Happy adults - letting go of anger
This is the second blog by author Cathy Glass looking at how anger can impact our lives and the lives of those that we care for. You can read the first blog here.
Being angry – at ourselves or others – is responsible for the vast majority of our negative behaviour and feelings. While feeling anger and then letting it go is good for our mental health, hanging on to anger past its ‘use by’ date, or internalizing anger, can produce or aggravate all manner of physical and psychological illnesses such is the interaction between mind and body.
Having said that, we do have the right to feel angry sometimes, and in some situations it is appropriate and healthy to do so. It is right to feel angry if someone harms us or treats us unfairly or unkindly. We can feel anger as well as sorrow if a loved one dies prematurely.
It is appropriate to feel anger in the above situations (and many others like them which crop up as part of normal life), but it is essential to know when to let go of the anger. While no one is likely to still be angry a month after accidently cutting their finger, for example, many of us can still be seething from being humiliated in front of a work colleague or gossiped about by a friend months, even years, after the event. But holding on to anger in this way will gnaw away
Compare these two extracts from readers’ emails. They are both talking about their mothers:
'I’ll never forgive her as long as I live. Although she only lives three miles away I haven’t seen her in nearly twenty years. I won’t have her near my house. My brother sees her so I don’t see him either. I have no family.' Ms A
'I wasn’t going to let her ruin my life so I told her I still didn’t understand why she hadn’t believed me, but I was willing to move on. She now visits and sees her grandchildren. They love her dearly.' Ms B
Both women were in their mid-thirties and had been sexually abused as teenagers by their stepfathers. Both had told their mothers at the time and neither had been believed. Which of the two had the happier life? The second, Ms B. She had instinctively recognized that to hang on to her anger would ‘ruin my life’. She was able to tell her mother that while she would never understand why she hadn’t believed her when she’d told her she was being assaulted, she wanted to put the past behind them.
By letting go of her anger, not only was Ms B more contented and happier but she had allowed her children to enjoy a relationship with their grandmother which they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
The importance of letting go
Whether we have a very big anger – for example, as a result of being abused – or a relatively small anger – for example, a hurtful remark – at some point we have to let go. I am not being dismissive of the shocking suffering some people go through, but after an appropriate time (possibly with the help of therapy) we have to make a decision to let go of the anger. If we don’t we will stay trapped in misery, bitterness and self-loathing that will affect not only us but those around us.
Ms A unfortunately had not been able to let go of her anger and was addicted to antidepressants, having had two failed marriages, and a daughter with whom she battled continuously. Anger and depression go hand in hand and are a result of our feelings of helplessness and despair. We have to let go of anger to allow ourselves to heal and depression to lift.
We owe it to ourselves to let go of our anger, and to those around us too. I have personal experience of this. When my husband, John, left me for another woman, I was seething, not only for myself but on behalf of my children. How could he! How was I going to manage alone and provide for my family? My anger was with me for most of my waking hours. In my next blog I look at turning the corner and letting go of anger