Oh I was (am) so much like Jennifer. I internalize everything. Every hurt or slight, real or perceived. Every time something doesn’t go the way I planned (there is that need for control), or even letting go and letting someone else plan… It has always led to anger.
I never realized it until I was in counseling and we talked about my being angry. I told my counselor that I didn’t “get angry.” I might be upset a little, but I just “got over it.”
She asked about times I had been hurt by others. Was I ever angry at them? Or even angry at the circumstance?
At first I didn’t know how to respond. But then I managed to say that I never really was, I was always able to rationalize why something happened and accept it. Eventually I admitted that I thought God never wanted us to be angry about anything. We weren’t supposed to be angry as Christians. So I wasn’t.
Tricia showed me how in reality, I was angry, but because I didn’t think it was acceptable, I turned the anger inward.
Because I felt it wasn’t right to express anger, and because I never had a good model for expressing anger, I internalized it all.
There was a chart that Tricia showed me that helped me understand it better.
One of the big things that Jennifer said here that ties into Tricia’s chart is,
“So much of our anger in our lives comes from unmet expectations and frustrations that we don’t have ultimate control.”
Tricia said that anger comes out of the feelings of fear, hurt or frustration that are unresolved. If we don’t resolve those feelings they turn into anger/depression. Anger/depression still isn’t sin. But if we don’t head it off at the pass, it does become sin by moving into hostility/bitterness. If we don’t deal with that level, it escalates into hate/self hate. That area really becomes the one where we contemplate ending something. Whether it be a relationship with someone else, or whatever, it’s wanting to get the whole situation, person, etc to disappear and not exist anymore. And when you don’t deal with that hate/self hate, you end up moving to the stage of murder/suicide. Rarely do we see people get here… at least personally… in the conventional sense of murder. But Tricia pointed out to me that it is not “contemplating” the death of something anymore, it is really dying. Whether it be a relationship, killing someone else, or killing yourself.
There are areas that God has left in our control. There are things that we can do to stall out this steady progression of anger intensity.
We need to find peace.
“Our trust in God is inextricably linked to our peace from God.”
Relaxing in the arms of our Savior and letting Him breathe peace into our very souls is so healing.
Oh when I left the hospital after being there for being at the self hate stage, and rapidly moving up… I was filled with anger, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Anger at the situation I was in, anger at myself that I couldn’t control my emotional reaction to things happening to me. Anger at the situations I had been in, in the past, were still affecting me… I mean how weak could I be?
I had to learn to accept that adversities and hardships. Like Jennifer said, life isn’t fair, bad things happen to good people, “accepting that reality isn’t the same as approving of your difficult circumstances.”
I haven’t been able to change all the circumstances I was in over a year ago. But I have been able (sometimes) to change my reactions to them. I have been able to start to turn things over to God and let Him deal with them. I can change me, and how I react. I am responsible for me. I can’t change anyone else, or anything else around me. I am responsible to God for how I react and live my life, and how well I follow Him.
Oh, I still internalize my anger. But I have started to find healthier ways of letting it out….
What are those? They vary from situation to situation, depending on where I am at.
- Driving the car with music blasting, so I can yell at God about stuff
- Screaming into a pillow
- Hitting a pillow or baseball bat as hard as I can against a bed (or something that won’t break)
- Going out and rollerblading really fast
- Going biking really fast (anything to let it out through physical activity)
- Crying is a good one too
I am also learning to turn to God’s word. I tend to go to the Psalms the most. Because my anger very easily turns to depression. So calming my soul starts with Psalm 42, “Why are you so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”
I go back to trying to figure out why I am hurt or frustrated or fearful, what has caused my anger so I can deal with it. And I try not to condemn myself for my reactions, but instead do some soul talk, use those “water words” Jennifer talked about.
“Water words are full of discretion, grace and mercy. They don’t condemn. They encourage and cleanse.”
“Your soul needs the water of the Word to wash over your thought closet.”
Like I said, I am still an internalizer. I still struggle with letting others know how I feel. And it’s even harder when sometimes I haven’t taken the time to figure out what I am feeling.
This is still a growth journey I am on as well… and I think I will always be on it. I think I will always be struggling against the anger at situations from my past, and continually letting them go, or with ongoing situations or ones coming up. But don’t we all?
“When you have peace with God, you can have peace from God - the peace that Christ brings.”
I want to keep speaking words of peace to my soul, so that my anger doesn’t get out of control again. I don’t want to ever let it move beyond the anger/depression stage and into sin again. I may very well go there. I have recently I have realized in the course of writing this post. But praise God for His forgiveness and His grace!
We are all works in progress. Don’t ever give up on yourself. God doesn’t. And He never will.
Even when it seems impossible that you could possibly get that temper under control, or keep yourself from internalizing and destroying yourself from the inside out…. nothing is impossible with God. Keep turning it over to Him. Keep asking Him for wisdom.
Don’t give up. He never does.