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 ended up seeing a therapist to help answer those questions, which was one of the best decisions I never made. 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 where 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. Anger can often be soothed by some basic self-parenting.
For all the times my anger is rooted in other emotions, it’s just as often triggered by my tendency to live like an unsupervised toddler. 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 weren’t met. 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 anger.
Speaking of anger, there have been times when mine was directed heavenward. For years I couldn’t admit that, even to myself. What right had I to be angry with God?
A few years ago, after a season of prolonged internal turmoil, my anger toward God became acute. I was scared to be 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 between us.
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 pleasure.
I don’t pretend to understand much about God, but I understand this—He wasn’t jarred by my anger. It 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.