This week for class the assignment is to read the chapter titled Dealing with Emotions. It's a fairly simple chapter and mostly skims over several main emotions and how we deal with them. But one point that was made about anger really stood out for me.
First let me say that there is nothing wrong with being angry. The text defines anger as "a feeling of extreme displeasure, usually brought about by intereference with our needs or desires." Obviously we all have different needs and desires. so what may make one person angry wouldn't necessarily bother someone else. How we express anger is when we can get into trouble.
One expression of anger that can cause problems is when we displace anger. For example, let's say your spouse comes home from work and is angry at their boss for some reason. But throughout the evening they say and do things that directs their anger towards you. This is displaced anger.
The most interesting thing mentioned in this chapter was that we displace anger toward those with whom we have the strongest relationships. We do this because in these relationships we "subconsciously trust they will accept us the way we are." Unfortunately, it's because of this displaced anger that we destroy our closest relationships. Hubby comes home mad at the boss and takes it out on the wife. The wife has been dealing with rowdy kids all day and takes it out on the husband. Each gets sick of the other and the relationship spirals downward.
What if one or the other or both realized that, though the anger is displaced, it's because their relationship is strong enough and they trust them enough to be themselves? In other words, if RL came home obviously angry about something, taking it out on me, instead of getting upset and defensive myself, I could help him place the anger where it belongs. Recognizing that I am his closest ally, I could respond with a more understanding attitude and help him work through his anger, instead of escalating the problem further with my own.
I'm not talking about tolerating abusive behavior. I'm simply suggesting that maybe one of the things that destroys so many relationships could be turned around. Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Maybe if we knew our relationship means so much to our spouse and they trust us so much to be themselves, we could show them the patience and understanding they need to help them work through their anger in ways that build our relationships rather than tearing them down.