I’ve seen a lot of couples in therapy over the years. One of the chief complaints is threating divorce. During an argument, or when one person becomes upset, it’s easy for a partner to say, “Maybe we should just get divorced!” This angry moment breaks trust. And people who can’t control their anger eventually lose friends or get into trouble.
So, if you are angry, you may have developed some bad habits that will need to be broken. Here are 5 habits of angry people and ways to break those habits.
- Angry people have a habit of angry self-talk. Angry people have imaginary fights in their head. They look for confrontation and expect people to treat them poorly. Then they go on the defensive and are constantly thinking about how to make sure they win. To break this habit, you have to stop assuming and wait to see if indeed, there is reason to get angry. Listen and don’t instantly get defensive. In other words, don’t create the fight in your head ahead of time.
- Angry people see problems not beauty. The world is a troubled place with problems, injustice and more. Angry people think on these things. They do not notice the good or the beauty around them. Their habit is to focus on what’s wrong not right. The antidote to this is to look for beauty–a sunset, a beautiful painting, a well-written book or anything related to art and music. Beauty interrupts anger and calms a person down.
- Angry people make lots of threats. Often those threats are empty but they can be acted on one day. In the case of our angry couple who says, “Well then, let’s get a divorce,” anger is used as a threat. No one should use this as a club over someone’s head. It is mean, threatening and only breaks down trust. The antidote is to stop empty threats. If you don’t, you may eventually act on the threat because you are allowing it to dominate your thinking.
- Angry people blame you for their own behavior. This is a habit that will lead to losing friends and intimate relationships. No one likes to be around someone who externalizes problems and doesn’t own up to his or her part of issues. The antidote is to stop blaming and take personal responsibility for your actions. This is often the work in couple therapy-stop pointing fingers and reflect on your part of the problem.
- Angry people hang on to grudges and become judges. They don’t forgive and rehearse upsetting stories over and over. In fact, they smolder with resentment and eventually become bitter. The antidote for this habit is to forgive and allow God to judge the person. I know this isn’t always easy, but holding on to anger hurts you physically, emotionally and spiritually. It can literally make you sick. You have to learn to let go of hurt. Otherwise you will be stuck. Give grace to the person even if they don’t deserve it. Don’t buy into the idea of revenge. That is God’s work, not yours.