"A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention."
As Joyce Meyer has warned, "Many people ruin their health and their lives by taking the poison of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness." When anger and rage are allowed to fester, they can erupt, causing damage to everything and everyone around. Proverbs 15:18 distinguishes between a man filled with rage and a man of peace: "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention."
This scenario may sound all too familiar: You are riding to work with a significant other, friend or relative, when another car cuts you off. Your significant other bursts into a rage, shouting obscenities at the driver. Or you are waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant, when the hostess mistakenly seats another couple who just walked in. Your hot-tempered friend shouts at the restaurant staff, insisting that you be taken to a table first.
Maybe your partner or best friend never shouts, screams or curses directly at you, But doesn't his or her anger affect you somehow? Anger can cause high blood pressure, digestive disturbances, headaches and altered sleep patterns in chronically angry people. Constant exposure to anger may have an impact on your health, as well. If you feel your blood pressure spiking or your stomach knotting whenever your loved one throws a tantrum, their anger may be affecting you more than you realize.
If your partner, friend or loved one is abusive or violent to you or your children, seek help from emergency services, a family crisis center or a shelter for victims of domestic violence immediately.
Effects of Secondhand Anger
Not unlike secondhand cigarette smoke, secondhand anger may affect the people surrounding the angry person. When a chronically angry individual uses angry outbursts as a way to vent frustration, fear or sadness, you may be absorbing those emotions and reacting to these powerful feelings as if they were your own. If you have shortness of breath, headaches, an accelerated heart rate or acid indigestion in the angry person's presence, you may be feeling the effects of secondhand anger.
There may be nothing you can do to heal chronic rage, but you can take positive steps to protect yourself physically and emotionally against secondhand anger. Most importantly, understand that you cannot turn a chronically angry person into a serene, calm and contented individual. In fact, some angry people use their anger to keep their friends and family in a state of tension, doing everything they can to prevent outbursts.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Avoiding an angry person may help in the short term, but it will not solve your own response to secondhand anger. Taking steps to protect yourself and keep yourself calm and healthy is crucial. If you are able to detach from your loved one's anger, you may find that these outbursts no longer make your pulse rise or your stomach churn.
These tips for taking care of your body and mind may help you resist the effects of secondhand anger:
. Form a support network of positive friends and family members who make you feel happy and refreshed.
. Exercise regularly - with your doctor's approval - to relieve your own stress and anxiety.
. Eat nutritious, low-fat meals that include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. These foods are rich in essential vitamins and minerals that help steady your nerves, prevent illness and regulate blood pressure.
. Limit or eliminate caffeine, tobacco, and other stimulants that might make you anxious or nervous.
. Take part in a relaxing activity that makes you feel healthy, calm and strong, like light hiking, yoga, swimming, golf, dancing or meditation.
. When you are with an angry person, remind yourself that you cannot control his or her emotions. Visualize the person's rage as a red fog, which surrounds that person but never touches you.
. Frequent tantrums may be a sign of depression, fear or a mood disorder. Although you cannot resolve another person's emotional conflicts or make them seek treatment for chronic anger, viewing their rage in a compassionate, detached light may help you cope with an outburst when it occurs.
Realizing that you are not responsible for the person's anger and that nothing you do will change your loved one's emotional responses can take time and effort. A counselor or a support group may help you learn how to detach from another person's anger without abandoning your loved one emotionally. Consult your health-care provider about resources in your community.
MayoClinic.com. (2011) Anger Management. mayoclinic.com/health/anger-management/MY00689