Coping with Anger

Submitted By P Hayes:

Why do we get so angry?

Even without the usual hurts and disappointments, the separation process may stir more anger than we could have thought possible. Intense anger, even vengeful feelings of rage, are often part of the breaking-up process.

Some of our reasons may go deeper than whatever appears on the surface. Deeper forces which intensify the conflict include:

Erosion of good will

Married partners often view each other with a “positive bias” giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and assuming good, rather than evil intent. This positive bias mutes anger and hurts. But sometime before the breakup, one or both partners have given this positive bias up. When it goes, we get pulled to the negative extreme before returning to a center point.

Breaking the bond

Even in relationships without affection, or filled with hostility and abuse, an attachment may still bond partners together. When this bond is threatened or broken, we react with protective anger. When a vital attachment is taken away, anger accompanies the sense of loss.

Assigning blame

We usually try to make sense of a catastrophe,and we find ourselves quickly moving from “What happened?” and “Why?” to “Who caused this?” Then we may feel intense blame and anger at whomever we think is responsible, often our Ex. If we blame ourselves, then our feelings of shame and failure can make us reactive to any criticism. . . especially from our ex-partner.

Anger is a natural part of splitting up. Perhaps anger energized you to make the break in a bad relationship. Yet even if you feel completely justified in your anger, it’s still your choice how to deal with it, and your choices have consequences. When anger isn’t managed well, the results can inflict wounds that take a lifetime to heal.

How do you know anger is a problem? It may be if

  • You find yourself “venting” (voicing anger, blame, insults, complaints) about your ex-partner in front of your children.
  • You get caught up in too many painful “scenes” of shouting, blaming, threats, or even violence.
  • You find yourself “obsessing,” repeatedly going over things in your mind and feeling enraged as you dwell on them.
  • Friends and family members keep suggesting that you “let it go,” and “move on,” but you can’t.
  • You find yourself contemplating or doing things you never imagined; anything from “telling off your ex” in public, hiding assets during your settlement, “exposing” her to friends family, or co-workers, stalking or spying on her, to acts of vandalism.
  • You can’t hear the sound of your Ex’s name without feeling overwhelmed with anger.
  • You find yourself over-reacting in a new relationship; getting furious when small, innocent actions remind you of your Ex.
  • You think that you lose something by being civil to your Ex or you can’t bring yourself to be to her.

The absence of anger can be a “red flag.” For example, your ex-partner’s nasty behavior is disrupting your life and hurting you, yet you feel no anger, frustration, or rage. You may be in denial, or you may blame yourself totally. Or you believe that if you don’t let yourself get angry at your Ex, he or she may come back to you. Burying anger doesn’t resolve it.

Tips on Dealing with Anger

Avoid encounters with your Ex-partner that can aggravate your anger. If you need to go to your Ex’s place to drop off/pick up stuff, arrange to do it when your Ex is not there, or go with a friend.

Use voice-mail, or e-mail, to leave short, business like messages rather than talking to your Ex directly and getting into long emotional discussions that go nowhere.

If you feel you have to vent, find a safe situation around friends or in a support group; never, ever in front of children, and not in the presence of your Ex-spouse. On the other side of this, don’t simply bury the anger, it needs to be dealt with before it deals with you.

Express your anger in safe, or at least low-risk ways. Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. If you feel like writing a “venting” letter (or e-mail) to your Ex-partner, write the letter, put everything in it – but DON”T SEND IT. Keep it at least overnight, then re-read it. If you can, read it to a close friend, counselor, or support group. Then tear it up. Burn it. If you still need to send something to your Ex, write a letter that won’t fuel the fire.

Keep in mind that your Ex may be riding the same emotional roller coaster you are (True, this might even be a comforting thought), and if possible, avoid aggravating her.

Notice the amount of angry thinking you are doing; you can’t stop all of it, but you can avoid “stewing” by diverting your attention, and focusing on other things.

Don’t get caught up in trying to “set the record straight,” with your Ex. Accept the fact that from now on there will be two separate and very different versions of what happened to your relationship. Trying to change it is a waste of your energy.

Use exercise to release tension. Put the anger to work.

Learn to let some things go, at least for now; this is a process and it may be better to leave some contentious issues un-settled for the time being.

If you find that your feelings of anger don’t seem to be subsiding, and you’re concerned about the effects on your well-being (or your children’s), it may be a sign that it’s time to seek out professional help.

You can resolve your anger with time and effort. You can’t change your past, but you can learn to keep the past from burdening your present and future.

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