1 Breakthrough Question to Ask When Angry

Anger is a part of who I am, and I’m much more comfortable admitting that now than I was a year ago.

Do you feel like you can talk about your anger?

In the past, I would feel guilty just for feeling angry. In the past year, though, I’ve come to understand myself and my anger so much better.

Without even knowing you, whether you’re a homeschooling mom, a recent grad, a long-time member of the workforce, etc., I would go out on a limb and say that there’s a 100% chance that some member of the anger family is a part of who you are, too.

What is anger?

Did you know that, under the wide umbrella of negative emotions, there are many members in the ‘anger’ family?

From mild agitation to full-on rage, I hadn’t realized that they’re all in the same ‘family.’ If anger family emotions were on a spectrum, some other emotions along the line would include annoyance, frustration, or just plain-old anger.

So how can you tell if something you’re feeling is in the anger family?

As I learned from my TPM training (more on that below), emotions in the anger family are aimed at someone. While we may feel confused or ashamed or sad within ourselves because of our choices or circumstances, emotions in the anger family are towards someone or something (though it can even be aimed towards yourself).

For example:

  • I’m frustrated that my daughter dropped her bowl of oatmeal again.

  • I’m annoyed that my son can’t stay focused on this simple activity.

  • I’m angry that none of my kids are grateful for the breakfast I made for them.

  • I can’t believe that I messed up and snapped at my kids again.

In all of the examples above, there is an object to the anger, the emotion is moving towards someone or something (even if that “someone” is yourself).

And unlike other negative emotions like sadness or shame, we often don’t want to let go of anger. The reason for this is crucial (the crux of this post, really), but first let me address a concern you might have…

But isn’t anger bad?

I started this post by acknowledging that anger is a part of who I am. But, you may be asking, isn’t it wrong to feel angry? Isn’t anger bad?

Depending on your upbringing, maybe it was considered wrong to be angry or show anger in your household. Or maybe in a broader sense, you grew up in a household where no negative emotions were accepted or tolerated.

  • When you were upset, you were expected to get yourself together… (The sooner the better, please)

  • When you were sad, your parents just reiterated the reasons you weren’t supposed to be sad… (This is still a struggle for me with my kids sometimes)

  • When you were acting out, you were squashed with authoritarianism… (“That’s it, you’re grounded. No x, y, and z for two weeks”)

Now, I sincerely hope that you, dear reader, had a positive upbringing. Even in the best of households, though, parents make mistakes. So don’t take the above examples as me wanting to bash on your parents or how you sometimes parent your children.

The point I’d like to lay before you today is this: negative emotions are important.

As Ed and Joshua Smith (founders of TPM) explain while discussing anger, it’s like this:

We have physical symptoms when we’re sick. Maybe it’s a cough, maybe a sniffle, maybe a headache. Though those things may feel bad, they’re actually good things. They are like indicators on the dashboard of our vehicle. The symptoms alert us that something isn’t right. It clues us in to something our body needs, like more rest or liquids, etc.

Similarly, when we experience negative emotions, our heart and minds are alerting us that something isn’t right. So even though negative emotions feel bad, they are actually good things.

Often they alert us about a belief that we consciously or unconsciously hold about ourselves or others that isn’t true.

  • For example: I feel ashamed that I gave my kids fast food today because [belief] a good mom always cooks healthy food for her family.

Sometimes negative emotions aren’t about a belief, but a deep groaning within that things aren’t the way they should be.

  • For example: I feel angry that a man was killed because [belief] it wasn’t right.

And as a quick-but-important aside for fellow Christian who think anger is inherently wrong, I’ll offer you the hope that encouraged me: the Bible says “Be angry, and do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26, NKJV) You can watch this great explanation for a 10-minute explanation and more scriptural evidence. Suffice it to say, we have been given permission to be angry.

  • Does that mean it’s ok to yell at our kids when we’re angry? No.

  • Does that mean it’s justified to hit someone or something when you’re angry? No.

  • But is ok (Dare I say, good? Important?) to feel angry. Yes.

How anger helps us

Earlier I mentioned that, unlike other negative emotions like sadness or guilt, members of the anger family are difficult to let go of.

Why is this?

This is a key question, and key when discussing the breakthrough question to ask when you’re angry.

The reason anger is so hard to let go of is this: Anger does something for us.

  • Sometimes your anger is trying to protect you.

  • Sometimes your anger is trying to hold someone else accountable for their wrongdoing.

  • Sometimes your anger is trying to get things done.

Anger tries to do something to help us. So unlike sadness or shame that’d we’d gladly have lifted, we don’t want to let go of anger because we’re letting down a defensive wall we’ve put up.

How my anger helps me

Despite my efforts to acknowledge and address my negative emotions, there are still times when I ignore or suppress them by eating sweets or cleaning my house while I’m in a stressed-out tizzy.

But when I take the time to think and reflect, this is what I’ve found about my anger:

  • It is a part of me that often tries to prevent me from becoming overwhelmed. I’m reaching my breaking point, I’m tired, so anger takes over to try and help me not be overwhelmed.

  • It is a part of me that often tries to keep me from feeling something vulnerable like sadness. Especially when I was grieving the sudden loss of a loved one last year, I started to be able to see the anger coming when I was sad but still needing to parent. The anger was trying to help me be strong and get me through the day so I wasn’t a blubbering mess.

  • It is a part of me that often tries to help me stay in control. When my son is back talking and starting to throw a fit, often my anger tries to help me stay in control of the situation, of myself (for better or worse).

In all these situations, I see more and more that anger is a tool, a mechanism that is trying to help me. I’m beginning to see that, and to appreciate it. I can acknowledge the good it’s trying to do to help me.

The problem is that it’s not the best tool. It’s a faulty mechanism. Using that tool, I hurt others with harsh words or actions.

So what do we do when the anger does come?

One breakthrough question to ask when angry

Ok: You’re feeling something in the anger family.

  • Step 1: Step away and acknowledge your frustration, agitations, anger, etc.

[Way to go- that’s an awesome first step, one often ignored]

  • Step 2: Reflect on what that emotion (directed toward someone else) is trying to do for you

[This takes time and some practice but, again, great work]

  • Step 3: Ask yourself this breakthrough question:

“What do I believe would happen if I were to let go of this anger?”

This is where I have come to realize some of the reflections above. This is where you can get to the heart of why you’re angry. I sometimes believe that letting go of my anger would result in me being overwhelmed. I sometimes believe it would leave me feeling vulnerable and sad. I sometimes believe it’s a good way for me to stay in control.

  • Step 4:

For all- Take a deep breath, breathing in the anger, (maybe even ‘thanking’ the anger for trying to help you) and then breathing out to release it

For Christians- Bring your reflections before God in prayer, asking him what he wants you to know about your anger; then listen. Release the anger to him, confessing to him any wrongdoing done while angry, and then confess to the person you wronged, asking for their forgiveness

Anger is a part of who I am. And I daresay it is a part of who you are. But that’s not all of who I am, and it’s not all of who you are.

At this point, you may be wondering, this seems interesting, but what does it have to do with Spanish classes? Isn’t that what this website is for? Good point. My vision is to provide “affordable and engaging online Spanish classes for homeschoolers, unschoolers, and online learners.” So what do anger and negative emotions have to do with that? Well, it’s a bit of a stretch. But it’s a mindset that I bring to myself, my family, and my Spanish classes. It’s ok with me if you or your kids are having an ‘off’ day or are angry or frustrated.

You are still welcome. They are still welcome.

TPM: Transformation Prayer Ministry

Many of the thoughts in this post have come as a result of my training and practice sessions with Transformation Prayer Ministry, brought to you by a father and son duo (Ed and Joshua Smith) who “provide a systematic and reliable means by which ALL members of the Body of Christ may intentionally and purposefully participate with God in the refining of their faith, thereby renewing their minds and bringing about effortless transformation in their belief and behavior.” See here for more information about TPM.

It’s a tool meant for Christians, but the principles can be helpful and applied no matter what your beliefs are.

Another portion of my thoughts are thanks to the advice I’ve received and classes I’ve taken from Amy Mihaly at Be Well Clinic, click here for her website. She provides excellent, holistic care for her patients. She is located in Loveland, Colorado, but has clients from around the country via virtual meetings.

You are important. You’re doing important work, and you’re doing great.

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