Letting Go of Anger

Posted on January 23, 2008. Filed under: Stop the Drama | Tags: , , |

Wednesday is about Stopping the Drama

Photo by jurvetsonletting-go.jpg
Everyone gets angry. Trigger events can be small things like being cut off in traffic, or big things like a profound disappointment or hurt from someone we love, or thought loved us. Whatever is the cause, anger is an important and useful emotion. It helps us keep others from pushing us around or abusing us. But if we hold on to anger, it no longer serves it’s purpose, which is to protect us. When allowed to fester and be a part of our daily lives, anger can take over and be a negative force. I don’t know why, but it is often very difficult to let go of anger. We often find it easier to stay bitter, and sullen and avoid embracing calm.

Letting go of anger doesn’t just happen. It’s an active process. Like most people, I have had wrongs and disappointments that make me angry. However, I try to move on and let go of my anger by doing the following:

  • Put yourself in their shoes. I doubt that most people get out of bed and say “today I want to offend someone”. Most transgressions occur because someone is being thoughtless, but not necessarily malicious. It seems to make it easier when you realize that the wrong being done is not about you, but is about the person’s inability to be thoughtful. Did you get cut off in traffic? Maybe that person just had a horrible fight with their spouse and is not paying attention. Did someone you love let you down? Maybe that person is having problems caring for themselves, much less caring for you. Most people don’t try to offend others, try to imagine why someone would behave the way they do.
  • Know where your anger comes from. If little things are setting you off, then you may be angry about something else and using that little thing as an excuse to express your anger. Are you feeling frustrated at work and not respected? Does this anger come out when you are yelling at your kids because they have not cleaned up and you are feeling they are not respecting you? Try to understand the real source of your anger and direct it back to that source, and not onto others. While the little things may annoy you, reserve your anger for the real source.
  • Take deep breathes. This is basic, but really important. Thousands of years of yoga practice, and loads of research on biofeedback demonstrate the benefits of deep breathing as a way to be calm. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just 20 deep breathes to get a momentary break. My oldest daughter is a real hot head, and I often tell her to count to 20 and breathe with each count when she is in an intense situation. I often have to use that same technique when dealing with her.
  • Don’t give others power over you. I have a friend who often spent her weekends complaining about the wrongs her boss had done to her. Then one day I asked her “why are you spending your free time thinking about your boss, when you can be sure she is not thinking about you?” Don’t give others the power to put you in a bad mood or to ruin your good time. What’s great about this is it is completely in your control. You can decide if you are going to let someone else make you feel bad or feel angry. If you decide to not let them get to you, they have no power over you. I’ve seen this when relationships end, or when couples continue to fight after they are apart. It is often due to the efforts of one of the partners to continue to engage the other. If you let your ex get you angry, or get you into a fight then s/he still has power over you. Don’t give them that, don’t engage.
  • Say it once (or twice). People often walk around with anger, and never tell the person with whom they are angry. This can let it build up to create resentment or lead to passive aggressive behavior. If someone is doing something that makes you angry, then tell them. You may have to tell them more than once. They can decide if they are going to do anything with that information. However, you let it out and made them aware of the behavior that is making you angry. If that person is not available to you, then write it down and let them know in a letter. They may never get the letter, but you have put words to your feelings, expressed them and let them out.
  • Just let it go. This is hard, but is really at the core of getting rid of anger. Just let it go. Sometimes you have to make a conscious choice to not hold on to anger. After you tell the person who made you angry, you’ve done what you can and it’s up to them to deal with it. In the meantime, do you want to hold on to your anger, or do you want to let it go? If there is no benefit to being angry, then forgive the person and move on.
  • Take your anger out on something else. The aggression you feel when you are angry can be a great energy boost. Use that adrenaline to work out, hit some balls, punch a bag, go for a run, or clean out a cluttered part of your home (perhaps the clutter that belongs to your ex?) Turn that energy into a positive activity.
  • Make sure you are really angry. Sometimes people can experience other emotions that come out as anger. Perhaps you are not mad at the world, but depressed, anxious, scared, frustrated or even jealous. When it is hard to pinpoint the source of your anger, take some time to think about other emotions your are experiencing–they may give you a clue to the real issue you need to address.
  • Make room for other emotions. Opening yourself to other emotions, leaves less room for being angry. It is hard to feel angry when you are focused on feeling gratitude, centeredness, or happiness. Like a lot of our emotions, they are very much under our own control regardless of our circumstances. So take a “glass half full” perspective and try to find the positive in your situation. As a concrete example, I was driving with my family today and we got a flat tire. However, the tire did not blow until after we got off the highway, were going at slower speeds, and had access to lots of gas stations. So while having a flat was annoying, I focused on how lucky we were that it did not happen on the highway, and it was easy to take care of. My husband had a less favorable view of the situation (but, then again, he was the one out in the cold changing the tire, while I went inside a warm convenience store to wait with the kids).
  • If all else fails, plot your revenge to get back at the person who has done you wrong—–just kidding! Let it go!



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4 Responses to “Letting Go of Anger”

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Thank you that really helps! I just wish my ex had not made my life hell until he met his new love interest and now he thinks is life is great and I can do as a please! I feel so angry – BUT I will get the control back! Thanks

Thanks – I am trying and your comments about not giving others power over you were helpful (as were many other of your words)

well thought out plan. thanks for the assistance.

[…] Letting Go of Anger:  Holding grudges is one of my worst failings, and each time I read “A Heavy Load” in Zen Shorts, I’m reminded of why this is so damaging.  While you should be having fun and enjoying life, you live and relive your least fun moments over and over again.  As Conflict Zen discusses here, it’s also good for your health to let go of anger.  Katherine Piderman, chaplain at The Mayo Clinic, writes about letting go of grudges and bitterness here, and Parent Jazz offers good tips on letting go of anger here. […]

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    Musings on how a disorganized woman with a full time job, three kids and a real need to relax is trying to make life simple.

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