Get Mad But Stay Out of Jail!

Be Ye Angry, and Sin Not!

– Ephesians 4:26

 Being angry is not wrong. It is a healthy and an appropriate emotional response to injustice. Anger is pain turned outward.

Anger serves a constructive purpose in bringing about healing. However, anger needs to be channeled in healthy and constructive ways. A key to recovering from infidelity (especially if you are interested in rebuilding your marriage) is to avoid bad responses. Bad responses create greater problems. The question is how do you get mad but stay out of jail? How do you deal with your anger appropriately?

Thoughts on Anger

“It was the hardest of emotions for me to overcome, but I finally accepted the fact that it happened and that I had no control over the actions of my spouse. I continually reminded myself that unless I controlled my own actions, I would be bound by my own stubbornness to remain in the anger and resentment stage. The constant dwelling on what happened is what keeps people stuck there. Again I had to control my own thoughts and move ahead. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it can be done especially if you choose to stay focused.” – An Affair Survivor

“I think, hard as it is to accept, that ‘tincture of time’ is the best way to get past both the hurt and the anger. I also know that it is possible to get stuck in either place. So what I did, instead of trying to rush the process, was to really LET myself be sad and then to LET myself be angry for a while. I had spent so much time and energy trying to move on, that I found I was denying myself the right to feel what I NEEDED to feel in order to heal. Once I acknowledged my feelings and that I wasn’t crazy for feeling them, it was much easier to let them go. Now when negative feelings come, I can acknowledge them and put them away much faster. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It has been nearly 3 years for me and I’m finally getting there.” – An Affair Survivor

There are two types of anger to overcome: the initial reaction fury anger and the long-term bitterness and resentment slowly festering inside anger.

Helpful Strategies for Dealing with the Initial Reaction Fury Anger

Often this anger feels uncontrollable. It is not uncontrollable. Controlling immediate reaction anger is a learned skill.

I’m talking about the kind of anger where you are so mad it feels as though your blood could start to boil at any moment. Your heart rate is way up, your face is red, you feel like a time bomb ready to explode, and you fear if you let the first word out of your mouth, (like popping a cork from a bottle), the rest of the angry words will fly out at high volume without control. And you will likely say a whole bunch of things you don’t really mean. Words once spoken can never be taken back.

The best thing to do is remove yourself from the immediate situation. It is not possible to stay at the heat of anger for more than ten minutes, if you remove yourself from provocation. I recommend going for a walk alone. The correct thing to do is let the person who has made you angry know what you are doing. Say: “I’m too angry to talk to you right now. I’m going for a walk, and I’ll be back in 15 minutes. We can continue our discussion then.” (It is only fair to let the other person know approximately when you will return, and assure them that you are not avoiding the conflict altogether, but will be back to resolve it.)

After 15 minutes of walking (without any further stimulation of the anger) you will have calmed down considerably, and so will the other person. It is not right to walk out on them, slamming the door and leaving them wondering whether you will ever be back again. Make your intentions clear.

When you feel angry, the goal is to wrestle self-control back and think logically. Anger is such a strong emotion that it can take you down paths that could destroy you, if you don’t control it.

How can anger be positive?

Anger is positive when we use it for a constructive outcome or necessary change. One of the best examples of this is the organization called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). These mothers were rightfully ANGRY at the negligent loss of their children’s lives due to people driving while under the influence of alcohol. These mothers used their anger to start an organization to create greater public awareness and increase penalties for driving under the influence. This has resulted in saved lives! That’s a constructive use of anger.

Learn to recognize when you are becoming angry; an upsurge in aggressive energy and increased body temperature. Then stop and think rationally.

“When we are angry, we revert to a reptilian state that is ruled by the need to attack our prey.” – The Solo Partner, Phil Deluca

As soon as you recognize the “alligator” in you coming out, you need to consciously bring the human back into the picture and take control by becoming more rational.

Helpful strategies when dealing with outburst anger.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax”
  3. Visualize a relaxing experience
  4. Engage in physical exercise. (I once clocked 120 rpm’s on the bike at the gym when 80 is about normal.)

Overcoming Long-term Bitterness and Resentment Slowly Smoldering Inside Anger

First of all recognize the obsessive cycle.

1. Hurt surfaces

2. You ask questions, need to know more details

3. Person who has had the affair fails to answer satisfactorily

4. You rage (pain turned outward) or weep (pain turned inward)

5. Depression/Growing Obsessiveness

Back to 1. Hurt Surfaces again.

Anger is not wrong. It is designed to serve a constructive purpose and facilitate healing of the hurt. We should get angry, but express it appropriately. Define what has made us angry. Figure out what we can do constructively about the situation. Then there comes a time when the anger has served its purpose. What can be done has been done. Some time has past. Now it’s time to let go of our anger and move on with our lives. Holding onto anger beyond the time that it has served its useful purpose is damaging.

When dealing with an angry person the first steps you should take are

1. Listen

2. Listen

3. Listen

Yes that’s right! Nothing is more effective in helping to diffuse anger in someone else than getting them to retell their story 3x, being genuinely interested, asking questions, and validating their experience.

If this is true (and it is), then I’d like to suggest that dealing with our own anger is the same reversed.

1. Tell your story

2. Tell your story

3. Tell your story

Instead of just trying to shove it aside, put it into words. Define it. Get it out. Don’t bottle it up inside of you.

Other strategies:

4. Keep a journal

5. Seek support, from trusted friends, family members, a counselor and/or join (or start) a Beyond Affairs Network Support group in your area.

6. Learn how to assert yourself. Stand up for yourself. Take your anger to its sources. It’s one thing to be mistreated once, but no one needs to allow themselves to be the victim of ongoing abuse or unjust treatment.

7. Learn how to laugh at yourself. (We are honestly hilarious at times.)

8. Don’t deny your feelings, feel them for yourself. Let them run their natural course.

9. Make an anger list. Write down all the things that make you angry. Discuss them with your spouse, a friend or God. Discover ways to eliminate their sources, and then check them off. Just seeing some progress can help you.

10. Make personal changes that are necessary. As you look at your journal and anger list, honestly look at the sources of anger that come from within you or from your own actions. Pledge to yourself to change to make your own life better.

*Resources, A discussion guide titled “Dealing with Your Anger ” created by Richard Alan at , Torn Asunder by Dave Carder

©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.

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