How Anger Fuels Addictive Behavior

Anger Addiction CycleHave you ever felt as though you were doing the same thing over and over again getting worse and worse results no matter how hard you tried?  Are you caught in a downward spiral that leaves you feeling helpless and more frustrated?  While there are many reasons for addictive behavior, certain emotions such as anger can add fuel to the addictive cycle thereby increasing the intensity and feeling completely out of control.

It all starts with a painful event such as the loss of a job, the betrayal of a close friend or the disappointment of a missed opportunity.  Each of these events can spark anger directed at another person for their part in the event or directed at you for failure to handle the event properly.  The feeling of anger is uncomfortable so you counteract it with a desire to escape or a desire to find pleasure.  You turn to the addiction of your choice: alcohol, drugs, gambling, smoking, spending money, porn, excessive exercising, soap operas, adrenaline, sugar, or video games.  Other people in your life don’t like your addiction so they in turn become angry with you and withdraw.  You are now confused by their response as you were just trying to avoid the angry feelings.  This in turn results in another painful event such as a fight, loss of respect or distrust.

Acknowledge.  The first step to stopping the crazy cycle is acknowledging that you are repeating the same behavior over and over.  You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge.  So admit it.  You are doing the crazy cycle.  This is not the time to blame others for the reason you are doing the crazy cycle; this is the time to accept responsibility for your own crazy behavior.  Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.  This maybe a new concept to you as our culture is quick to blame others, parents, churches, organizations, companies, governments, and even nations for bad behavior.  But this is not constructive thinking, it is destructive thinking.  You are responsible for your own behavior.

Stop at Anger.  There is nothing wrong with feeling angry.  It is a normal emotion which even Jesus felt.  But there is something wrong with acting out in anger or doing something to escape the anger or doing something to suppress the anger (pleasure seeking behavior).  Whether you are acting aggressively angry or avoiding the anger by running away, anger is still controlling your behavior.  It is OK to be angry when you are hurt, when someone hurts you, or when someone hurts someone else.  Just don’t take it to the next step and escape from the anger; rather deal with the anger by confronting how you feel and taking responsibility for the actions that follow.  Just saying the words, “I am angry but I’m going to act responsibly” can restore the out of control feeling to feeling controlled.

Know Your Addiction.  What is your addiction of choice?  More than likely you have more than one addictive behavior.  Not all of the additive behaviors are listed so taking an inventory of your go-to addictions is extremely helpful.  Many times you will go directly from the painful event and skip right past the angry emotion to the additive behavior because you have developed a conditioned response similar to Pavlov’s dogs.  In Pavlov’s experiment, he trained dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell by first giving food along with ringing the bell.  Before long, he only needed to ring the bell for the dogs to salivate.  You have done the same thing with your addiction.  You no longer need to feel anger to justify the addictive behavior; rather you go straight from the painful event to the addiction.  If you know your addictive behaviors, you can trace backwards to the anger anytime you feel the desire to abuse your substance and stop it from going any further.

You can take responsibility for your own behavior and stop the crazy cycle from destroying your life.  You do not have to be a victim to your addiction or continue to allow painful events determine how you will respond.  Remember, if you make a mistake along the way and slip backwards, it is never too late to turn around no matter what others around you say.  Who you are is NOT defined by your mistakes.  Who you are is defined by your character which can be shaped by your mistakes only if you let it.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

Portrait of a Self Proclaimed Monster

Every now and then, an interesting article comes around about severe personality disorders and how damaging they can be to a person, their family, and their community.  The DC sniper from 10 years who allowed himself to come under the influence of a man with a severe personality disorder gave an interview to The Washington Post in which he proclaimed himself as a monster.  Yet the most striking statement was mentioned at the end of the article when he pleaded with the families of his victims not to remain a victim because of his actions.  If you are still struggling with abuse, grief, or trauma, read this article and take the advice from a monster not to allow others to victimize you any longer.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/lee-boyd-malvo-10-years-after-dc-area-sniper-shootings-i-was-a-monster/2012/09/29/a1ef1b42-04d8-11e2-8102-ebee9c66e190_print.html

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why are you so angry?

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It happens.  You are driving down the left side of highway slightly faster than normal because you are late and suddenly someone cuts right in front of you causing you to slam on your breaks and almost hit their vehicle.  Instantly, you are angry.  Or how about your spouse promising he or she will be home by a certain time and you have made plans based on that time frame but your spouse doesn’t show up, answer the phone or even call.  By the time your spouse arrives home all plans have to be canceled and you are angry.

There are several bad ways of handling anger but according to Scripture, there are only two good ways of handling it.  One is from Psalms 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.  Think about it overnight and remain silent”.  The second is from Ephesians 4:26-27, “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil”.  Either method works depending on your personality or the situation but first some common misunderstandings about anger need to be cleared up.

Defining Anger.  Most likely, you have experienced a time when everything seems to be going just fine and then all of a sudden something happens and you feel this rush of intense emotion causing your heart to race, your voice to get louder, or your fists to clench.  And then it happens, you say or do something that you normally would not do if the intense emotion had not occurred.  That is anger.  And while anger in and of itself is a God given emotion, it becomes sinful when it controls your behavior.  This emotion is quite useful in life and death situations as it propels you into action motivating you beyond what you would normally do.  But it can be destructive in personal relationships as it leaves a path of disaster much like the path of a tornado.

Blaming Anger.  Just because you are feeling angry and this emotion in some cases may be justified, it does not give you license to harm anyone in your path. How many times have you heard someone say, “You make me so angry”?  The reality is that they are responsible for getting angry just as you are responsible for your own anger.  Anger can control you which is what the two verses point out and that control does lead to sin.  No one can “make” you angry unless you choose to be angry.  Sometimes that choice is not a conscious one but an unconscious choice based on experiences and decisions made in the past.  Nonetheless, it is your choice to allow anger to control you.

Managing Anger.  The two passages above mention two different ways of dealing with your anger.  One is to not speak and think about your anger overnight.  The other is to confront your anger.  However, neither passage even slightly hints that your spouse must be involved in either.  If you are responsible for your own anger and letting anger get out of control is sinful then it is not the responsibility of your spouse to resolve your anger rather it is yours.  “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” is about your behavior and desire to hold onto things that should be let go or dealt with accordingly.

Reconciling Anger.  Once you have defined your anger, accepted responsibility for it and managed properly managed it, then you can begin the process of reconciliation.  Since anger destroys relationships, it is likely that there is a trail of failed relationships in the quake of your anger.  Even if the relationship may seem to be fine, unreconciled anger limits intimacy.  Your present anger may have less to do with present circumstances and more to do with your past.  Take the time to reconcile old relationships and you will find that your anger is less intense the next time.

Anger can be one of the most useful tools in helping you to grow and deal with your past but it can also be one of the most destructive if not addressed properly.  If you know of someone who needs help with their anger, speak up kindly and lovingly in a safe environment but make sure you have already addressed your anger issues first.  This effort while draining just might be one of the best things you do for your relationships.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Jonah: my favorite angry guy in the Bible

Anger is an intense emotion that sometimes comes without warning or justification; however, learning to question the sources of anger can provide healing.  In the moment of anger, you are not likely to rationally evaluate these questions but returning to them later can help you to manage your anger in the future.

The story of Jonah is familiar (he is the guy who was swallowed by a big fish and spit out three days later) but if it has been a while, review the four short chapters found in the Old Testament in the Book of Jonah.  The Bible is filled with practical stories of people who struggled with the same things you struggle with today and provides practical application to your daily life.

Who was Jonah angry with?  Initially, Jonah’s anger and deep prejudice towards the Assyrians who were the enemies of the Israelites was revealed by his reluctance to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyria.  Many years earlier, the Assyrians had invaded Judea and scattered the Jewish people across many nations.  Later on, Jonah’s anger expanded to God himself when he complained that God spared the lives of the Assyrians instead of killing them with His wrath for destroying Judea.  Just like Jonah, the initial person we direct our anger towards may not be the true source of our anger.  Asking questions such as “Who am I really angry with?” and “What previous time does this anger remind me of?” can go a long way in helping to reveal the true source of anger.

What was Jonah angry about?  Jonah knew of God’s love and mercy which is why he did not want to go to Nineveh in the first place.  He did not want God to spare the lives of the Assyrians; instead he wanted God to show his wrath and eliminate them.  When Jonah finally conceded and went to Nineveh, he did so with the expectation that God take his revenge on the Assyrians.  Jonah did not want good to come to the Assyrians, he wanted harm.  Sometimes we too become angry when good comes to those whom we believe should be harmed or punished for their actions.  This is all too evident when a child becomes a victim of some evil, especially at the hands of someone they trust.  Ask yourself the question “What am I really angry about?”  Often it is not the most obvious answer; rather it is the answer behind the initial response.

 How did Jonah show his anger?  Jonah traveled in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  We call this passive aggressive anger which is doing the opposite of what another person wants you to do because you are angry with them.  Jonah then told the sailors to throw him overboard instead of going back to shore; basically he would rather die than do what God asked.  We call this aggressive and/or extreme anger which is acting in a manner to draw attention to yourself and your anger.  When Jonah finally agreed to go to Nineveh and preach, he did it reluctantly as demonstrated by his response when God forgave the Assyrians.  We call this suppressing anger which is ignoring the anger initially in order to keep the peace or obey someone but then becoming angry later.  Ask, “How do I show my anger: is it passive aggressive, aggressive or suppressive?”  Revealing your pattern of behavior when angry can help to identify times when the anger is not so obvious.

Where did Jonah show his anger?  At the beginning of the story, Jonah showed his anger to the shipmates when he asked them to throw him overboard.  His initial reaction to his anger was not the best.  At the end of the story, we see Jonah going outside of the city to complain to God about his generosity which is a far better alternative.  Often times, going away from the environment that makes you angry can help you to have a greater perspective on the true source of your anger.  Notice that Jonah was honest with God about his anger and did not cover up his feelings.  True prayer and communication with our Creator requires honesty on your part and in turn, God will communicate with you.

You can answer the “why” question of your anger better by answering the “who”, “what”, “how” and “where” questions regarding your anger first.  True anger management can only begin when we understand the sources of our anger and learn how to cope with intense feelings of emotion.  If you are struggling with your anger, talking with a counselor can help to shed some light on how to manage your anger.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.