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When You Are MAD...
Over the years I have had ample opportunities to help clients manage anger. (I need to admit that much of my experience comes from my personal struggles with anger throughout my life.) With younger clients, especially boys, I will use a large red balloon to help them visualize what unmanaged anger does.
Before the counseling session begins, I will blow up a red balloon and pinch the stem of the balloon tight. I take a black sharpie and draw an angry face on one side of the balloon. Then I ease up on the stem and let the balloon deflate. During the session I will show the balloon to my young client and tell him that we are going to imagine something that triggers anger. I go on to say that instead of using our tools of peace to release our anger in a safe way, we are going to let the anger build and build and build—just to see what happens. At that point, I begin to blow up the balloon.
At first my young clients are amused by the revelation of the angry face on the balloon. Then their amusement turns into nervous laughter as they realize that the balloon is being stretched to its limits and I have no intention of stopping. Most boys will cover their ears and wait on the edge of their seats for the inevitable “pop!” When the balloon nears capacity, I will stop every few breaths and ask, “ How many more blows before the balloon comes apart?” Then I resume inflation. I keep blowing into the balloon. It swells and swells and swells until— Ka-Pow! The balloon explodes and there are now small fragments of red balloon all over the office floor and furniture. After the laughter, I will ask my client what happens when they let anger grow inside of them instead of practicing self-control? They always make the connection. “I swell up inside until I finally ‘pop!’ — And then there is always a mess to clean up.” Exactly.
Thankfully, when it comes to anger or any self-control issue, Christians can rely on God’s strength (Galatians 5:22-25). But surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s influence is still a choice we have to make. Learning to address negative emotions like anger is, in part, an act of the will– or a strategic choice if you will. Anger is a legit emotion that should be acknowledged. But the intensity of anger requires management. The key to managing anger is to not let it overide our thinking and impair our decisions. “In your anger, don’t sin” (Ephesians 4:26). So with that in mind, today’s counseling tip offers 4 Simple Steps to Manage Anger so that you (or your kids) won’t “Pop!”. ;)
1. See It. Learn to notice when you are becoming upset or agitated. Give others the freedom to ask how you are feeling. Allow others to point out times when you seem to experience frustration. Commit to learning your triggers. Train yourself to monitor your emotions.
2. Delay It. From time to time, we all need a moment to stop and collect ourselves. Ask to be excused for a brief time. Take a deep breath. Fold your hands. (Note: This is a great mind hack.) Do something calm to interrupt the natural spike in your emotions. This will allow the reasoning part of the brain to catch up to the emotion.
3. Control It. Maintain your seat of control. Choose not to give it away. Talk it out. Confess your frustration in prayer. Ask God for the strength to maintain your dignity. Accept the peace of the Holy Spirit. Surrender your desire to react. Instead, trust God to show you how to respond. Remember. Self-control is not taken away– it is given away.
4. Own it. The next time you feel like your swelling with anger on the inside and you think you could “pop!” Try a simple confession to those you are communicating with. “I am concerned about the level of frustration I am experiencing. Can you excuse me so I can manage with my emotions? I will return ready to listen with respect.”
For more help with anger management, check out Managing your Anger by Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller.
Resolutions Counseling—We are here to help.