Mr. Cool

Gary Smalley wasn't always so calm and collected. Buried anger could have wrecked his career and marriage

Watch the nightly news or listen to a conversation around the coffee machine at work and you'll hear the same question: "Why have people lost the ability to control their negative emotions?" The outbursts range from the incivility of a major league baseball player spitting in an umpire's face to the life-threatening rage of a terminated employee who returns to the office with a loaded weapon.

It seems anger is having a field day, and relationship specialist Gary Smalley is concerned about it. Anger has the power to kill, he says, and too often the victim is a marriage. Smalley has seen too many spouses turned into enemies—and too many families fractured beyond repair—because of anger.

But if we started doing just a few things differently, he says, we could reverse the trend. That's why he devoted much of his latest book, Making Love Last Forever (Word), to the problem of anger. Smalley speaks not only from what he has observed in his years as a counselor, but also from his own experience of reaching the meltdown point. Here is his strategy for disarming your anger before it explodes and hurts someone you love.

People seem to be reacting to situations with an intensity that is way out of proportion to the circumstances. Why do relatively insignificant events trigger such extreme reactions?

People have a tendency to avoid dealing with hurtful situations when they occur. Instead, they try to bury the pain. But it just builds up inside them and eventually turns into anger. Anger is a secondary emotion, which means it begins as something else—usually fear, frustration, hurt feelings or major disappointment. We can try to bury our anger, but it's always buried alive. And it's just a matter of time before it comes out.

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Anger; Emotions; Marriage; Self-control
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

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