How to Deal with Anger and Let Go
A quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela goes, “Anger is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die.” Anger is often stigmatized, with both men and women being told that they are not allowed to be angry. The truth is that anger is a natural human emotion, especially when someone has legitimately caused hurt, but that doesn’t mean you want to be angry forever. Holding on to anger and resentment will not just make you unhappy, it can actually affect your health. Here’s how to deal with anger and let go of those grudges you’ve been holding on to:
1. Try not to take what was done to you personally.
For example, if your spouse said something that hurt your feelings, consider whether or not they really meant to say what they said and intended for you to take it how you took it. We often take things far too personally and let anger bubble up inside when it is not really warranted. Dealing with anger and letting go is much easier when you realize that the bad thing that someone said or did to you says more about their character than about your character.
2. Give yourself ten seconds.
Before replying to something that has made you angry, give yourself ten seconds and take five deep breaths. This is one of the most common ways to deal with anger, especially for those who have hot tempers, because it is one of the most effective ways to calm down. If you give yourself a little bit of time, you are less likely to respond harshly. Giving yourself ten seconds gives you time to not take the action or words so personally and to process what was said and done. In adopting this practice you will see that comments and actions are not as offensive as you originally thought they were.
3. Understand the consequences of anger.
If you immediately respond to something with anger, you are likely only going to escalate the problem and make it worse. Yelling at someone probably is not going to solve the problem, and while it might make you feel better right then, you are unlikely to continue feeling good about that action in the future. When you understand how your anger affects the people around you, you are more likely to try and control that anger, instead of letting it boil over at every little mistake or offense that crosses your path.
4. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
It’s easy to get angry at someone who cuts you off in traffic, and you might feel justified in that anger, but if you start to give people the benefit of the doubt, you’ll see that they probably just made a mistake. Even if they did what they did intentionally, you can never actually know their full motivation or intention. Just as you would like other people to give you the benefit of the doubt when you do something wrong, you should give other people the same courtesy.
5. Communicate your anger in a rational way.
If someone you know and love has done something or continually does something that makes you angry, you need to tell that person. Keeping this emotion to yourself ensures that you will just build a grudge against that person and that the issue will never actually be solved. Often, that person might not even realize that they are doing something that angers you. Other times, they will acknowledge that what they did was wrong and they will adjust their behavior to ensure that it does not continue to happen. The people that love and care about you do not want to hurt you, so if they are doing something to hurt you, let them know.
6. Decide not to succumb to anger.
You have control over your emotions. While you cannot control what you initially feel when something occurs, you can control how long you hold on to that emotion. If you are holding on to anger for days, weeks, months, and even years, it’s time to decide to stop letting anger control your life. Lots of individuals ruin their own lives because they succumb to anger. You do not have to do this! Even if you feel anger, you do not have to act on it.
7. Know that forgiveness is a selfless act.
Holding on to anger is not good for your mental state or for your physical wellness. Angry people are more likely to have heart-related illnesses, which can quickly take a turn for the worse. Forgiveness, even if you feel like the other person does not deserve it (despite whether they have asked for it or not), is selfless. It takes far less energy to forgive than it does to continue to hold on to a grudge forever. Forgiveness is good for you and will help you deal with anger and let go.
8. Realize that you cannot change the past.
What happened has happened and no one can go back and change it. For example, when we were teenagers, my sister and I fought almost every single day. Later, when we were adults and had become friends, I apologized for being so brutal to her when we were young. She told me that she accepted my apology, but that it wasn’t necessary. How we treated each other as kids happened in the past when we were young and naïve and that our relationship has long since been repaired. While my sister didn’t hold on to that anger from when we were kids, apologizing for my behavior back then made me feel better as an adult. Offering forgiveness, despite not being able to change the past, helped me deal with anger, let go and ultimately carry less shame.
If you’re struggling with anger, try to follow these tips for the next few weeks. I’d love to hear what a difference it’s making in your life. Leave your comments below or email me at [email protected].