Anger is caused by blocked goals. It is a normal emotional response to situations or people who seem to be preventing you from achieving a personal desire or goal. For instance, you may get angry when your parents refuse to allow you to purchase a certain item or tell you to be home earlier than you think is reasonable. They are preventing you from fulfilling your momentary desire to have or do something you want. You can reduce some of your anger by re-evaluating your goals.
- Is this a valid reason to get upset?
- Is this really that important to me?
- Will it cause a life changing catastrophe if I don’t get my way in this situation?
You’ll find that maybe some of your goals are improper. Here’s a quick example:
Joe is a sophomore in high school and has had 6 girlfriends since his freshman year. He’s been overheard making the statement, “I’m to get as many girls into bed before I graduate as I possibly can. I don’t care who they are, as long as they’ll give it up.”
Whenever Joe is denied, he’ll be angry. Is this really an appropriate goal? If you were a girl on the receiving end of Joe’s anger, how would it make you feel? When evaluating your goals, you have to keep in mind that your actions affect the people around you also.
A second situation that might anger you could be something like this:
One day you are hanging out with your usual group of friends, but one of your buds is home sick. Suddenly the laid back afternoon becomes a heated gab session about the missing pal. People are bringing up all sorts of faults and frustrations they have. One person even goes so far as to say, “I’m glad he’s stuck in bed with pneumonia, he might learn to stop making out with his slutty girlfriend in front of everyone. He makes me so sick. Doesn’t he have any modesty?”
Maybe you’ve been in a situation like this and it made you really angry. You might be thinking, “that doesn’t have anything to do with blocked goals, or the prevention of gaining my desires.” It does though. Each of us has inborn values or knowledge of what’s right or wrong, fair or unfair. It’s called a conscience. Without even really recognizing it, we all have goals such as to stop injustice, prevent hurt, pursue comfort and happiness and uphold respect. Violations against people’s natural rights spark our anger because we have subconscious objectives to protect what we feel we rightfully possess as human beings. If your house was robbed or your car vandalized you would be angry. When we see someone, or we ourselves are being robbed of a natural right, or disrespected it makes us just as angry as when we are not permitted to do something that we wanted to do.
So now that you know why you get angry, you need to figure out how to handle that emotion. Obviously there is a healthy and a harmful way to deal with anger. If you lash out at whoever upsets you, and offend them, you’re just going to make them angry due to the fact that they feel as though you have violated their natural rights. On the other hand, if you never say anything and internalize your anger, it’s going to lead to depression. Studies say that 72% of all psychiatric referrals among teenagers are related to anger. Among all the harmful effects of anger (depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc.), positive results do exist. When handled properly, anger can become a powerful tool. The following story describes a positive result of anger:
“Cari Lightner was only 13 years old when a drunk driver swerved off the road and killed her. When the police arrested the driver, they discovered he had been arrested many times before for drunk driving. Still, they told Cari’s mom, Candy, that this man would probably go free. There were no laws that could keep him in jail. How could someone kill her daughter and go free? In her anger, Candy declared to her friends, “I’m going to start an organization.” She created Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), a group that would work to pass tough laws that would punish drunk drivers. The work paid off. Within five years, every state in the U.S. had made its drunk driving laws stricter. MADD has made people aware of the problem with drinking and driving, and its efforts have saved lived. Candy Lightner and thousands of MADD members put their anger to work and brought about change.”
When anger is channeled it can be used very effectively. An example is from the Columbine High School. The fellow students and families of the victims are using their anger to try and get the government to toughen up on gun laws. We have yet to see the results of their efforts but instead of simply nursing bitterness towards criminals or complaining about the problem but never trying to improve it, we see angry people trying to better our country.
Anger is not an evil emotion. It can be used positively. Anger can drive you to depression or to improvement, depending on how you handle it. Now that you understand what causes anger, you can be more sensitive to your own feelings and those of the people around you when you begin to feel the heat rise. Knowing how to curb your anger will reduce the stress in your life and help you deal with petty problems that drive you up the wall.
To read what the Bible says about anger, check out Mark 11:15-18, 1 Samuel 12:1-14, Proverbs 14:17& 29; 15:18; 19:19; 22:24-25; 29:11 and 29:22