Three Steps to Eliminating Explosive Emotional Buildup!

matchWhen I was speaking with Women of Faith, I listened as Nicole Johnson spoke about emotional explosive gases that had built up in her life. One day she couldn’t find a sock that she knew she had put in the dryer.

Suddenly there was an explosion of rage and frustration.  This was not “Sock Anger,” she explained.  The missing sock was  only the match that ignited the real anger that had been building for years.

Remember the old saying “The straw that broke the camels back?” It really wasn’t the straw broke his back.  It was the unbearable weight that accumulated before the straw was put in place. Have you ever exploded and wondered why?

I am in the process of learning that my explosive response *%&##@* to an unkind comment, or my tantrum when I lose a file in my hard  drive are really not about what is happening in the moment.  These are the flames that ignite an accumulation of junk that needs to be unpacked and laid aside so that I can rejoice and be productive even when flames of frustration burn all around me.

But how does one open a window and allow a breeze to cleanse the soul of the toxic gases?  How does one shrug off the unnecessary burdens that keep us from living fully alive and make every new task seem like a back breaker.  Try these steps that have helped me.

1.  Sniff the room and acknowledge the problem

Our tendency to live in denial and our fear of the pain that comes with resolving conflict often keeps from admitting that there are fumes in the room. However, if you can cut the air with a knife, if there are frequent small explosions, there’s probably a buildup that will someday lead to a blowout.

We have to be willing to admit that the problem is bigger than a sock or a straw or lost file.  Finding the source of pain may take some creative digging. It might also require a look in the mirror. It may be you that is the source of the gas. My wife has suggested this possibility on several occasions.  The hardest words in the world to say are “I have a problem.” In the end we can’t change the behavior of other people.  We can only change our response.  That leads to the next step.

2. Do something…….. different

In his book “Necessary Endings,” Dr Henry Cloud suggests that in order to move forward it is often necessary to let go of something we have clung to for too long. Sometimes it’s a behavior, sometimes it’s a relationship, sometimes its attitude or belief system.

Someone described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Then sanity is letting go and doing something different.  Marylin Monroe’s song “Some thing has Got to Give” was more spot on than we thought.

Maybe we need to let go of pride and say, “I need help.”  (Of course this would never be my issue)  Or maybe there are control issues that keeps you from seeking help.  (Of course I am above that as well)

Yeah right! It has only taken me 65 years to begin to cleanse my soul.

3. Air out the room

It is amazing the insights that come to us when we talk out loud about what we are feeling inside.  The most valuable skill  of a therapist is the ability to listen without judging, then hold up what you have expressed so you can smell it, see what it is, and do something about it.  Find friends, a pastor, a doctor, a counselor who cares about you, will listen to you and be honest with you.

Then one day you will lose a file, or a sock or someone will lay a new burden on shoulders already bent with responsibility. The match will have been lit. You will feel it’s heat, but there will be no explosion. The match will go out leaving only a wisp of harmless smoke.
I know!

I  have been there. I thank God for where I am now!  The air is so much sweeter.  I can breathe.  I can face the day.

Please let me know if any of this is helpful.

I would love to hear about the matches and explosions in your life and how you have dealt with them.


  1. Great thoughts, Ken. I always say that emotions are a formidable foe. Emotional decisions are seldom wise decisions. That’s why car dealers don’t want you to go home and think about your potential purchase. They need our emotional decisions. The harder we try to control our emotions, the more difficult it seems to be. These tips will certainly make their way into my life and, hopefully, into the lives of those I influence.

    1. Emotions can be our friend or our enemy. Depends on what they are anchored to. Thanks so much for your comment, Terry.

  2. Ken, perhaps this was written just for me.
    I am currently rebuilding, restoring, and healing after a major explosion. Not an explosion of anger, but an explosion of the one bad decision that can destroy everything – a marriage, children, friendships, career.
    I’m learning there is strength in vulnerability. As men, we often believe just the opposite. Vulnerability = Weakness. However, through confessing, admitting I need help, admitting that I am tired of trying to control everything, I am witnessing incredible faithfulness of a loving God. I have now gotten out of my own way and allowed God to work.
    Guilt and shame are present daily, but for now, the room is being aired out.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Ken.

    1. Thank you for your transparency and honesty. It is a sign of gratefulness and an honor to God. I pray for your continued healing.

  3. You have no idea how much I needed to read this today! But God knew!!! I have been praying about my own frustrations and anger over the attitude of another… I love your comment that we can’t change others… and I am learning that I can allow God to change me! Thank you, Ken, once again…

  4. I am inn this now. I am getting some professional counseling, as is my husband. This morning’s sermon was on diffusing anger before it goes into sin. We are in our second year of trials in o ur family…involving my husband’s health and our daughter’s nasty divorce…and I am trying to finish up some courses in college. To say the least, I have had to be in humility lessons again. The “missing socks” have already exploded and spilled around the room. I have lost count on my bursts of anger because of fear of the future, stress to keep my A GPA, my husband’s job situation and the emotions with our daughter, added to this loss of good sleep. So, Scripture says He will give me rest. So will continue to be in His word, exercise and get some good sleep.

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