4 Helpful Things to Remember When You’re Angry

I never considered myself an angry person until a few years ago, when I noticed an undercurrent of irritability seeping into my days like toxic groundwater.

Unlike the occasional bad mood that would ease after a good night’s sleep, this funk wasn’t going away. Each day I felt my internal posture stiffening into frustration, annoyance, and resentment.

Where did my anger come from, and what could I do to stop it? I sought out a therapist to work through those questions, and while I still struggle with anger at times, it’s no longer the constant companion it once was.

Here are some of the top lessons I’ve learned about anger.

1. There’s no such thing as an “angry person.”

I used to berate myself for being an angry person, which added an unhelpful dose of shame onto my emotional dumpster fire. I mistook my feelings for my identity, and the person I saw in the mirror wasn’t someone toward whom I felt much sympathy.

One of the first things my therapist helped me understand is that anger is an emotion, not a characteristic. It doesn’t define us, or detract from our value as human beings. This new mindset helped me gain emotional bandwidth to explore the source of my anger with curiosity instead of condemnation.

2. Anger is a secondary emotion.

Ever hear of the “anger iceberg”? The gist is that when we feel angry, our anger is really just the “tip of the iceberg.” The emotion at the root of the anger is often submerged and hidden. We might need to do some deep-diving to figure out what’s really beneath the angerwhere the anger is really coming from.

When I examine my own anger iceberg, I often discover shame and fear lurking beneath the surface. Processing those submerged emotions is never fun, but just being aware of them can help restore a bit of equilibrium. Awareness also makes it easier to have compassion on myself when anger begins to build.

3. Some basic self-parenting can stop anger in its tracks.

For all the times other emotions are at the root of my anger, my tendency to live like an unsupervised toddler is just as often a trigger. As if my adult self doesn’t know better, I barrel through my days without resting, overstimulating my senses. I refuse to eat my vegetables and instead fill up on empty calories. I sit in front of a screen for hours on end rather than playing outside.   

When my kids were little, if one of them threw a tantrum, I always asked myself, “How long has it been since food or rest?” I knew how quickly emotions could spiral if my toddlers’ basic physical needs went unmet. Why am I so slow to recognize those same needs in myself?

It’s much harder to tackle the issues beneath anger if I’m also battling sensory overload or blood sugar fluctuations. Self-parenting means looking at unbecoming emotions with a caregiver’s eyes, recognizing my body’s imbalances, and disciplining myself to pause for sustenance or rest. 

4. It’s okay to be honest with God about your anger.

Speaking of anger, there have been times when mine was directed heavenward. For years I couldn’t admit that, even to myself.

A few years ago, after a season of prolonged internal turmoil, my anger toward God became acute. I feared being honest with Him about it, so instead of telling Him, I stopped talking to Him altogether. It wasn’t a conscious decision, rather a gradual drifting over a span of months.

Finally, I found my voice and asked Him some hard questions. Afterward, I was tempted to backtrack, to apologize away my rant. But I’d grown weary of pretending, so I simply sat with the echo of my anger reverberating in the silence. 

In the ensuing stillness, I expected to feel every bit of the yawning chasm that seemed to have opened between us. Instead, I sensed the surprising warmth of connection, as if I’d cast narrowed eyes upward only to find Him gazing at me with tenderness, even delight.

I don’t pretend to understand much about God, but I understand this—my anger didn’t shock or startle Him. He didn’t disown me because of it. He listened to my worst and didn’t turn His face from me. The experience deepened my trust in Him, which turns out to be a powerful antidote for anger.

Do you struggle with frequent anger? Have you ever thought of yourself as an angry person? I hope this post frees you from self-condemnation and helps you view your anger in a gentler way, with curiosity—and hope for more rested days ahead.

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  1. Allyson, as always you’re writing gets to the point artfully and wakes me up to the truth in a new gentle way. Thank you for this article on anger. I struggle with anger and it’s helpful to see the iceberg diagram. One child of mine in particular seems to follow in my tracks regarding anger. This will help me react to him, even myself, with more curiosity and grace. Thank you so much for the basic and very real truth!

    1. I’m a beginner at understanding these things myself, but I’m so glad what I’m learning is helpful. I am also trying to apply this to my responses to my kids. They’re a little old for tantrums now, but the teen years have their own brand of anger, and it has a way of triggering mine! Recognizing that anger is an emotion, not an identity, has been very helpful is defusing my emotional response when things go awry. 🙂

  2. Alison, so good to meet you from over at Emily’s this morning. As both a counselor and a regular person, I am resonating with your excellent observations, so well said. Thanks for shedding light and wisdom on something we all deal with. What a beautiful, helpful post …

    Bless you!

    1. So nice to meet you, Linda! It’s very encouraging to receive this feedback from a counselor. I always worry that in my fledgling understanding I’ll misrepresent an important truth. Thank you for taking the time to give feedback.

    1. So glad it was helpful, Megan! I think a lot of us struggle with anger but have a hard time talking about it.

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