Marriage Missions International

Stop Your Implosive and Explosive Responses to Anger

Which couple, when they walk down the aisle ever thinks to themselves, “I’m going to get so angry that I’m going to hurt and emotionally damage my partner in a very deep and real way someday!”? And yet tragically, it happens.

Every one of us gets angry with our spouse at some point in our marriage. You can’t live together day in and day out without finding things you disagree about —things that make you really angry with each other. The problem is, how we deal with the anger we feel for our spouse when that occurs. Do we allow our anger to cause problems that hurt our spouse and our marriage or does our anger lead us to find solutions to help our marriage?

“It’s a very natural thing to feel threatened by someone who disagrees with us. Conflicts feel inherently threatening. We very naturally consider that our opinion or way of seeing things is the ‘right’ or ‘better’ way. If we didn’t, we’d change our opinion or way of seeing things. So when people suggest that our way isn’t right or better, we fear that they’ll take us someplace we don’t want to go —and that creates fear. We tend to dig in our heels and try to prove our point to get them to see things our way, and to admit how wrong they are.

“Once we square off as adversaries, however, the outcome is already assured. We don’t even have to play the game. In conflicts you have only two options: You either both win, or you both lose. Your spouse is your teammate, not your enemy. Be careful as you work through struggles. You’re on the same team!” (Dr Gary Smalley, from Smalleyonline Newsletter 5/2/07)

Isn’t that true? We forget that truth. But something else that is important to face, is that not only can our spouse have a problem in how they deal with anger, but we could too.

“Few people want to admit that they have a problem with anger. Most of us readily see the mismanagement of anger on the part of others, but seldom see it in ourselves” (Dr Gary Chapman)

To look at how to deal with the “mismanagement” of anger and what we can do about it, we must first look at a few different ways that we can negatively respond to anger. And to do that we’d like to refer to something that Dr Gary Chapman wrote in his book, The Other Side of Love, published by Moody Press, now titled, Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. In this book he writes:

There are two equally devastating response to anger: explosion and implosion. We may think that one is more destructive than the other, but the truth is implosive anger can be as damaging as explosive expressions of anger. Both can occur at varying levels of intensity, yet either response has destructive consequences. They represent destructive ways of responding to anger.

…Some Christians who would deplore explosive expressions of anger fail to reckon with the reality that implosive anger is fully as destructive in the long run. Whereas explosive anger begins with rage and may quickly turn to violence, implosive anger begins with silence and withdrawal but in time leads to resentment, bitterness, and eventually hatred. Implosive anger is typically characterized by three elements: denial, withdrawal, and brooding. Let’s look at each of these.

Those who practice an implosive method of responding to anger often begin by denying that they are angry at all. This response to anger is especially tempting to Christians who have been taught that anger itself is sinful. Thus, one often hears individuals say one of the following:

  • “I’m not angry, but I am frustrated.”
  • “I’m not angry; I’m just upset.”
  • “I’m not angry, but I am disappointed.”
  • “I’m not angry; I just don’t like it when people do me wrong.”

In almost all these cases, however, their condition is the same: The people are experiencing anger.

…Suppression of anger, holding anger inside, will eventually lead to physiological and psychological stress. There is a growing body of research that shows a positive correlation between suppressed anger and hypertension, colitis, migraine headaches, and heart disease. However, the pronounced results of suppressing anger are found in its impact upon one’s psychological or emotional health. Internalized anger eventually leads to resentment, bitterness, and often hatred. All of these are explicitly condemned in Scripture and are viewed as sinful responses to anger.

A third characteristic of implosive anger is brooding over the events that stimulated the anger. In the person’s mind, the initial scene of wrongdoing is played over and over like a videotape. He senses his spirit; he relives the events that stimulated the angry emotions. He replays the psychological audiotapes of his own analysis of situation.

How could he be so ungrateful? Look at the number of years I’ve put into the company. He’s only been here five years. He has no idea what’s going on. If he knew how important I am to the company, he wouldn’t treat me this way. I feel like resigning and letting him suffer. Or I feel like appealing to the board and getting him fired.

On and on the tapes play as one wallows in his or her anger. The difficulty is the tapes play only in the person’s head. The anger is never processed with the person involved or with a counselor or trusted friend. The anger is developing into resentment and bitterness. If the process is not interrupted, the person will eventually experience an implosion in the form of an emotional breakdown, depression, or in some cases, suicide.

However, for a growing number of those people who are internalizing anger, the end result will be not an implosion but an explosion. In their desperate emotional state, they will do some act of violence toward the person who wronged them. This is seen over and over again on the nightly news where the employee who was fired nine months ago walks in and shoots the supervisor who fired him.

The child who abused by parent, at the age of fifteen turns on the parents and murders them. The calm and meek husband turns on his wife and destroys her life. Neighbors find these realities almost incredulous. Typically, they say to the reporter, “He seemed like such a nice man. I can’t believe that he would do such a thing.” What the neighbor could not observe was the internalized anger that had been fed by brooding over a long period of time.

It should be obvious that implosive anger is fully as destructive as explosive anger. That is why the Scriptures always condemn internalizing anger. The apostle Paul admonished, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold(Ephesians 4:26-27).

Clearly Paul instructed that we are to process anger quickly, not allowing it to linger inside beyond sunset. I suppose that if we get angry after dark, he would give us till midnight, but the principle is that anger is not to be held inside; in fact, to do so is to give the devil a foothold.

That is, we are cooperating with Satan and setting ourselves up to sin even further. The apostle further challenged us to rid ourselves of anger. (See Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8.) This is not an indication that anger itself is a sin; it is an indication that to allow anger to live inside is sinful. Solomon warned that “anger resides in the lap of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

The key word is resides; the fool lets the anger abide in him. The implication is that those who are wise will see that anger is quickly removed. Anger was designed to be a visitor, never a resident in the human heart.

All of us experience anger. But holding anger inside by denying, withdrawing, and brooding is not the Christian response to anger. In fact, to do so is to violate the clear teachings of Scripture. Bitterness is the result of stored anger, and bitterness is always condemned as sinful in Scripture. (For example, see Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14; Hebrews 12:15.)

In the course of counseling through the years, I have heard teenagers say, “I hate my father.” Almost always such a statement is tied to a series of perceived wrongs committed by the father. The teenager has internalized the hurt and anger and has developed resentment, bitterness, and now hatred toward the father. I have also heard more than one wife say, “I hate my husband,” and I’ve heard husbands express the same about their wives. Without exception, hatred does not develop overnight. Hatred is the result of internalized anger that remains planted in the heart of the individual.

Eventually the emotions of hurt from the internalized anger are replaced. In their stead appear the emotion of bitterness and the attitude of hatred. Almost always those who hate wish ill upon the person at whom they are angry. Sometimes, they end up perpetrating this ill themselves. The internalized anger erupts for all the world to observe.

When someone perpetrates evil upon the individual who wronged them, they have taken the prerogative of God. The Scriptures say, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord(Romans 12:19 KJV). When we seek to impose judgment upon those who have wronged us, we will inevitably make things worse.

What positive steps can one take to defuse implosive anger?

  • First, admit the tendency to yourself: “It’s true, I hold my anger inside. I find it very difficult to share with others that I am feeling angry. I know I am hurting myself by doing this.” These are the statements that lead to help.
  • Second, reveal your problem to a trusted friend or family member. Telling someone else and asking for their advice may help you decide whether you should confront the person or persons with whom you are angry. Perhaps you will chose to “let the offense go,” but at least this will be a conscious choice, and you can release your anger.
  • If the person to whom you disclose your anger is unable to give you the help you need, then look for a pastor or counselor who can. Don’t continue the destructive response to anger.
You can view the book written by Dr Gary Chapman (and possibly purchase it), by clicking onto the following link: Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way.

Explosive anger is another way in which many people deal with their frustration. They become so confused or feel that things have spiraled so far out of control that they explode into angry outbursts and rage at their partner —taking “control” of the situation in a more harmful way.

“Although the primary reason for angry outbursts is trying to get what we want, our instinct makes us believe otherwise. It turns it into an issue of injustice. When we are angry we usually feel that someone is deliberately making us unhappy (by not giving us what we want), and what he or she is doing just isn’t fair. In our angry state, we are convinced that reasoning won’t work, and the offender will keep upsetting us until he or she is taught a lesson. The only thing such people understand is punishment, we assume. Then they’ll think twice about making us unhappy again!

“We think we are using anger to protect ourselves, and it offers a simple solution to our problem —destroy the troublemaker. If our spouse turns out to be the troublemaker, we find ourselves hurting the one we’ve promised to cherish and protect. When we’re angry we don’t care about our spouse’s feelings and we are willing to scorch the culprit if it prevents us from being hurt again.” (Dr Harley, from the Marriage builders article, “Angry Outbursts”)

So what do you do if you express your anger in explosive and maybe even violent outbursts?

The following are several links to articles on different web sites that may help you with this. We pray you will find them helpful. To read these articles please click onto the links below:

ANGRY OUTBURSTS

WHEN COUPLES ARE CRUEL

DEALING WITH ANGER

DEALING WITH ANGER — YOURS AND YOUR SPOUSE’S

MANAGING YOUR ANGER

HOW DO I STOP ABUSING MY WIFE?

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Comments

8 Responses to “Stop Your Implosive and Explosive Responses to Anger”
  1. Lynne says:

    (USA) This information is really helpful. I am dealing with a lot of anger issues myself right now and a lot of this is really just great stuff. One thing I’ve learned in Anger therapy (like yesterday) is that people who are angry are usually not really angry; they are sad. And people who act really sad are usually really angry. So also consider that if your spouse acts extremely angry they may really be sad. Anger is also a cover emotion. It covers up the true feelings. Just a thought because it’s still so fresh in my mind.

    I really love this verse though Ephesians 4:26-27. I never really looked at it very closely (if at all at) before reading this article. I really love this portion of the article: "The key word is resides; the fool lets the anger abide in him. The implication is that those who are wise will see that anger is quickly removed. Anger was designed to be a visitor, never a resident in the human heart."

    I really, really love it. I think I’ll have to check out this book. Love, Lynne

  2. Cindy Wright says:

    (USA) I want to tell you Lynne of how proud I am of you. I’ve seen some real growth in your spiritual walk. The fact that you are working on this area of your life speaks volumes, as far as your seriousness to be all you can be in Christ. It goes along with Hebrews 12 where it says, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    It warms my heart to know that even though you are struggling with so many issues … just like me and every other human being on this earth (because we all have our issues we need to work on), you are leaning upon the Lord to grow in Christ — not only live your life, but to learn through the many avenues which living provides. And then when you pass along to others, that which Christ is and will teach you, it’s even more exciting (and helpful to others, I’m sure). You’re helping the Lord to poke holes in the darkness that the enemy of our faith tries to surround us with. Living with and AS natural-born sinners, brings all kinds of trials. But as we continually lean upon the Lord to help us work through our issues, we benefit, and so do others around us as well as. But the benefit is to the Kingdom of God. Praise God! I want to encourage you to keep pressing on. I’m praying for you (and so are others).

    As Paul said in the Bible in Philippians 3, which should be true for all of us as Believers, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.” That doesn’t mean that you can’t look backwards at different points in your life at what has been “hindering” your forward progression, it just means that you do what it takes to gain victory over your past hindrances so you aren’t dragging them along with you for the rest of your life. You strain “toward what is ahead” — that which the Lord can teach you and empower you to do. As I’ve seen you write: “You go girl!”

    Also, one last thing that comes to mind before I close this and do other work for Marriage Missions, there’s something else that comes to mind that might help you. There is another book that I just ordered for Marriage Missions that has come HIGHLY recommended by several people to us. It’s Stormie Omartian’s newest book titled “Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage.” It looks EXCELLENT! You might think of ordering it sometime in the future as well because I think it would help you to pray even more for your husband and for your marriage.

  3. Lynne says:

    (USA) Cindy, Thank you I really do appreciate that. I think I will definitely check out that book as well. I love that verse too in Hebrews 12. I really haven’t spent much time in Hebrews yet, but I am going to have to take a peek sometime soon here. Thanks again.

    I have one question if you have any advice though. I need to be more disciplined in my learning and not just learn about things in general, but learn about things through Christ. Do you have any suggestions? I would also like to read more about anger issues with in a marriage. Any suggestions for that too? Thank you so much you’ve been a blessing love ya. Love, Lynne

  4. Cindy Wright says:

    (USA) Hi Lynne, I’m so glad you want to grow in Christ. So many people neglect the importance of making the effort and taking the time to know Him better by spending time with Him. He wants to be in relationship with you on so many levels. By praying, and studying His Word and other devotional books that can help you, as well as being in community with other Believers, you will continually fall more in love with Him and will grow even deeper in your relationship with Him.

    There are so many different devotional books that you can use in your quiet time with Him. I’ve used quite a few different ones throughout the years. Steve gets me a new devotional journal book every year so I can study Gods Word and also read a Bible study teacher’s insights, and write down prayers and thoughts in it that the Lord gives me as we spend time together.

    Some of the books I’ve used are “Streams in the Desert”, Experiencing God Day-by-Day”, “A Gentle Spirit Devotional Journal”, “The Experience… A Devotional Journal”, “Daily Light Journal”, and more, but my favorite that I’ve used several times is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. You can order any of them on Amazon.com (through our web site) or by going to a Christian bookstore. This year though, I’m going through the One Year Bible (even though it will take me more than one year) and I use the commentaries from the New Life Application Bible in conjunction when I’m reading. The New Life Application Bible is my favorite as far as the commentaries go.

    Don’t get bogged down in being so religious as far as the amount of time you spend or the amount you read. You can get so caught up in trying to read as much as you can and overlook the fact that the important thing is finding time each day to sit quietly before the Lord and reading SOMETHING in His Word (even if it’s just a few verses). Ask God to show you how to make the time and it’s amazing how He will show you that you have more time than you’d think.

    I have a prayer book that I put together (that contains some of my favorite verses and inspirational writings, etc that I read through at different times) and on the front of it, the following guideline is written in big letters: STOP, LISTEN, AND STAY UNTIL YOU HAVE CONNECTED WITH GOD. That’s what’s important. It isn’t the amount of time, (although quantity of time is important sometimes as well), but the knowledge that you have stayed until you have connected with your Heavenly Father, His Son, the Lord Jesus, through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes and sometimes it’s longer. You will know. God will show you. Just don’t let the enemy of our faith make you feel guilty about how much time you do or don’t spend. We serve a God of grace. Just love Him and look for the time when you can and you’ll do fine.

    When our sons were younger, I had an open Bible setting out on a counter all the time. Many days all I had the time for was to read snatches of verses here and there. But it became my food. And when I could spend more time, I did. God ministered to my heart in so many ways.

    Now I have more time to sit and listen and it is precious to me.

    As far as books about anger issues, there are many of them that you could read (with the one mentioned earlier, being one of them). You will find you will learn as God teaches you, precept upon precept, through that which you reach out to read and learn through. A book I just finished reading is “Mad About Us” by Gary and Carrie Oliver. Another book that I just ordered that I heard was really good is “Soul Healing Love” by Drs Beverly and Tom Rodgers. It’s about forming healthy relationships and dealing with the childhood wounds that can affect our adult relationships. It provides methods for individuals and families to begin healing. It’s been highly recommended for me to read.

    Our web site has a LOT of articles in the communication sections that could help you as well as you prayerfully read them one at a time, asking the Holy Spirit to teach you. I’m sure others could recommend some books as well. But these would be good ones to start with. Then ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to additional ones when you are ready, that you could read that would help you to grow in this area of your life.

    I pray this helps. Again, I’m so proud of you Lynne. God is working in a mighty way in your life. Just keep in mind that when you stumble, just confess what you did wrong and get up and start again with the Lord’s leading. What’s important is that you don’t give up. God doesn’t.

  5. Lori says:

    (USA) Well, all I know is God is going to make sure I handle everything in the right ways because I am very wrong to judge anyone. God will do all the judging. So Jesus, please keep my eyes and ears open because if I don’t he will get me well Jesus everyday.

  6. Japheth says:

    (KENYA)  I’ve come to find out that it is very important to still consider talking to a trusted true friend who doesn’t take sides with either me or my mate and at the same time that it is still vital to seek the assistance from the Pastor and Counselor as revealed as well in this article. Isn’t it?

  7. Maria says:

    (USA) My husband is a good man. He tries, I know he does, but when he gets mad he curses me and says the cruelest things. It is amost like he is two different people. On one hand he is the knidest, sweetest man with a good heart… until he gets mad… then he says things I have never had anyone say to me and it breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do or how to handle it. If I try to say something to him he thinks I am saying that I am better than him. I am not perfect, I know that. I love him and want to make him happy. I don’t know what to do.

  8. Bob from United States says:

    Don’t give up. Pray, Pray, Pray! Try to see and remember what sets him off and avoid doing it. Also say to yourself, is what I am doing or saying worth my marriage that makes him do or say those things? Possibly you can diffuse the situation. Tell him it upsets and hurts you when he does that but not when it’s happening. Tell him when he’s in a good or calm mood and be honest with him.

    My wife has lied to me constantly and it stinks not trusting her anymore although I continually do try to and continually get hurt myself. I can tell you what I’m telling you because I believe my wife does things that she knows will get me upset or angry and I don’t know why, but maybe she really doesn’t know. I am that loving caring husband that has said some harmful things and we’re now separated. I believe that she has given up but I’m not going to yet. I just started reading a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr.John Townsend. It seems like it might help you. I’ll be giving it to my wife when I am done with it. As I pray for my wife and myself I will pray for you both.

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