Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him. ~ Louis L’Amour
Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. ~ Mark Twain
Anger. We have ALL felt it. Some people seem to percolate and seep anger during most of their waking hours. Others stuff their anger deep down and it comes out in subtle, sometimes passive aggressive ways. Still others are able to let go of their anger and transcend the emotions of frustrating human interaction in order to live a life of more personal satisfaction and inner peace.
The quotes by L’Amour and Twain state the reality ever so eloquently – anger hurts US far more than it hurts the individual we may be angry with. As we harbor anger the individual who has harmed us walks away and lives their life oblivious to the daily affliction we carry. The person who caused us pain can live completely unaware of the rage that builds inside of our very being….. and this rage is very dangerous – it has been known to be linked to cancer, heart attacks, nervous disorders, depression, weight gain, and a host of other issues.
How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him. ~ Frank Herbert
I love this Herbert quote, as it poignantly explains a concept I have shared with my staff members and students for years. Anger is always linked to something within our inner selves. Anger is not an emotion felt in isolation. Anger always partners with another emotion (I tell younger children that anger “holds hands” with other emotions.) When one is feeling anger, the first thing I recommend is that they look deep inside themselves in order to ask what emotions are lurking underneath that anger. For example, when an individual is angry because they are not invited to a party, the partner emotions may be sadness, rejection or loneliness. When we identify and address these partner emotions we are better able to rid ourselves of the anger that subsequently emerges.
Always write angry letters to your enemies. Never mail them. ~ James Fallows
I do believe that there are times when we need to be able to express our anger and the hurt that is often connected to it. This is where the Fallows quote is a great reminder. We do need the release and writing a letter is a great way to release the anger and accompanying emotions. However, depending on the situation, we must carefully assess and weigh the benefits versus disadvantages of mailing the letter after it is written. I often recommend that an individual have a trusted friend (level-headed, trusted friend!) review the letter and provide honest feedback regarding the content and the pros and cons of actually mailing the letter. There are times when a letter can provide enough of an outlet on its own and sending it would exacerbate, rather than mend a situation. There are also times when a letter can be precisely what is needed to assist in the promotion of understanding and problem solving.
Face to face meetings are another way to work through hurt and anger, depending on the circumstances. When appropriate, I encourage individuals to consider bringing a close friend, pastor, or therapist to the meeting in order to assist with keeping the content productive and focused on problem solving, as often meetings can target the problems and perseverate there, without moving to a state of healthy resolution. There are times when two healthy adults may not ever fully resolve the issues between them, but can responsibly and amicably agree to disagree.
Today, 298 days ’til 40, I will continue to remind myself that holding on to anger does not hurt the person who has harmed me, it hurts me. By learning to let go of anger I can free myself from bonds that prevent me from living my life to the fullest. I hope that you will be able to do the same.