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Dealing with anger

I wonder when you last felt angry. What was it that caused you to feel that way? How did you respond?

Sometimes, and particularly for individuals who have been subjected to domestic abuse, anger can feel dangerous; it might have led to harmful actions from an abuser or towards the individual. Some of us might have been taught that it’s wrong or ‘ungodly’ to feel anger. But in reality, it's just another emotion. So how can we respond to anger safely?

Understand

Often when we feel anger, we’ll experience the emotional response before we’re able to engage our rational thought process. This is particularly true if we haven’t learnt coping skills to deal with anger.

But anger isn’t bad; in fact, it's often justified. It's our actions in response to anger that can cause harm to others or to ourselves. So, it’s important that we’re ready to deal with it appropriately and safely. When we feel anger, it might be a call to action, to move away from something dangerous; it might be drawing our attention to a hurt we need to address; or, it might be energising us to put something that is wrong, right. Anger causes physiological changes and, if we experience it for a long period of time, it can affect our physical and mental health.

Learn

A good way to be ready to deal with anger is to practice some techniques to use in the moment. One of them is the ABC method.

The ABC method

A - Awareness: We need to be aware of our anger. What is it that has caused the surge of emotion in this instance? Where do we feel it in our bodies?

B - Block, breath and buy time: When we recognise that we’re feeling angry, we might want to:

- Communicate that we’re going to walk away for a minute.

- Take some time to calm our system through 7/11 breathing (in for 7 counts and out for 11)

This buys us time for the next steps….

C - Challenge: Challenge the anger. Was that emotion justified? Is it the first time we’ve felt anger about this particular situation?

D - Decide what to do: It might be helpful to ask a friend or family member for advice. You might decide no action should or can be taken.

E - Express what you need. This might be to the people involved in the incident, or, if you’ve realised that bigger change is needed in your life, you might ask others for help with this.

F - Forgive, and where appropriate, forget: Holding on to anger will have a physiological effect on you. Forgiveness includes forgiving yourself. Forgiveness is rarely achieved alone; we often need others alongside us to help. You can find more help on forgiveness in our other blogs.

Let anger call you to action

As Christians, it's right that we feel anger. It’s right that we see the injustices of the world, and the actions of humankind that cause despair and destruction. If we didn’t feel anger about these things, we wouldn’t have the same opportunities to take action and see change; change that brings about God’s Kingdom here on earth.

We have the benefit of scripture, prayer and other people around us to help discern whether our anger is justified. These same things then help us to decide what to do, express our needs and think about forgiveness. Anger doesn’t need to cause isolation; in fact, it can be the catalyst for community.

We also do want to acknowledge that at times, anger can grip us, and make us feel trapped. In her version of It is well, Kristene DiMarco sings, “Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you, and it is well with me. So let go, my soul, and trust in Him.” There are many ways to ‘let go’, but one very practical tool is telling someone, being honest with them about the anger you feel, and trusting them with this.

It also helps to have regular practices that help us feel calm, like breathing techniques such as the one above, a walk in nature, dancing or walking. If we’re able to experience a calmer way of being, then when we feel anger, we’re more likely to be able to go through the ABC’s. As the hymn says, it is well.

Support for survivors of domestic abuse

Our Survivor's Handbook and online Survivors' Network are here to help you if you've experienced domestic abuse

Support for Survivors