Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Beast of Anger

I got an email from John today, his typical forward of "Wisdom" from Fr. Wayne. But this one caught my attention and I printed it and read it numerous time. Maybe I'm revealing a little too much about myself but I really want to share this. Some of you may have gotten it and if you didn't read it I really encourage you to. If you didn't get it and would like the whole article I would be happy to send it. The article "The Beast of Anger" was written by Fr. George Morelli, and I'll put the article in italics. It's quite long so I only have a small part of it here, the parts that really grabbed my heart.

In order for us to perceive ourselves to be "intruded on" to the extent that it justifies, anger, vengeance, and retaliation we have to have to see ourselves as 'important.' St. Basil tells us "Anger nurses a grievance.” The soul, itching for vengeance, constantly tempts us to repay those who have offended. I am so important, so above others I have the "right" to act uncharitably toward others.

Wow! Every time I get angry it is because I feel intruded on. Over the last few days this statement has pushed me to look at things from a whole new perspective. Do I really think that I am all that important? I never thought so…but???

… the theme of anger is "significant intrusion." We feel some one has intruded on us … Situations (something that someone has said or done or events that have happened) do not produce or cause our upset.

We upset ourselves over people and events, by our "interpretations" of them, thereby making ourselves dysfunctionally angry, anxious or depressed or simply functionally annoyed, concerned and disappointed.

What has really been laid on my heart is this idea that I cause my anger!! And this anger stems from pride! I can easily say, “Who am I to feel this way.” But it is obviously rooted in me somewhere because I so easily get irritated over little things. This has really made me think about my reactions to situations I face on a daily basis. “mommy, mommy….”, “I need this or that.”, “Please stop jumping on the sofa.” “Please hang up your coat.” “I can’t find my book.” “I don’t want to!” The list goes on, but what I see is that really each of these statements, after time, seem to rub me the wrong way. Why? Because they interrupt ME! I feel intruded. How can I look at each situation differently?

Cognitive psychological research has found support for seven cognitive distortions relating to anger and the other dysfunctional emotions:

I can’t list them all but the last one really stung!

  • Demanding Expectations, the belief that there are laws or rules that must or have to be obeyed. A mother believes her son should not talk back because she is his "mother." She has the "right" to be angry. (Note God gave us free will, He 'asks' us to obey His commandments. Like Christ, parents can 'prefer and constructively work' toward obedience from their children, but they have no guarantees their children will respect them.) Of spiritual help here is to reflect on the life of Our Lord. He was bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, crucified and died for our salvation. He Himself told us: No servant is greater than his master (Mat. 10:24) ---why would we expect to be treated any differently than Our Lord. It is a blessing if we are treated and honored, but we have no guarantee) A program of rewards for appropriate behavior and punishment, without anger, for inappropriate behavior would be constructive.

Clinicians aid patients in recognizing their distortions and restructuring their responses by asking themselves 3 questions: 1) Where is the evidence? 2) Is there any other way of looking at it?. 3) Is it as bad as it seems?

These psychological techniques have to be applied rigorously and consistently. They should be used whenever we find ourselves starting to become angry

We can reflect on the words of St. Mark the Acetic: Do you want the tree of disorder -- I mean the passion of bitterness, anger and wrath -- to dry up within you and become barred, so that with the axe of the Spirit it may be 'hewn down and cast into the fire' together with every other vice (Matt. 3:10) ...If this is really what you want keep the humility of the Lord in your heart and never forget it...

This active approach toward our becoming like Christ is our vocation as Christians.

It takes WORK to make changes to become more like Him! All the wishing or prayer we do, if it does not lead us to actively make ourselves like Christ, is empty. I do not want to do empty wishing! I think for a long time I’ve been making empty wishes. “I wish I didn’t…why do I act like that…I can’t stand it when I act that way. I wish I could be more…I wish they would…I just don’t know how to stop being so…” Fr. Tom Tsagalakis, who is not only a priest but a licensed therapist, frequently talks about our life being a series of stories. We write our own stories. And if we want to change our story we can close the book and start a NEW story. We are capable of writing a new story and we can control the way it goes. But it takes WORK!

"Since you are God's dear children you must try to be like him, Your life must be controlled by love ..." (Eph. 5: 1-2). Work, vivified by prayer and the sacraments, is the way to advance in our likeness in Christ. Only then will we be able to say with Christ: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk 23: 34) This is true anger management.


juliana said...

I printed up and kept the same article and it really hit home for me too. An incident that JUST happened not an hour ago is brought to my mind....I felt intruded upon and now am reminded to change my reaction response. Thanks for the reminder. I think I need to go and re-read the article with a cup of humility.

Elizabeth said...

I would really love to have the whole article . This has spoken so clearly to my heart, and is one of the things I am struggling with at the moment.

Susan Sophia said...

Email me if you would like the entire article "Beast of Anger".