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How do I deal with my anger?

By June 28, 2008 - 10:22am
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I'm recently divorced, a very, very welcomed change in my life that I've embraced and celebrated, and yet I still carry this deep anger that will just pop out unexpectedly, usually when I'm dealing with a lot at one time. It's horrible and I'm so absolutely terrified of it, like it's this monster, because when it pops, the consequences (hurting others) is just devastating. I fear it (or rather I) will destroy every good thing I'm trying to build in my life (my career, personal relationships, etc.). I'm seeing a psychologist, which is helping, but I'm wondering if anyone out there has any ideas of coping techniques that I can lean on in my day to day, to deal with anger as I go through this period of healing. I'm really desperate and am grateful for any ideas you have.

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My mom went through the anger for a long time, years. I read somewhere that there are different stages of divorce, e.g. anger, denial, depression, acceptance, etc.

My mom was most angry about the loss of her friends. When couples share friends, then break up, it's difficult for the friends to deal with their loyalties to either party. It seems the wife suffers the biggest losses.

I think it's normal to feel what you are. After all, we women tend to take such lifestyle change as our personal failure. It's great that you have a therapist to talk through your feelings.

You could always write those angry words down on a piece of paper and burn it; it might help you release your hurt, anger and frustration.

June 30, 2008 - 4:23pm

Great idea, Susan!

My only problem is that I've gotten in trouble sending out impulsive, angry emails -- it's such a tempting tool for that -- so now I'm terrified of punching that send button. I think you're right that I need to write a message when I'm feeling out of control. That would be a good release. ...I'm just wondering if I'll have enough control not to send it.

I really appreciate you "listening!"

June 30, 2008 - 2:49pm
HERWriter Guide

Not to joke about anger but a great way to express yourself is to email your anger to the person who angered you, even if your feelings are unwarranted.

Don't put their email address on (in case you accidentally hit 'send'), just write the email and then put it in a draft or archive. Take it out a few days later, read it and delete it.

Doing that gets your anger out on paper, you don't actually send it and when you have cooled off, you'll re-read it and think 'thank God I didn't send that, I was too much of a hot head and now that my anger has subsided, what they did to anger me wasn't really anything after all...'

And writing the email in the first place will give you a sense of release, so that you are not bottling your feelings up.

I don't know if this will work for you or help you but I have done it a couple of times and it has really worked. And I always think "phew! felt great to write that out but glad I didn't send it!'.

June 30, 2008 - 1:41pm

Tina, thanks for the idea to write. I was journaling for a time, but in recent months just got too busy and neglected it. You're right -- it really does help, so I need to make an effort to start back up.

Alison B, I really appreciate your ideas too. I like how you laid out the different kinds of support groups. That's so helpful. I can see areas where I definitely could use some support.

Taming the Gremlin sounds like a great book for me to check out, especially since I view my anger as a monster. It's just really nice to know that I'm not alone -- that you've also been there in that helpless place where your emotions are taking over. Thanks for sharing that with me. Alison, do you mind if I write to you if I feel myself getting that out of control angry urge?

Thanks again!

June 29, 2008 - 2:29pm
(reply to Optimist)

I'm glad that Tina and I were able to help! I would love for you to write to me if you ever have the out-of-control anger feelings again. As Tina said, writing about your emotions is powerful, and just in the act of writing to me (or anyone else at EmpowHer) would be helpful! I am happy to help any way I can...let me know what you think of the Taming the Gremlin book, too (positive and negative)..I'm always curious what other people think about book recommendations!

Good luck, and let us know how you are doing!
Alison B

June 29, 2008 - 6:16pm

You sound like you are doing well, if you are able to recognize your anger, and pinpoint a major cause of not being able to deal with it effectively (you mentioned when you have a lot on your plate at one time). When the demands in life are more than your current resources (including time, money, patience, sleep/rest, friends, etc.), it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed and angry.

One idea is to make sure that you have enough resources in reserve, in order to help add a buffer to those times that WILL be taxing on you; sometimes just planning that stressful times are bound to happen can help you deal with them more effectively in the future. Ways to make sure you have enough resources for yourself include: getting plenty of rest each night, having a good support system, taking time for yourself to be alone, having fun with friends and family, feeling productive with career or in society, having a pro-active approach to life, being a good friend, exercising, eating healthy...the list can go on!

One note about support systems: they vary by person, and the best one I've heard about includes at least one of each of the following:
- Informational support. The friend who "knows it all", and can give you information or resources to help you solve a problem.
- Social support. The friend who can distract you, help you have fun and get away from your problems; it can help give you a different perspective when you are not over-thinking your anger.
- Emotional support. The friend who you can call at 3am and cry on the phone, vent and not worry about them telling you how to fix it; they are just here to listen.
- Resourceful support. The friend who may not want to listen to your personal stories, but will drive you to the auto mechanic to get your car fixed (so, at least one thing is off your plate, and helps indirectly with giving you more time to work out your other emotional distresses).

Of course, there are other types of support systems; one person may have several of these qualities, and it is important to know WHICH type of friend each person is, so that you are not disappointed.

In dealing specifically with anger, one of the books I read on journaling (mentioned above as a good way to deal with emotions) is called, Opening Up. The book discusses the research and "why" behind journaling, for the skeptic or "non-journaling" type.

A book that helped me immensely when I was going through a tough time with my emotions is called, Taming the Gremlin. I can not say enough about this book: it is short, to the point, and a great way to think about your emotions...I often felt helpless and ruled by my emotions; this book helps you think about emotions as "gremlins" that you put a name and identity to, and therefore, helps put them in their place and deal with them effectively.

June 29, 2008 - 1:18pm

Optimist, congratulations on taking steps to make your life a happier one. It's not uncommon for people to feel angry following a divorce and we can all become a little overwhelmed with life just from a general sense.

One of the things that has worked for me in dealing with emotions is writing about them. Have you written down exactly what's angering you? Once I come up with lists or scenarios, I try to assess whether each item on the list is in my control. If it is, then I make changes to make them less of an issue. Sometimes this can take hours but the time spent being proactive about my emotions (I think) has been a benefit to me in the long run.

I've also found that talking with friends and family is a big help. I try to keep it to a 10-minute maximum because being concise and controlled in my thoughts helps me control my emotions.

June 28, 2008 - 11:24am
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