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Why does anger make us behave in such uncharacteristic ways? How can you release anger in a peaceful and non-explosive way?
People generally deal with anger by either suppressing it or releasing it through explosive outbursts. Of course, neither of these approaches is healthy. Angry outbursts can cause you to lash out and say things you don’t mean, while suppressed anger can cause you to behave in a passive-aggressive way.
In this article, you’ll learn how to let go of anger in a constructive and non-violent way.
Anger is what we feel when something gets in the way of what we want or disrupts the way we think things are supposed to be. Anger is a highly active state—it makes us want to lash out, fix the perceived problem, and hurt whatever (or whoever) caused it.
Beyond its immediate repercussions, unresolved anger can lead to grudges and resentment, keeping you stuck in the past and preventing you from moving on with your life.
Furthermore, anger has a major impact on heart health: when we’re angry, the pumping efficiency of our heart drops, sometimes by a small amount, but in some cases by 7% or greater, a state which cardiologists classify as a sign of myocardial ischemia, when blood flow to the heart drops at a dangerous rate.
Higher levels of anger are also connected to dying younger. One study performed on physicians themselves found that physicians with the highest scores on a hostility test were 7 times more likely to die by the age of 50 than physicians with lower scores.
TITLE: Atlas of the Heart
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
Releasing Anger Through Forgiveness
If your anger is directed at a person who’s wronged you in some way, the best way to release it is to forgive them. While it’s certainly easier said than done, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not for the person who hurt you. As the old adage goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Forgiveness isn’t letting someone get away with hurting you; it’s attempting to achieve some peace around what happened, in part by employing calming practices to soothe your body’s stress response and let go of your anger.
- Develop compassion: It will be hard to forgive someone unless you can empathize with their situation. Understand that whoever wronged you probably acted out of fear or was dealing with their own hardships.
- Focus on yourself: While it’s easy to blame others, focusing on your reaction is most important because it’s the only thing you can control. Try to see irritating situations or people as opportunities for growth.
- Don’t worry about being right: One reason we’re duped into holding onto a grudge is our tendency to focus on right and wrong. You may be right about a person or situation, but that isn’t going to change anything.
- Let it in, then let it out: Sometimes, the only way to get rid of a negative emotion is to embrace it. If that means you have to scream into a pillow, so be it. Just make sure you aren’t causing harm or stress to yourself or others, and after you embrace the anger, let it go.
- Forget about it: A key part of forgiveness is wiping the slate clean. Try not to judge people by their previous actions and focus on the now.
TITLE: You Are A Badass
AUTHOR: Jen Sincero
Releasing Anger Through Reframing
The longer we think about our anger, the more our brain comes up with self-justifications and good reasons that we should feel angry. Anger builds on anger. The quickest way to undermine anger is to undermine the assumptions that are making you angry in the first place, usually by reframing the situation in a more positive light.
For example, someone cuts you off in your car: the anger-inducing assumption might be that that person cares more about where they’re going than your safety, or that they chose you specifically to cut off, or even that they’re trying to anger you. You could try reframing your assumptions to curb your anger: maybe they didn’t see you, maybe there’s an emergency and they need to get somewhere.
Another helpful piece of advice on how to let go of anger is to write down cynical, hostile, or angry thoughts that have built up. This will help increase your self-awareness and give you an opportunity to challenge those thoughts, thus decreasing the anger. Once you’ve written them down, you’re forced to look at them and assess them, and you have a better chance of reappraising the situation.
Releasing Anger Through Sublimation
When you’re unable to fully rid yourself of explosive emotions, you can transform them into a form that serves you through sublimation. In particular, when unfair circumstances or pointless constraints frustrate you, you can train yourself to use that anger as fuel instead of allowing it to make you reckless. Use your calm, rational mind to decide where to commit your energy, then allow yourself to act wildly and impulsively within that context.
TITLE: The Obstacle Is The Way
AUTHOR: Ryan Holiday
Preventing Angry Outbursts
Knowing how to let go of anger in a healthy way is important. No less important is knowing how to deal with anger when it arises spontaneously.
Anger is a very intense and explosive emotion, which is why it’s so difficult to tame it in the heat of the moment. For this reason, the best way to combat anger is to do the work before an anger-provoking situation arises.
According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the first step to combating anger is educating yourself about it: Understand where it came from and if it’s justified. Then, use patience and tolerance to neutralize it. You may not be able to completely eradicate it, but you can at least reduce your anger’s potency.
In his book The Art of Thinking Clearly, The Dalai Lama also offers two anger meditations that can help you deal with anger when it arises:
Meditate to Be Less Angry
Visualize someone you know becoming extremely angry. Imagine what they look like and how their anger manifests: Perhaps they look scary and raise their voice. Now, recall a time you’ve been this angry. What did you do and how did you look? Decide that you’ll never again become that angry because of the negative effects on your behavior, appearance, and so on.
Here’s another anger meditation: Visualize someone you dislike and allow your natural aversive response to them to manifest in your body. Note how you feel—perhaps your fists clench, your heart rate rises, and your mind clouds with negative thoughts. Now, decide you’ll never allow yourself to become angry in this way again because of the painful effect it has on your body.
TITLE: The Art of Thinking Clearly
AUTHOR: Rolf Dobelli
Holding onto anger can wreak serious havoc on your psychological well-being. Believe it or not, it can even make you physically sick! By learning how to let go of anger in a healthy way, you can significantly improve your life outcomes.
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TITLE: The Body Keeps the Score
AUTHOR: Bessel van der Kolk
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