had a history of employment problems seemingly related to poor social skills. Apparently he launched his attack after receiving a negative review from supervisors. Anger was at the heart of the tragedy, an incident that is still considered one of the worst mass murders by a single gunman in U.S. history.
The sheer range of anger is astounding: it includes everything from feelings of mild irritation to waves of uncontrolled rage. Its impact is virtually universal because it affects the lives of the young and of the elderly-and everyone in between!
I sat next to an elderly man on a long flight, and as we talked I found him very likeable. A dad and his son sat in the seal directly in front of us, and the boy reminded me of my own son at that time (he had a little energy). I barely noticed, but evidently the elderly man paid close attention throughout the flight as the boy bounced around in his seat.
After we landed, everyone was gathering belongings when this elderly man reached forward, turned the boy around by the shoulders, and started yelling! He shouted at the child for being fidgety, and the boy was petrified!
Tears quickly formed in the boy's eyes as he asked his dad, "Dad, what's wrong with that man?" The dad turned to the elderly man and said, "You're crazy! What's up with you?"
Everyone was shocked, including me. Something triggered an explosive anger in this seemingly kind elderly man! He was huffing and puffing, and he became angry at everybody-including me! His irrational anger made him oblivious to the feelings of that little boy.
Anger can endure for a brief nanosecond or stretch out over decades. We all get angry. In fact, some studies show that most of us get angry between eight and ten times a day.