<quote from Real Faith & Reason>
Anger management techniques deal with the soul and body part of the downward fleshly spiral. As an illustration, if we continually yield to anger, we become enslaved to anger until self-control eventually becomes almost impossible because the brain and nerve pathways for producing this anger rewire themselves. They become stronger than they were. At that point, they work like dynamite with a short fuse that ignites easily. And each time the fuse ignites, an electrochemical chain reaction starts as the body releases powerful chemicals into the brain. With anger, the body releases adrenaline first, then cortisol. After we repeat this anger event many times, our souls or minds become tuned to anger. Over time, the body’s nervous system adapts to release and sustain the chemical poisoning more efficiently. The fuse becomes shorter and ignites more easily and quickly since the brain has rewired itself for anger.
While anger, fear, and violence work this way, other sin works similarly. For instance, pornography works the same way, but with dopamine rather than adrenaline and cortisol. Every other form of sexual sin works in the same way, rewiring the brain and nervous system. The brain chemistry and the physiology changes. Alcohol addiction and drug addiction work in the same way. In all of these, triggers start the fuse. We might call the trigger “a temptation.” Our bodies need adrenaline, cortisol, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. However, if we allow ourselves to slip into disorders, we can become addicted to these potent chemicals. (dirkhanson.org)
“All addictions hijack the same core neurocircuitry, which runs on the same neurochemicals (even though each addiction also involves additional neural circuits and neurochemicals that differ between addictions).” (yourbrainonporn.com)
We can readily see that if we’re going to overcome these weaknesses, we must catch temptations early. For instance, with anger, the person who’s going to explode with anger has warning signs, and these warning signs vary from person to person. For example, one person may start to sweat. Another person may feel hot. Another may have a different early-warning symptom. But when the early warning comes, the person trying to overcome anger must take action. Once the emotions come flooding in, it’s too late to stop the flood of emotions. The good news is that God has provided a way of transformation.
“Thoughts and other stimuli can “rewire” our brain by strengthening useful synaptic pathways and weakening less used ones, this is called neuroplasticity (AKA learning and memory). Some unused weakened pathways may be “pruned” away over time as a measure of efficiency, this is called synaptic pruning. Most re-wiring (or softwiring) happens during sleep, but other aspects of memory are working all the time.” (factmyth.com)
In secular anger management classes, students learn various ways to cope with anger. Anger management counselors suggest that we think of a far-away island where everything is peaceful or that we think of someone we love. As an alternative, we who follow Christ have something infinitely more powerful since we can direct our minds toward Christ and His peace, so His presence overcomes and puts out the fuse. If we never allow the fuse to fully light, the thickened nerve pathways begin to waste away over time until the brain and nervous systems rewire themselves. Additionally, there’s always a spiritual aspect.
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its arrival, it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45 Berean Study Bible)
Freedom is available, but what we’ve looked at so far isn’t enough to set us free without another element. What we’ve seen to this point is like emptying a glass of negative and destructive poison, but we must fill the glass with positive and helpful goodness. Thankfulness is a key ingredient when filling this glass. Every sin we’ve discussed springs from unthankfulness, but people who are grateful to God are much less subject to the temptations of the fleshly nature. A man who’s thankful to God for his wife is much less likely to commit adultery or to fall for pornography. He finds it easy to love her. And, the wife who’s thankful to God for her husband finds it easier to trust her husband and be faithful to him. She finds it easy to respect Him. Running through the Ten Commandments, we see that each one of them is related to either thankfulness or unthankfulness.
Additionally, thankfulness releases nerve-growth factors that help re-wire the nerve pathways. This re-wiring or neuroplasticity renews the body and mind, so while thankfulness has immediate benefits, those benefits are also progressive. Therefore, we continually ask Christ to work thankfulness in our innermost minds, especially when we become aware of any fog of dissatisfaction.
This confused fog of dissatisfaction can creep over us. We might feel slighted, disrespected, unfulfilled, lonely, worthless, unloved, or abused. We may focus on microaggressions. We may have haunting memories of being treated unfairly. We might fall into “righteous” anger. This fog of discontent can be a vague sense of looking around the world for something more than we’re now experiencing. It isn’t hunger for deeper depths and higher heights in God’s love and peace, but it consists of trying to find satisfaction in something other than Christ. We may find ourselves wishing that the past had been different or that we had made different choices. We may let our minds churn about our unmet expectations and disappointments. This gloomy fog can lie in an uneasy smoldering of nondescript anger simmering under the surface and waiting to explode unexpectedly. Only God can set us free by clearing this fog, and He’s willing to renew our minds if we ask Him to give us hearts of thankfulness. No matter what our circumstances, we have much for which to be thankful.
If we live our lives in Jesus Christ’s utterance, we’ll know the truth, and the truth will set us free.
If we defend or hold anger, it turns to bitterness and becomes part of our worldviews. Then we see the targets of our anger through the filter of bitterness in our worldviews. Making matters worse, we add other destructive thoughts to our worldviews unless we repent. We might add perversions of marriage, perversions of family, and perversions of church orders. We may insert envy, and covetousness into our worldviews.
If we don’t repent, those thoughts crystallize in our worldviews. They begin to seem like reality and seem normal. Eventually, a person who gives himself or herself over to a certain sin will identify with this sin. Such a person may even label himself or herself as being that particular sin. Some people who label themselves that way use a euphemism as a label for the sin that glorifies and excuses the sin. In contrast, God created us for His purpose. His purpose is to transform us into the image and likeness of Christ. He created us for holiness, not sin.
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