I Don't Want to Be Angry!!!!:Understanding Your Anger and Ways to Practice Letting It Go
So now here you are and you've reached the point of no return. They did or said something that put them beyond the point of redemption in your eyes and you have no desire to reconcile. You might feel there's nothing you can do or say to make things right. The thought of confrontation makes you sick because you believe it will only make things worse; you've tried before. You've come the realization that you no longer want this person to be a part of your life and it's just not worth the pain or angst to try anymore. You've just had enough, you say NO MORE and you've cut them off. Called it quits. Whew..and good for you. At last you are ready to move forward and good riddance.
But wait.... something still lingers...you realize soon your anger didn't disappear when they did.
Now, here you are, left with all the junk and you are ready to clean house. Ready for peace and happiness. It's a beautiful picture to imagine in this place, no longer being weighed down or held back by something as heavy as anger. Throughout my life I've been told forgiveness is the key to letting go of anger. I have found this to be true, in most cases for me it came naturally and I found peace. Ahhh, and what a relief it was. However, when faced with the pure fire in your belly, busting at the seams, I could turn your bones to ash with one look kind of anger it can become difficult if not seemingly impossible to believe in the forgiveness key. I don't know about you but in this emotional state, I'm not able to find my car keys let alone the magic of the forgiveness key.
If you have gotten to this level of anger, the idea of forgiveness seems to be so very elusive. Perhaps you've used the key before and now it's just not working. It may feel like you've been given a perfectly cut teeny tiny key that is supposed to click, clickity click, to unlatch a 500 pound, double barred, wrought iron covered cathedral sized, medieval door made by dwarves and cloaked in Elven magic. Often times we don't know what's keeping us from the opening the door, it should be easy right? You have the key. You've done it before. So why is this time soooo different?
Does this sound familiar? Have you reached a breaking point? Is your anger making you sick? Are you asking yourself why you can't let it go after you've decided to say goodbye?
HOW do you find the forgiveness key to begin to let go of your anger? Well, there is no one right answer and it is different for different people. One thing I have learned is regardless of HOW you go about it, it requires a great deal of patience, commitment and diligence. This is especially the case when you've really loved someone. With that being said, below are some steps that may help you on your quest.
It's important to understand that anger is not "bad" as many of us are taught to believe. Anger is a pure raw human emotion designed to serve a purpose, it helps to protect us from potential threats, both real and imagined; it's an alert that readies you to fight a perceived threat.
Step 1 ACCEPTING THE EMOTION as just that, an emotion. If you automatically label anger as "bad" you are less likely to accept your feelings. Next time you become angry, remind yourself that it is just an emotion, neither good or bad. This emotion is trying to alert you about something. Now it's time to pause and figure what's behind the anger.
Step 2 DISCOVERY what has your anger alerted you to? Sometimes anger is really covering up shame, insecurity, vulnerability and fear. It's important to understand the root of the problem so you don't stay stuck. This is where it get's tricky. Staying angry can keep you from growing as an individual. As long as you stay angry at the individual or circumstance, you are distracted from healing your self. Have you found yourself rehashing everything about the person or circumstance that caused an angry response? Reliving it over and over again, trying to find an answer? Loving that person and hating them at the same time; and feeling awful about how things went. Switch gears, instead of focusing on the person or the event ask yourself a few questions: What has this taught me about myself or what can I learn from this? How has this situation forced me to grow? What has staying angry kept me from learning?
You might learn something new about yourself, if you pause and switch your focus. You might learn you could work on your communication skills or need to practice boundary setting. Or perhaps you may discover that you need to pay attention to your intuition about people. Maybe it has brought up baggage from past shames that you have yet to resolve. Let me caution you, this is not about fault finding or blaming yourself. This is to encourage emotional growth and to better prepare you to handle similar situations or people in the future. Think of this as a preventative measure.
Step 3 MORE ACCEPTANCE Ok, so now what? You've accepted the emotion is just an emotion, and have discovered a little about yourself; now it's time to accept yourself for having those feelings, thoughts and behaviors. When you let your emotion live under the label of "bad" you may be unconsciously saying to yourself "I am bad for feeling this way. "
What happens when this occurs can go something like this: You don't want to be angry because it's "bad," and you don't want to be "bad" so you fight the emotion and you fight and shame yourself for having the emotion in the first place. In an effort to make those icky feelings go away, you might begin to question whether or not you should be mad, or maybe you are overreacting or maybe if I had said this or did that..on and on and on. Before you know it, you are frustrated with yourself because you feel like you can't let it go, and your sad because you can't change what happened and now you are mad at yourself for still being mad. Now you've got a serious wrestling match going on.
Does this sound familiar? So you don't want to be angry, I get it, it's an unwanted icky feeling, but remember, it's just an emotion. As human beings we all get angry. Emotions do not define who you are, unless you let them. The only referee in this wrestling match is you. Blow the whistle, TIME OUT! No one is immune to anger, it's not a disease or a sickness. However, it can make you sick if you let it. It's the choices we make as a result of the anger that can sometimes be unhealthy.
STEP 4 CHANNEL & THRIVE
What are you good at? DO IT. Channel your energy into something healthy and productive. Swimming in anger is a waste of your time, you will eventually tire and drown; sucked into an abyss of your own misery. Being preoccupied with what has made you angry does nothing but rob you of precious moments that are meant to be enjoyed. However, anger, when channeled, just may be the fuel you need to become a better person. Get a hobby, pursue that dream, read that book you've always wanted to. Spend time with those you love and are deserving of your time and can appreciate you and what you have to offer. You can learn from your discoveries and apply, apply, apply. You may not be able to avoid every person or situation that triggers anger but you will know better how to handle things in the future. Every time those icky feelings come back....make a choice. Channel and thrive, don't swim!
STEP 5 FORGIVE YOURSELF
When you work through the first four steps, this one will hopefully come naturally. If you can come to understand the emotion, understand yourself and accept yourself for feeling that way, you can begin to forgive yourself. BREATHE...ahhh. You are free if you want to be. What's really magical about this step is once you have accomplished this, you might find it easier to forgive the other person. Wow, what a concept! There it is the..KEY!!! CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FOUND IT!
STEP 6 RINSE & REPEAT
This step is pretty self explanatory. You've found the key, if you loose it you know where to find it. Retrace your steps then RINSE AND REPEAT 1-5. You might have to run through these steps a few times depending on what happened and how much you had to deal with. Remember time does take care of many things, so use your time wisely. Commit to letting it go, commit to forgive. Sometimes forgiveness has to be a daily choice. Practice acceptance, discovery, channel and thrive; most importantly forgive yourself. Practice, practice, practice. It might be hard at first but soon it will be second nature. Remember anger has served it's purpose when it has taught you what you needed to learn. If you find yourself still angry, then rinse and repeat.
Kesha Martin, MA, LPC, NCC