Although we often classify a person's actions as problematic, in truth a person's conduct is never the real problem. Behavior is nothing more than an outward expression of an internal issue. For example, if an individual is in a bad mood and arguing with those around them, the fighting simply indicates a possible insecurity or fear. Perhaps the person is worried about their health and others are offering unsolicited advice. Their angst is overwhelming and can easily be expressed as agitation, causing them to vehemently dispute every suggestion for possible treatment.
A common reaction for a child who is being teased is crying, followed by an angry outburst. The emotion that proceeds the anger is critical to identifying the underlying cause: crying indicates pain or hurt - either physical or emotional. Like an animal who's been injured, one lashes out as a means of self-protection. Fear of experiencing further pain compels the individual (or animal) to summon their rage in an attempt to get the attacker to back off.
Keep in mind, too, that the offensive behavior may in no way be connected to what is transpiring in the moment. Very often, there are old unresolved issues from one's past that are being triggered by what is currently taking place. The person is not necessarily responding to the present stimuli but it serves as a reminder of a prior event.
In prior shows, I've discussed the three root causes of anger: hurt, fear, and/or frustration. As I just mentioned, the preceding emotion to anger invites a deeper insight into TIBBs: The Issues Behind the Behaviors. Certainly people can deny their anger or try to suppress or control it. However, none of these allows for a healing to occur. Denial of cancer does not heal the disease. Only when it is identified and treatment (whether conventional or holistic) begins does the afflicted activate the healing process and restoration of wellness .
So how does one identify the issues behind the behaviors? Again, taking a moment to ascertain the prior emotion is a perfect beginning to unraveling this puzzle. From there, one needs to work backwards to the point of origin, much the way a detective at a crime scene would. Here are some examples:
Monday night I was not in my typical cheerful frame of mind. Having to take a family member to court is something I prayed for a long time would not occur. But luck was not on my side and an attorney needed to be retained. Whenever I have contact with him, I become extremely distressed and conflicted. Being inquisitive as to how this issue was progressing, my husband queried me as to what the latest news was. If humans could growl, my response to him, while not disrespectful by any means, had a hint of canine in it. "It's not going well at all! I just don't want to pursue this but I'm caught in the middle and have to continue."
I was annoyed (the mildest form of anger) and responded abruptly. But what emotion kindled the irritation? Hurt, for certain, that such a close family member could set out to deliberately harm me. Secondly was frustration that without legal representation I was basically powerless (from a purely human/physical perspective). Granted, I could choose to do nothing at all but doing so would only give cause for a continued problem with said family member. Lastly was fear - not the terrifying kind but a deep concern that justice would not prevail and that this individual would continue to cause duress in my life as they have for many years prior.
Once able to identify the root cause(s), I need to continue regressing to uncover the issues behind them. The hurt I was experiencing revealed several concerns: first that someone I loved and trusted for my entire life could become so vengeful towards me. The trust we shared for more than half a century was broken and most likely would never be restored. Betrayal is a deep wound that could take years to heal. Add to that the fact that a valued relationship had ended and I felt a sense of grief as well.
Behind the fear existed the deep sense of a responsibility I was granted that I may not be able to fulfill due to unforeseen circumstances. There was more at stake here than just myself. Many others were dependent on my ability to fulfill my duties. I was deeply afraid of disappointing them, even though on every level they would understand completely. I was also concerned that I would be letting down the ones who entrusted this task to me. When given a responsibility, I have always felt compelled to follow it through no matter what. I was taught to never quit and it is nearly impossible for me to do so, even when completely justified. In that regard, I see myself as having failed and for me, that's a tough burden to carry.
Interestingly, the frustration arose from conflicting beliefs. When one feels powerless over a situation, they need to stop and inquire if said circumstance needs more energy or effort of another kind, or does it fall into the not meant to be category? Ego and its need for justice was at odds with spirit who argued that perhaps God wanted me to let go and trust that He would right this injustice.
So in summary, my (mild) anger was not the issue. Behind it lied the trifector: hurt, fear, and frustration. And beneath each of those resided issues of a broken trust, grief (loss of a loved one), a possible exaggerated sense of responsibility, fear of disappointing others, and inability to accept a perceived defeat. The battle between ego and spirit was at the root of my frustration: seek justice or allow an inequity to prevail? Or is the real issue to allow God's justice to triumph over my version?
In this particular situation, the issue was a bit more complex than in others yet the process to uncover TIBBs (The Issues Behind the Behaviors) is the same. In order to heal anger, one must be willing to undergo this somewhat lengthy, and sometimes, challenging process in order to emerge strong and healthy. Failure to do so only gives license for those unresolved issues to fester and grow, interfering with one's ability to be happy and live unencumbered by life's relentless challenges.
What I need to work on are these:
Healing the hurt: only when we set up expectations of others do we put ourselves at risk to be hurt and disappointed. As much as I disapproved of the actions of my family member, I also realize that I have no right to impose my ways on her. What she is doing, as morally reprehensible as it is, is a necessary part of her spiritual journey. Once I am able to fully accept this, I can remove the judgments I've placed on her and find the inner peace I am seeking.
Healing the grief: we hold on too tightly to our relationships, especially those of a personal nature. We subscribe to the adage that blood is thicker than water; that you should always be able to count on your family. Yet in truth, our families are made up of imperfect beings with their own issues and agendas. No relationship, sans God, is meant to last forever. I need to remind myself that we shared a lot of good years together and as in death we are no longer a part of each other's lives.
Let go of responsibility: even the most trustworthy and conscientious people sometimes fall short of fulfilling their duties. Unforeseen circumstances can deter the most determined of us. Like the weather, there are some things we simply don't have control over. This in no way indicates a failure on the part of the entrusted one. I have always defined failure as a lack of effort. As long as one makes a concerted attempt there is some success that has been achieved. Letting go is in no way a reflection of my integrity or worth. It can be a recognition of the wisdom of letting things simply be; trusting that life is meant to unfold naturally and not necessarily according to my desires.
Neutralizing frustration: the battle between spirit and ego is a universal one that plagues all of humanity. In this instance, I need to remind myself that God's Will must take precedence over mine. Relying on Scripture for guidance, I found passages that seemed to contradict themselves. From Isaiah 1:17: "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." Yet Luke tells us in Chapter 6:29 "If someone slaps you on one cheek turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them." Therein lies the root of my concern: how can I fully know how God wants me to proceed in this issue?
If you were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and your doctor gave you a list of activities you must abide by in order to heal your body, there would be no hesitation in following his directives immediately and completely. Yet many will be hesitant to embark on this journey of emotional healing claiming it is time consuming and tedious. But this I can promise you: that if you put forth effort you will achieve success. And as with any new practice, in time it will become second nature and you will more easily be able to decipher and heal the underlying issues behind your anger. Here you will discover your inner sanctuary.
Remember, behaviors are never the problem but behaviors can create problems. Identify and heal TIBBs and there you will find your peace . I wish you the best.
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Janet Pfeiffer, international inspirational speaker and award-winning author has appeared on CNN, Lifetime, ABC News, The 700 Club, NBC News, Fox News, The Harvest Show, Celebration, TruTV and many others. She’s been a guest on over 100 top radio shows (including Fox News Radio), is a contributor to Ebru Today TV and hosts her own radio show, Anger 911, on www.Anger911.net
and Between You and God (iHeartRadio.com).
Janet's spoken at the United Nations, Notre Dame University, was a keynote speaker for the YWCA National Week Without Violence Campaign, and is a past board member for the World Addiction Foundation.
She's a former columnist for the Daily Record and contributing writer to Woman’s World Magazine, Living Solo, Prime Woman Magazine, and N.J. Family. Her name has appeared in print more than 100 million times, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Alaska Business Monthly and more than 50 other publications.
A consultant to corporations including AT&T, U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service, and Hoffman-LaRoche, Janet is N.J. State certified in domestic violence, an instructor at a battered women's shelter, and founder of The Antidote to Anger Group. She specializes in healing anger and conflict and creating inner peace and writes a weekly blog and bi-monthly newsletter.
Janet has authored 8 books, including the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger (endorsed by NY Times bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel).
Read what Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author, says of Janet's latest book, The Great Truth; Shattering Life's Most Insidious Lies That Sabotage Your Happiness Along With the Revelation of Life's Sole Purpose:
"Janet dispels the lies and misconceptions many people have lived by and outlines a practical path to an extraordinary life beyond suffering. Written with honesty, clarity, sincerity, and humor, this book serves as a wonderful guide for anyone seeking a more enriching and fulfilling life.”
Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "All books of wisdom are meant to be read more than once. The Great Truth is one such book."