Anger Management-A Life Coach's Perspective by Susan Rayner

The Bible has much to say about anger, in fact it is a constant theme. Cain and Abel are the first pair of male siblings who are pitted against each other for their father's favour. I notice that the narrative says that God is their father, the name Adam is not mentioned, only God's name. So this says something about how the Bible writers viewed the first man as a god, perhaps. In the story of Isaac the same theme repeats where one son is favoured over the other and Isaac is clearly a man and not God the Creator of the Universe. God favours Abel's gift of a sheep and not the fruit from Cain. So Cain is furious that he was rejected. He gets so angry that he kills his brother. The story teaches us that his anger cannot be controlled and it leads him to commit a murder. He is made an outcast but also protected from being killed himself, with God's mercy. I could write an entire essay on this one story. There are so many different ways of understanding and interpreting it. But the main point is that Cain's feelings were out of control. He had been provoked when his gift was rejected, if you give something to somebody and they reject your gift, you might be upset too. If Abel's sheep had been rejected, perhaps he would have been just as angry? And if both gifts had been accepted, then the brothers would both be happy. One way to solve a conflict is to accept both offerings rather than divide the brothers. Or it can be seen as a test, how does a person deal with rejection even if it seems so unfair. Or that the value of a sheep is so much greater than a fruit because the fruit has no life, is not so precious to God, is this why Abel's gift was accepted? It has nothing to do with God's appetite, because obviously the creator of the Universe does not need to eat. Whereas the human father, Adam, does. The story can be taken literally therefore or as a teaching tool for understanding better human nature. There is also a theological puzzle... And in Leviticus there was a teaching dating back thousands of years ago, about fairness in court and in our relationships with our neighbours. How much has humanity changed since then? We make computers and space ships but our nature has not changed as every day another case of revenge is discussed in courts all around the world today. 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbour. 17 “You shall not hate your brother (or sister) in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons (and daughters) of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself". From an anger coach's perspective whilst studying this passage I am wondering how an intervention can take place in such family and neighbours' disputes? What could Cain have done differently, once his offering had been turned down, in retrospect? In an ideal world he could have sat down with his father (or talked to God about it) in an open honest way and the problem might have been resolved. Taking a few breaths, being philosophical and diplomatic about it, letting off steam by going for a run or something practical to take his mind off his angry and hurt feelings. In real life situations I have come across families where one child is favoured and the resentment can continue for an entire lifetime and sometimes never be resolved. Children and parents cut each other off and don't speak ever again. If I was coaching a client who had been rejected by their parent/s, the first thing I might do would be to clarify and acknowledge the situation, which is sometimes a huge relief. I've seen clients over the years in other contexts who have shared a burden and been relieved just to have a listening ear. But then what next? How can a broken relationship be healed? How much does the child want to repair it and what are their ideas about doing so? How much anger and resentment is still present in their lives, even though the rift might have happened a long time ago. Any session with a client would begin with information gathering and assessing the feelings they have and ideas about where they want to go with the sessions. And as with any relationship there is always the other person, the parent and their attitude and feelings to take into account. There are fortunate people who can go to see a coach or counsellor, which might seem like a great luxury compared to those who live life at the limits, but each person has a choice. It's possible to do something if the will is there and strong enough to repair a relationship that is broken. 

 Susan Rayner