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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anger is Power and How to Use It Wisely

The latest evolution of the Incredible Hulk is well... incredible. Lou Ferrigno was huge... for a guy. But, this latest CG version is truly amazing.

I'm sure you, like me, have learned some great life lessons from watching the Incredible Hulk over the years.

Here are the top three lessons I have learned:
"Always buy cheap clothes", because they could get ripped to shreds at any moment.
"Never squash the woman you love."
And my favorite, "Anger is Power."

No one ignores the Incredible Hulk. Either stay out of his way or you will get squashed.

My favorite line from the Avengers movie is by the Hulk.Check out this video if you can:

In case you couldn't watch it: When Captain America says, "Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry," he replies, "That's my secret, Captain. I'm always angry."

I know some people like that.Don't you?

I am "some people" like that sometimes. Are you?

If you feel like you are always angry like our green friend, you probably have some regrets and wish you had handled some situations with more patience and grace.

Anger affects us all.

In  my family, anger gets expressed in a myriad of ways. Dirty looks, gritted teeth, harsh words, yelling, elbows thrown, shirts grabbed, pushing, shoving, and even the silent treatment. It's all here.

We struggle with anger every day.

But, there is hope, for us and for you. We have started making some foundational changes. We can't completely stop ourselves from getting angry, but I have learned that we can make anger work for us instead of against us.

[BONUS TRUTH: In some cultures, anger is the one emotion that men are permitted to express and the one emotion that women are not. A real man doesn't show other emotions and a good woman doesn't express her anger. Both are lies. The fact is we all get angry and anger is not wrong. It is how we express our anger that can be wrong, can be destructive and can leave us with regrets.]

Anger is Power

With anger comes adrenaline, pure raw energy. We are the shaken soda bottle, filled with power just waiting for the cap to twist off.

Anger is contained power.

When we are angry we are infused with adrenaline, with energy. That energy has to be used up. Either we keep it bottled up inside and damage our internal organs (think ulcers and heart attacks), or we let it out in some way.

Since, when we are POWERFUL (AKA- angry), we don't typically make good decisions, we need to make a plan ahead of time.

Before we get angry (like maybe right now because who knows what will set us off next), we need to figure out some basics.

Figure out which of the four primary emotions usually gets us angry: hurt, fear, disrespect, and/or frustration. I wrote about these yesterday, if you aren't sure which combination it might be.

Figure out when you are most likely to get angry: after work or before bed, Monday nights or Sunday mornings, after a business meeting or before your family comes over to visit, at home or at work. What triggers it? And be ready!

We also need to figure out what the signals are when we are beginning to feel angry. Do we want to run away? Do we talk louder? Do we become more sensitive to little annoyances? Do we become critical of others, insulting the people around us? Do we want to punch someone? Do our muscles bulge and our skin turns green? There are lots of subtle hints.

For me, I feel my heart beat faster. I usually feel frustrated and/or disrespected. It shows on my face. My stomach can get in knots. I start to sweat.

Every person's anger is unique. Figure out what your signals are and start to pay attention. And when you blow it, don't give up, confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and grace and go back to the drawing board.

Then, think through these steps for when you do find yourself getting angry:

First, BE AWARE of the signs.

Know when you are getting angry. The sooner you can catch it, the more likely you are to handle it in a way that you can respect later.

Second, OWN it.

Accept responsibility for your own anger, the feeling and your actions as a result of your feeling.You are the only one responsible for your anger.

Resist the temptation to blame someone or something else. Until you take responsibility, you will feel powerless to change.

Third, CHOOSE what to do with all this energy.

We get a choice! Since we choose, we can change.

Don't try to use this energy to fix the situation you are in unless you are being attacked by a bear or being pulled under by a giant squid. In those cases, your adrenaline should come in handy.

But, if you are angry because your kid won't go to bed or your boss overlooked you for a promotion AGAIN, then don't use that adrenaline to solve your problem. Your kid will probably wind up in therapy or you'll wind up without a job.

What would be a constructive use of this abundance of energy right now?

Here are some practical tips of what to do with all that power surging through your body...
                     Exercise. Go for a walk, a jog or a run. (Never get in a car and drive! Angry driving is a recipe for disaster.) Do push-ups, crunches, jumping jacks. Maybe work out with the person you are angry at if its your spouse or child, especially if they are angry too!
                     Sing. Play some fun, loud music and sing along. This probably isn't what you feel like doing, which is why you need to plan it ahead of time.
                     Dance. Maybe while you are singing!
                     Laugh. Find something to laugh about. Maybe make a book of funny memories to help you when you need a release. Bookmark a funny video, nothing violent. Find a reason to laugh. Release that energy! Steven Wright said:

"My watch is three hours fast, and I can't fix it... So I'm going to move to New York." and

"I like to reminisce with people I don't know." and 

"When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction." and 

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" and 

"A friend of mine once sent me a post card with a picture of the entire planet Earth taken from space. On the back it said, "Wish you were here." and something like this, though I can't find the exact quote,

"I know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour, officer, but I wasn't planning on being out that long." 

Steven Wright makes me laugh. What makes you laugh? How about Jim Gaffigan's Hot Pockets routine:

Making a choice before we act is the key to using anger to our advantage.What do you want to do with all that energy? You can use this energy to get physically healthy, emotionally refreshed, connect with a loved one. It's your choice, if you can catch it in time before you say or do something you will regret.

Fourth, BE LOVING!

Follow through and do what we chose to do, and do it lovingly.

We can choose to be kind and compassionate, gracious and patient, even when we are angry. We can find a way to express the love we feel for ourselves or those involved without being mean or spiteful. BE NICE!

Afterwards, we won't regret our choices. We will respect ourselves when it is all over if we can just get through the energy rush, the adrenaline should last 15-20 minutes.

Finally, REWIND.

Afterwards, after the adrenaline is spent, after the veins in our temples have returned to their rightful place, evaluate the whole situation beginning to end, figure out what happened, what triggered it, what signals you could have noticed, what did you choose to do, what if anything do you want to do differently, and receive God's grace. In other words, start over from the top.

We can do this! We can use our anger constructively. Our anger is just a signal that something is wrong. Slow things down enough to make some good choices, and there is hope that we can use that anger, that power, constructively. And, then we can begin to face the underlying problems.

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