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5 Keys to Managing Your Anger through a Divorce

“Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”

Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness

There is a positive side to anger, but only when you learn to manage it in a healthy way. For those of us that have been on the receiving end of anger, there seems no possible way that anger be anything positive. For those of us that have dished out relentless and ugly bursts of anger, we can confirm that positive was NOT the emotion we were feeling.

Yet, by releasing our anger in a healthy way, we are freeing ourselves from its octopus arms of control, and the insidious ways it presents itself. The joy of anger is knowing that its showed up for a reason and, if used properly, it can springboard us into another level of growth.   By addressing our anger, we can start to show the world a healthier version of ourselves; a version that emits compassion, goodness, love, courage and more.  But how do we go from anger’s stronghold grip to releasing it without harming ourselves and others?

It’s very normal to experience anger when we lose something as big as our marriage. Even the most civil of separations bring with them some anger and that’s ok! Gail Breener states in her article 10-Life Changing Facts About Anger “It’s easier to feel anger than hurt.”* That makes so much sense.  As we unravel the cords of our relationship, hurt is such a defeating feeling to embrace and live with.  At least when we feel anger –even for a brief moment- we feel like we have some control or power. But that’s not reality, it’s a cover up. Following are five keys to help you manage your anger as you’re going through your divorce.

  1. Memory Isn’t Perfect: Dr. Conte suggest that when you need to address your anger with someone else begin by saying, “My memory is telling me this happened . . .” Our memory does not serve us well at all. When we remind ourselves that our memory isn’t perfect we are less likely to explode.  That’s not to say we don’t remember the exact moment our partner confessed they cheated on us or were no longer in love with us.  Those are memorable, but the minutia between those shocking moments may not be filed correctly in our brains.
  1. Don’t take things personally– Remember, the other person has a lot going on inside of them too. This is straight from the the book the “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The natural response we see from people going through a divorce is “But this is all his fault” or “She’s the one who cheated.” That’s true and fair.  But somewhere all their behavior and actions are just that. . . THEIRS. And no matter how it hurts or how confusing it is, it really isn’t yours. How you react is the only thing you can control.
  1. You can be right or you can be happy. Your partner is a jerk, liar, narcissist, cheater, empty shell of a person the list is long and complicated. You may not have done anything wrong or obvious to deserve what is happening to you in this process of breaking up.  Yet, we have watched both clients and friends suffer way too long because they had to be right in the process. Yes, you may be entitled to everything but getting through legal and emotional trauma may leave you physically and emotionally depleted.  Those are just moments that you’re wasting when you could be moving forward and getting closer to living the peaceful and wonderful life you deserve.
  1. Be mindful of what’s going on inside of you. This has been the most powerful tool I’ve learned on my journey to rebuilding my life. During my marriage, when I would get upset, my husband used to point at my neck and say, “Uh-oh! Your neck is red. What did I do?” Sometimes he could sense I was getting angry before I could. I was trying to process my thoughts or hold back my discontent but really it showed itself front and center.   I spent so many years overriding all the signs and signals my body was trying to tell me that I was hurt, upset and angry. I ignored them all until one day my lid would blow off just like a firecracker and there was no stopping it.  I finally learned how to take a personal inventory of where I was feeling anger inside of me. I learned to give myself a time-out and ask for space to process. There are so many things going on in our bodies giving us feedback on how we’re feeling.  We are a miniature universe that can constantly have storms brewing, Are you hungry? Tired?  Overwhelmed?  Anger is often a sign of needing help with something not as obvious.
  1. Everyone’s crystal ball is broken. If want to know something, ask.  Making up stories or expecting someone to just ‘know’ is an immature and selfish way to proceed through life. If you need space, ask for a little space and take it in a healthy way. Do you need food? Get food especially before you start a conversation. I also like Dr. Conte’s suggestion regarding going to bed mad. He says it’s ok to go to bed mad.  I agree. I’m not a night person. I remind my children not to ask me for something or start an argument with me in the evening. I’m not rational or thoughtful; I’m tired! Dr. Conte says go to bed. It’s amazing what some sleep can do for your anger management. And you will probably wake up forgetting what you were upset about.  Or, at the very least, you have a better space to deal with what’s making you feel upset.

“Grudges are like weeds in your garden that start out small and are hard to distinguish from other plants but can eventually take nutrients away from the fruits and veggies that you’re trying to grow.”

The Divorce Recovery Workbook

We all get angry. It’s part of being a free- thinking human being.  We can choose, though, what we want to do with that anger.  The problem with not addressing our anger is that eventually it turns to rage and rage only leads down a path of more pain and misery and, in some cases, irreparable harm to ourselves or others. Stories keep anger alive. And as true as they may seem, they are only stories.  Stick to facts and understand that the more you tell the story to yourself and others the more fuel you add to the fire.  Stop telling stories. It’s time to move on.

*  Gail Brenner, PhD, syndicated from ahopefulsign.com, Sep 10, 2012

Written by Rebuilder’s International.  If you would like to take our FREE assessment to see how you’re doing after divorce, visit: Rebuilders.net/start-here/

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