How Can I Manage Anger?

Anger is often the biggest roadblock to forgiveness. Since it’s Anger Awareness Week (Dec 1-7), I’d like to share with you some anger management tips from my book, The Road to Forgiveness:  Removing the Roadblocks.

Repressed anger leads to many new problems.
When I was small, I was never allowed to express emotions. If I shouted and laughed, I was told to pipe down. If I got angry, I was punished for expressing myself. If I was sad, I was told to turn off the tears. If this sounds familiar, you may be stuffing your anger, just as I learned to do.

Some people try to cover up their anger. Do yourself a huge favor: don’t bury your anger under things such as comfort food, alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, pornography, excessive TV viewing, over-work, silence, or any other avoidance activity that only leaves you feeling worse.

Anger can be justified or displaced.
Justified anger, sometimes known as righteous anger, occurs when something happens to upset God’s order. When we hear on the news that a child has been kidnapped, murdered, and left in a creek bed; righteous anger kicks in. It’s a feeling that tells us someone has broken God’s command to love one another.

Displaced anger, on the other hand, shows up unexpectedly to events that may not even warrant it. A man who goes to the hospital for a simple operation which turns into a heart attack gets angry at the doctors and nurses. When a snowstorm prevents his wife from driving to the hospital to visit him, he’s angry at her.

Anger often masquerades as a cover-up feeling for fear. Perhaps this man is fearful of his own mortality, the loss of his wife’s love, or the prospect of living as an invalid.

This anger he feels today may also be stemming from old hurts that he has not processed. If he was abused or neglected as a child, his basic needs for safety, nurturing, protection, and love were probably not fulfilled. His hospital experience may be churning up that repressed anger from decades ago, and now it is aimed at all the wrong people. Hence, we have the term, displaced anger.

Follow The Three Rs to manage anger.
We must make a conscious decision to respond differently to things that anger us, otherwise we will just become known as perpetually angry people. Understanding that lashing out in anger is hurtful to us, we can follow three simple steps to make sure that we don’t sin in our anger. I call this process The Three Rs: Remove, Review, and Reason.

Remove
Every single time we feel ourselves getting angry; we can remove ourselves from the situation before we do something we will regret later. We can take a walk, breathe deeply, or try some gentle stretching. Remember Proverbs 30:33 (NIV): As the beating of cream yields butter and striking the nose causes bleeding, so stirring up anger causes quarrels.

We must not turn our time-out into another avoidance tactic, though. When we are calm, we must continue onto the next step.

Review
We can memorize a Scripture passage, such as Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) and review it until our anger simmers down: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Repeating the passage to ourselves until we feel more peaceful helps to dampen the fires of anger.

Reason
When we have calmed down, we can take out our journal and write down the real reasons why we are angry. We can look at the situation and consider what happened.

Was someone behaving badly because they were afraid, lonely, needy, out of control, or being pushed around by someone else? Is our anger telling us that something about our relationship with this person needs to change? Or are we dwelling on that old, displaced anger that continues to fester within our souls?

Get professional help.
If anger is the roadblock that is preventing us from forgiving someone, we can seek the help of a professional counselor, psychologist, or specialist to help us re-program the faulty wiring in our brains. With their guidance, we can learn how to avoid anger and fear as knee-jerk reactions to conflict.

 

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Reactive Attachment Disorder in Abused Children

R.A.D. is a term no foster or adoptive parent wants to see in their child’s file. It stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder, and treating it in older kids can be pretty daunting.

My husband and I adopted 8-year-old twins from Ethiopia in 2005. Although we were assured they were both healthy and developmentally on target, we soon discovered neither fact was true.

Both girls received diagnoses of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Psychotic Personality Disorder, parasite infestations, and multiple developmental delays. One of them also suffered from the deformity of one foot, mild cerebral palsy, and a language disorder.

These medical labels arose from repeated sexual abuse since infancy, child labor, torture, near-starvation, and neglect during their first five years in the slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their mother had died of AIDS, leaving them alone to roam the back alleys and scrub tile floors for neighbors to earn enough each day to share one egg.

Their symptoms included night terrors, exaggerated startle responses, sexual acting out,  defiant behaviors, food hoarding, lying, and doing whatever they could to push us away. Before they finally forced us to disrupt the adoption, one threatened suicide while self-inflicting numerous injuries, and the other attempted to kill herself by jumping from her bedroom window. Fortunately, my husband grabbed her before she leaped.

Treating RAD in children under the age of four may result in the child forming an attachment to one or two caregivers. But in older children, the undertaking often ends in failure for families. In our case, we had to make the heart-rending decision to place our twins in a group home with other children suffering from RAD.

Eight years later, we are starting over in the foster care system, with the hope of adopting. This time, we’re accepting only newborn infants so we have a fighting chance to help them attach to us.

I have addressed the difficulties of caring for abused children with RAD in my latest novel, When Hope was Gone. To get your paperback or ebook version, click here.

Please add your comments about your knowledge of or experiences with an abused child with RAD.

 

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Where is Cleveland kidnapping victim, Michelle Knight?

Cleveland kidnapping victim, Michelle Knight, disappeared from the hospital on Friday evening. No one seems to know where she has gone, including her own mother. Everyone is wondering why she would dodge from view like this.

Where is Michelle Knight?

Anyone coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would probably know the multiple choice answer to the question, “Where is Michelle Knight?”

a) She’s been kept in the dark, and she can’t tolerate the bright light of reality yet.
b) Her assailant battered her face so badly, she feels unbearable embarrassment.
c) As the oldest of the three girls, she feels guilty for not saving the other victims years ago.
d) She sees herself as a coward who didn’t have the guts to stand up to her perpetrator.
e) Fear of being kidnapped again by her perpetrator forces her to keep running.
f) Crowds terrify her, because she doesn’t know if someone might harm her.
g) She’s exhausted from looking over her shoulder for imminent danger.
h) She is finally grieving the murder of her five unborn babies.
i) She feels ashamed and dirty after being sexually violated.
j) She is so depressed, she can’t stop crying.
k) She no longer trusts anyone, other than herself.
l) She is contemplating suicide.
m) She has been brain-washed into believing she is a psychopathic sexual predator, just like her captor. She is searching for their next victim.
n)  She is so angry, she is contemplating how she might murder her perpetrator.
o) People are telling her to forgive and forget. She rejects this advice, because she is not ready to forgive and can never forget what happened.
p) All of the above
q) None of the above

Without family or close friends to support her, Michelle Knight may not be able to cope with the stress that follows such a horrifying and long-term experience. The family of Gina DeJesus is willing to adopt Michelle as their own, but she must make the decision to step out of the shadows and try to trust again.

I will be praying for her to take that step of faith, remembering Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 (MSG). If you sleep alone, you won’t have anyone to keep you warm on a cold night. Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, “A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break.”

Which multiple choice answer would you choose? Why?

You can learn how to help others with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Click here to preview Cheryl Denton’s book, The Road to Forgiveness:  Removing the Roadblocks.

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Letting Go of Vengeful Thinking

When anger remains unexpressed, it can often evolve into fantasies of revenge. At times, it bubbles over as passive-aggressive behavior. Today, we learn how to let go of our vengeful thoughts so that we can move forward in our journey toward forgiveness. Revenge is the sixth roadblock in my book, The Road to Forgiveness:  Removing the Roadblocks.

Vengeful thoughts keep us in a state of ill health and inner turmoil.
Vengeful thinking stems from repressed anger. I’ve learned it’s not healthy to hang onto anger. It causes increases in our blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, and cholesterol readings.

In addition to the physical harm we cause ourselves by remaining bitter, we also create one of the biggest roadblocks to forgiveness. When we think about revenge, we stay hyper-focused on our angry thoughts. Not only does this block us from forgiving, but it also prevents us from living with the type of internal peace that we must have to feel emotionally healthy.

Letting go of bitterness opens the door to healing.
If we think of forgiveness as something that we can only give away, we are missing half of the concept. We forgive, because it is a gift we can give ourselves. When we let go of our bitterness and thoughts of revenge, we free ourselves to begin a new life of inner calm.

Without thoughts of revenge, we can grow spiritually, find emotional renewal, express the truth, and regain our self-respect. This sounds wonderful, but perhaps you’re wondering how to find this elusive place in your mind. The process may take a long time, but I found that the following three steps were helpful to me.

Photo from campingroadtrip.com

1) Acknowledge that you’re angry.
Joe and I took a vacation a few years ago to a remote cabin in northern Michigan. The place was devoid of televisions, computers, phones, radios, and people. We thought it was going to be great, but there was one problem: I packed anger in my bags without even realizing it. And it was coming out in passive-aggression toward my innocent husband. I realized that when we remove all of the busy-ness of our lives, we find the junk that we’ve been carrying around all of our lives.

2) Get it out and get on with your life.
During this getaway, I was biting poor Joe’s head off. He looked so miserable, I decided that I’d better figure out what was bothering me. I wandered out of the cabin on a drizzly day and sat by the sodden fire pit. I asked God to reveal to me why I felt so enraged.

It didn’t take long for the answer to come: my mother had neglected my needs all of my life, and whenever we took family vacations, I felt even greater isolation. Our little getaway was triggering memories of my mother’s drinking and oblivion to my needs to play and explore our vacation spots.

A therapist had once told me to find objects that I could label with my unmet needs and anger. I decided to pick up small twigs that had fallen from the pine trees. After I had gathered a hefty pile of twigs, I found a hatchet. As instructed earlier in counseling, I named each twig and then gave it a whack. “This is for never reading me a bedtime story.” Whack. “This is for calling me worse than yesterday’s trash.” Whack. And so it continued, until I had named every reason for being angry with my mother. It took quite a while, but when I was done, I felt drained.

3) Let go and let God.
I sat there, staring at my pile of twigs. I hated the way my anger made me feel, and I didn’t want to haul it around during my entire vacation. It was time to let it go.

A light mist continued falling, and the odds of lighting a fire were slim to none. But I knew that I had to fully destroy this anger before it destroyed me. With a large box of matches, I worked and worked to set that bunch of anger on fire. When it caught at last, I sat back and watched the blue smoke curling heavenward. “Take it God,” I said. “I don’t want to live with it anymore.”

As I watched the smoke rising, I felt incredible release. I felt God’s presence in a way that I never had before. Suddenly, I understood the pain he felt over my abuse, as well as the sorrow he felt over my refusal to give it to him. I felt comforted and completely at peace.

Romans 8:6 (NIV) tells us, The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Holding onto revenge will lead us to an early death, and perhaps even spiritual death. Letting go and giving our anger to God allows his Spirit to fill us with life-giving peace.

Letting go is just the beginning of forgiving.
Please note that this process did not yet involve my forgiving my mother. I merely let go of the anger, the vengeful thoughts, and the bitterness that had been consuming me most of my life.

When we let go of vengeful thinking and the anger that causes it, we find a new inner peace. Nothing changes for the person who has hurt us, because this process is something we do for ourselves. Down the road, there may be time for healing in our perpetrator’s heart when he is ready for it. For now, we simply love ourselves enough to give our anger and vengeful thoughts to God.

Today’s Challenge
Find some destructible objects that you can name with the vengeful thoughts and anger you feel toward someone who has hurt you. These might be twigs, balloons, clay pigeons, old china plates, and so on. You can name your revenge verbally or write your angry thoughts on your destructible objects. Find a way to destroy them that brings you physical release, such as stomping hard on balloons or hurling plates into a garbage can. Just make sure that you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else in the process. When you are finished destroying all of your anger, tell God that it’s his mess now. Spend a few minutes savoring the peace that follows. Write in your journal how you feel.

To read a selection from The Road to Forgiveness:  Removing the Roadblocks, click here.

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Will Future Generations Be Able to Write?

Back in the paleolithic age, people communicated with one another by drawing pictures. We assume they used drawings, not words, because they had not yet developed an alphabet to represent the sounds of the human voice.

 

Maybe those paleolithic communities once used an advanced language system like ours. Perhaps some greedy marketer introduced a new way to make communication faster, less taxing, and more fun. I imagine that unique invention might have been paint made from natural pigments.

I can envision teens of the paleolithic era trying to convince their parents they’d simply die if they couldn’t have cave paint. What if those kids sat for days on end in the dim light of a damp cave, drawing pictures of what the rest of the world was actually experiencing? While it may have made for terrific art, I don’t think it would have done much for their written language, reading abilities, or social skills.

I know I sound a little far-fetched here, but each time I read a comment on a blog post or an answer to an online question, I cringe at the writing. Misspelled words, poor grammar, inaccurate or missing punctuation, no capitals, and illogical organization show up everywhere.

Horrible writing is not just a problem with kids, either. Professionals write emails to me  that would have earned them an ‘F’ from their sixth-grade English teacher.

I frequently ask myself, “Will future generations be able to write?”

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about life as an American pioneer during the 19th century. Her father, a farmer who probably ended his schooling in the eighth-grade, won a community-wide spelling match with the word xanthophyll.

If farmers without a high school diploma could read and write words such as xanthophyll in 1890, it disturbs me to think of where we’ll be by 2090. At the rate literacy is devolving, my guess is our grand kids may turn to YouTube for all their communication needs.

What do you think? Are we raising literate children, or is our modern culture at risk of sliding back into communicating as our cave-painting ancestors did? Please leave your written answer in the comment space below.

Cheryl Denton is the author of The Darkfire Series, novels of mystery and suspense. To purchase your copy, please click here.

 

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Back from the Writer’s Abyss

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by work, you lost track of time?

For many months, I’ve been working ten-hour days to finish my second novel, When Hope Was Gone. While at the grocery store a few weeks ago, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have to remember to buy extra sodas before the kids come to visit for Christmas next month.’

When I realized Christmas was two months ago, I knew I’d been to the brink of the writer’s abyss. Thankfully, I pulled back before I fell into the black hole that sucks us down into an eternity of writing, editing, reading, editing, reading, writing, and so on.

Fortunately, God knew we would need to rest from our work. That’s why he commands us to set aside one day a week to recharge our batteries.

You should work six days a week, but on the seventh day you must rest. This lets your ox and your donkey rest, and it also lets the slave born in your house and the foreigner be refreshed. Exodus 23:12 (New Century Version)

While I don’t have either an ox or a donkey like this poor worker, I get the point of this verse. For me, rest means I don’t go anywhere near my home office. I definitely don’t turn on my computer. Instead, my husband and I frequently have lunch with friends after church on Sunday, or we enjoy a movie at a theater. Sometimes, just lounging on the sofa is bliss.

Today’s Challenge
Are you working too much? When did you last take time to rest for an entire day? Was your family included? If you’re screeching towards your own abyss, put on the brakes today by planning a day of rest this week.

Cheryl Denton is the author of The Darkfire Series, novels of mystery and suspense. To purchase your copy, please click here.

 

 

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What’s Your Dream?

Many of us often blame someone else for ruining our life’s dream. No matter how difficult life becomes, we are entirely responsible for every choice we have made in response to the challenges. When we quit blaming and complaining, we empower ourselves to achieve our dreams.

What’s your dream?

I'm a happy writer, living my dream.

When I was in high school, my creative writing teacher pointed out my gift with the written word. Deep down, I knew this gift was from God, and I dreamed of becoming a great writer like Margaret Mitchell, as well as a prolific writer like Danielle Steel.

When I poked out my head from my shy little turtle shell to say, “I want to be a writer,” my parents and siblings told me I’d starve to death on royalties. My response was to yank in my head and hide my dream in my shell.

I went off to college, announcing I’d go to law school. My parents were proud, because I was going to enter a career field that would make me wealthy. After all, isn’t the measure of success in our culture the amount of money a person makes???

As you can imagine, I was miserable in political science and economics classes. My grades reflected my unhappy circumstances. I began to blame my parents and siblings for discouraging me from becoming a writer. In my mind, my misery was all their fault.

The truth is, no one else caused my misery. I did. Until I chose to look at my own idiotic responses to others, I kept blaming them. The blame game keeps us seeing ourselves as victims. As long as we think we’re victims, trapped in someone else’s dreams, we can never achieve our own goals.

I believe the Holy Spirit tells us how to respond to others trying to confuse our dreams. Proverbs 3:5 (MSG) reads, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” Praying for God’s guidance toward our dreams is always a better idea than to listen to others who think their dreams are better than ours or God’s.

If you have a dream, hold onto it, even when others tell you it’s dumb. When the Holy Spirit tells you to do something, respond quickly and decisively. If you find what works well for you, do more of it. Before long, you’ll be living your dream, as I am.

Today’s Challenge: Spend a day or a week observing the results you’re producing from your actions. Are you living your dream, working in your areas of strengths and gifts? Or are you living someone else’s perfect life?

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What’s Your Purpose?

I often tell people the most important thing they can figure out is why God sent them here to this planet at this particular time. I am amazed by how many people have no clue about their purpose.

Without purpose, we are all like ships adrift on wild waves of the ocean. The storms of life can leave us with a toppled mast, torn sails, and a broken rudder. If we’re in a close relationship with someone who has no direction, our life together can feel aimless.

Whenever we feel joy, we are usually doing what God has called us to.
I think joy is a good place to start, but I believe we experience far more when we are in sync with God’s plan for us. The Bible puts it this way: The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22) When we are doing the one thing we love, all of these feelings fill our hearts.

Make a list of the times in your life when you felt the most joy.
My list includes writing, sewing, playing the piano, and helping women and children who have been abused. Doing these things makes me feel energized, and I lose track of time. They are the activities that usually fulfill me.

The book, What Color is Your Parachute?, asks readers to complete a simple task. The author directs us to think about our greatest skills, the audience for those skills, and the outcome we would achieve if we put our skills together with the people we feel most passionate about. Combining these three concepts can give us a clear idea of our purpose, which we all need to write as a simple statement. My purpose statement follows:

My purpose is to use my gifts of writing and speaking to teach survivors of abuse and trauma how to thrive.

Today’s Challenge:
Nail down your purpose, and the rest of life becomes easier. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, just sit in a quiet place and ask God to tell you. He knows where you’re going, and I’m sure he would be happy to guide you. All you have to do is listen.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

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