Anger: A Coping Mechanism for Something Deeper

I know most of you don’t know me or the looks of me, but believe me when I say the idea of me being angry is hard to accept. Most of the time, I am very chill, joyful, and easy going. However, there are the days… the last straw days… where everything is terrible. And the world and all its incompetencies have aimed their ridiculous arrows at my innocent, productive life.

A last straw day can include any of the following (and more):

Family members disappointing you and they have done it for the very last time, terrible drivers that make you late to work… for the very last time, coworkers that can’t seem to get a clue… and today is the last day you’re going to put up with it. The handle to your purse gets caught in the doorknob and jerks you backwards… the doorknob is toast. It’s the Day of Last Straws.

The Day of Last Straws doesn’t begin like this. It starts with an off feeling. I know I don’t feel right but I can’t put my finger on why. Then something will happen to spark the impending blaze.

For me, it can look like this:

In the morning, I’ll walk into the kitchen, and behold, piles of other people’s dirty dishes from last night! I’ll open the dishwasher to put a glass in there. Behold! An empty dishwasher that all those dishes could be in!

Now, on a normal day, I don’t mind either putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher or just leaving them for whoever it is to take care of… but on last straw days? No, no, no. On those days, leaving dishes out when there’s an empty dishwasher is a murderous crime to my being and it was done with malicious intent and planning. Sparks of righteous indignation clash together from my toes and ignite into a rage that surges to my face.

After the fire is lit, it doesn’t matter what happens next… it’s annoying and an outrage. Someone could walk wrong, breathe wrong, eat wrong, say something – anything, and I’m beyond irritated.

Usually, I’m able to get out of the house without saying anything stupid while I’m in this emotion. But the car… oh, the car. The moment I pull into traffic, I’m in a sea of incompetency that could refill the Mediterranean if need be. The feelings of rage are at peak, the dialogue in my head is running about all the injustices being done to me today, and then – I open my mouth. Expletives, accusations, and slander fly out of my mouth into a thick cloud of anger, all inside the compact box that is my car. Then, I’ll feel horrible and put on some Christian music to try and turn this weird surge of anger around. I’ll be singing along and then shout an obscenity at someone going 20 miles under the speed limit (why do they do this?). This is some serious James 3 stuff right here.

By the time I pull into work, I feel horrible and basically, the cure is going to bed that night and waking up to a new day.

I’ve been experiencing more of these bouts of anger the past couple of months than I can remember ever before. Usually what this means is that God wants me to face something and work through it. When we move into our pain and seek healing, God is gracious and walks with us in the midst. I’ve found that when I am willing to step into the hurt to discover the depths of what’s there, the ongoing misery I’ve been feeling (for most of my life) releases. Living life without those pieces of misery is phenomenal. It’s so worth taking a look into the stuff we want to run and hide from.

So, if you have a Last Straw Day, here are a few tips I received from my counselor on how to work through the misery in the moment.

First, when you feel angry and the dialogue has started in your head, pause.

Anger comes from shame. There is something about yourself that you don’t like, and your ego is blocking you from the shame by placing it on others. The reason your ego does this is because it’s crucial to your survival for you to like yourself. If you didn’t, what’s motivating you to live? We take what we dislike about ourselves and we throw it away from us. It’s time to take it back and own it.

After you pause, ask yourself, what is it that I don’t like about myself right now? If you can’t think of anything, ask God to show you in His divine, perfect will. This is a small, but important step towards overcoming rage.

Godspeed and know I’ll be doing the same!

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