An anger outburst can cause a person to lose control over what they say and do, which can be devastating. Anger can override a person’s rational thought processes, placing them in the uncomfortable situation of having to take back hurtful words spoken in anger that they never would have uttered under normal circumstances.
What’s an anger outburst?
Have you ever felt so angry that your anger felt like it was a living, fire-breathing, or ice-cold thing inside of you? Perhaps a loved one had slighted you one too many times, or a friend questioned a choice you made or a cherished belief you hold, and it stirred up anger in you.
Everyone gets angry at some point in their lives, though what varies between people is what makes them angry and what they do with themselves once they feel angry.
We often express anger in the ways that were modeled to us by people that were significant in our formation, such as our parents and other adults around us. From these experiences we learn what is considered an appropriate way to express anger, whether by suppressing it or expressing it through colorful expletives.
For some people, having seen anger expressed one way and found that to be problematic, they choose to go another route in their own life. Consider the case where a person with parents who had violent and explosive tempers finding themselves preferring to keep their own anger bottled up instead.
You don’t have to suppress anger to deal with it effectively. In fact, suppressing anger is an ineffective and potentially self-destructive way to deal with feelings of anger.
That anger may lodge itself in your heart and result in developing resentment toward others or health problems such as high blood pressure. But expressing anger well requires self-awareness and emotional intelligence so that harm does not befall others in the process of that self-expression. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.
An anger outburst can take many forms, often including either violent behavior or angry verbal expressions. It can look like a sudden, impulsive, out-of-control burst of anger that starts without warning and is typically seen as out of proportion to what triggered the episode.
Some examples of anger outbursts range from incidents and patterns of behavior such as road rage and domestic abuse, as well as the throwing or breaking of objects or punching through walls. An anger outburst can have not only legal consequences, but financial and relational ramifications as well.
The effect of anger on relationships.
In the heat of an argument, people say and do many things that they regret. Once words are said and certain actions performed, they can’t be taken back. All that’s left to do is to deal with the aftermath. The effect of anger that is poorly expressed is felt whatever the circumstances.
The most obvious effect of an angry outburst is the hurt that can be caused when painful and needless things are said and done during the outburst. In anger, we can wield truth carelessly, wounding the other person by hitting them where it hurts most. If anger leads a person to hurl insults or lay hands on the other person, that can cause physical and emotional damage in the other person.
If an anger outburst results in emotional and verbal abuse, that can have a profound effect on the victim’s sense of self-worth, confidence, and safety. In other words, it can diminish them as a person.
An anger outburst can affect a relationship by undermining the trust and intimacy within that relationship. Whether anger leads to hurtful words being spoken or physical violence ensuing, the connection between the two people is jeopardized because the sense of safety that may have existed prior to the outburst evaporates because of the destructive expression of anger.
If your spouse has an anger outburst that leads them to dredge up an old conflict or wound, or that results in you sustaining physical harm, you may find yourself on edge around them. You may struggle to trust yourself around them or become unwilling to let your guard down because you don’t know if that unsavory reaction will be repeated.
For emotional intimacy to thrive in a relationship, trust and safety are important. An anger outburst can undermine both by making the situation and relationship seem volatile and entirely unsettled. Discomfort, fear, and uncertainty are the enemies of meaningful relationships where a deep connection is shared between two people. An anger outburst can create a wedge between people.
Another unwanted but expected result of an anger outburst is that it may even be traumatic and triggering to be exposed to an anger outburst from a loved one. If you experienced unhealthy anger in past relationships, or if there were seasons in the present relationship where unhealthy expressions of anger were prevalent, experiencing an anger outburst may bring that past rushing back in.
What to do when anger affects your relationship.
An anger outburst can affect a relationship in deep and negative ways. The damage done by an anger outburst may take a concerted effort to undo. But if the relationship matters to you, putting in that work to restore the relationship and get your anger under control should be more than worth it.
Among some of the steps that you can take is making sure that you acknowledge what happened without making any excuses. It’s easy to try and gloss over our own bad behavior, especially if we feel embarrassed by it or perhaps even feel justified for how we felt.
However, while we are allowed to feel how we feel, we aren’t entitled to express those emotions in whatever way we choose. The Bible reminds us that “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20 NIV). We need to exercise caution over the reasons we feel angry and how we express our anger. Like it says in Ephesians, we are called to “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a).
It is important to think through apologies after an anger outburst. A proper apology carries a healthy combination of sincerity in acknowledging that what happened was wrong and recognizing the impact it may have had on the other person. Though the person apologizing may be tempted to blame or point fingers, it is important to apologize separately from working on being understood or receiving an apology from the other person.
A good apology is joined to concrete steps to be taken to change behavior and acceptance of accountability in future. An apology can pave the way for healing to begin in the relationship. The other person has the opportunity to forgive you, but that is a choice only they can exercise. Your part is to apologize and seek to do better with the Lord’s help.
It is important to seek help when you’ve had an anger outburst, particularly if it isn’t a one-time occurrence, or if the aftermath of it has been especially disastrous. An anger outburst may be the creature of a moment, but it can be a sign of much else going on beneath the surface.
God calls us to seek help from Him. This may come through prayer, reading your Bible, connecting with other believers, and/or engaging in direct counseling. Nothing will be as effective as having the Holy Spirit at work in you.
Anger may be masking anxiety, or it may be the symptom of something else such as trauma, depression (especially in men), or chronic stress. Finding professional help from a counselor will help you understand your triggers and early warning signs of anger such as having knots in your stomach, seeing red, clenching your hands or jaw, your hands feeling clammy or face feeling flushed, breathing faster, and pacing around.
Christian counseling for anger outbursts will also teach you to avoid patterns of thinking that tend to trigger and reinforce unhealthy angry reactions such as overgeneralizing (e.g., “You always disrespect me. You never consider what I want. No one ever listens to me.”); jumping to conclusions about other people’s intentions, blaming, looking for things about which to complain and get upset, and having rigid expectations of others.
Counseling will also teach you ways of handling anger in healthy ways such as taking appropriate self-care, learning to focus on the present, and using humor to relieve tension. If anger is causing friction or creating distance in your relationships, you should consider getting help from a counselor who can help you bring it under control.
“Couple at Odds”, Courtesy of Tumisu, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Crying Woman”, Courtesy of R-region, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of SHVETS production, Pexels.com, CC0 License