Why Let Go of Anger?
Anger management is one of the most commonly requested services in my psychology practice. Why? Because anger hurts! It hurts a lot. It hurts the one who is the target of angry words and behaviours. It also hurts the one who is holding on to the anger. Managing anger and dealing with anger more effectively heals lives in a powerful way.
“Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Unknown author
“When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.” Lewis B. Smedes
We all have been wronged in our lives – perhaps many times over. The most effective course of action will usually be to deal immediately and directly with the person who hurt us, express ourselves and ask for resolution of the problem. However, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, and we can’t solve it face to face, we don’t get the apology we are sure we deserve, and we never hear them be accountable. That can be terribly frustrating, and the natural response may very well be anger. When it is held tightly, the anger simmers inside, the resentment grows and the bitterness gnaws at us relentlessly. Our minds love to chew on our victim stories over and over again. We usually can find others who will give us care and attention, agreeing that the person’s behaviour was inexcusable! The more we tell our story of being wronged, the more the anger is inflamed. But our anger only burns us and keeps us stuck.
Moving past and freeing ourselves of anger’s grip means doing our own work, focussing on what we can control (our own reactions), and letting our enemy be our teacher. Releasing anger will leave room inside of you for love and acceptance, creativity and joy.
- Centre yourself with a few minutes of relaxed breathing, and focus on the positive outcome you desire: More peace? Freedom from nagging thoughts? Lower blood pressure?
- Follow these prompts and write your responses in your journal:
- Acknowledge your anger and resentment regarding what happened: I am angry that…. I’m fed up with…. I hated it when…. I resented you for….
- Acknowledge the hurt and pain that this event or situation created: It hurt me when…. I felt sad when…. I feel hurt that…. I feel disappointed about….
- Acknowledge the fears and self-doubts that it created: I was afraid that…. I feel scared when…. I get afraid of you when…. I’m afraid that….
- Be accountable for the role you may have played in letting it occur or letting it continue: I’m sorry that I…. Please forgive me for…. I wish I had not…. I didn’t mean to….
- Express what you wanted that you didn’t get and/or what you want now: All I ever want(ed)…. I want you to…. I wish you had…. I deserve…….
- Now put yourself in the other person’s shoes and attempt to understand where he or she was coming from at that time. Also acknowledge what needs that person was trying to meet – however ineffectively – by his or her behavior: I understand that…. I get that you needed _______ but didn’t get your needs met…. I forgive you for…. I appreciate you for…. Thank you for…. I love you for….
Remember that this is a process: give yourself time to express, move through and forgive. Can you come to see the person who hurt you as someone who was sent to teach you the precious gift of forgiveness? Then forgive yourself and move on.