Dr Bill: Anger is a waste of emotion

words: Dr Bill Webster, Grief Journey

Stuff happens! Relationships don’t always work out.

If couples are lucky, it’s a peaceful parting of the ways, but sometimes break-ups are a fug of venom, spite and accusation.

Usually when resentment, rage or volatility dominates, there is a hidden reason for the reaction.

Anger can make a difficult situation much worse. Buddha said resentment is like a hot coal we pick up to throw at someone else, but which ends up burning us. A grudge is a gift that keeps on giving, but the only thing it gives anyone is misery.

Everyone operates primarily out of self-interest. We must expect that sometimes, out of our own self-interest, we will be annoyed by someone else’s expression of theirs.

Let me suggest five ways to get past anger and into a happier, healthier life:

1. Understand what forgiveness is… and what it isn’t

Many people don’t want to forgive because they think it’s weak, or implies the offender did nothing wrong. But you can make someone accountable for wrongs and still forgive them. People also think forgiveness requires reconciling with the person who mistreated them. It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Forgiveness isn’t about the offender at all. You don’t forgive people for their sake, but for your own. It means releasing yourself from their control with all the negative emotional and even physical implications of that; accepting that you were wronged but deciding to move on from your hurt and letting go of your anger.

2. Don’t wait for an apology

Sometimes the person who hurt you isn’t even aware they have. In other cases, they are incapable of understanding or caring. The words “I’m sorry” can be healing, but so is deciding that you no longer need to hear them.

3. Try to understand what motivated the offender

Bad behaviour is generally due to emotional immaturity. Some people accuse others of affairs because that’s what happened in their families.

4. Celebrate who you have become

In a study at the University of Miami, those hurt by someone were asked to write about the traumatic aspects of the betrayal or what they’d gained from it, like discovering unexpected strength. Those who wrote about how they’d learned or grown described feeling less negative than participants holding on to their anger.

Life is a school for learning, and some lessons are painful ones. We can’t avoid hurt, but we can decide not to let it overshadow our lives. Letting go and moving on brings greater understanding, maturity and compassion, towards others and yourself.

5. Smart ways to really move on

Change how you describe yourself. You were badly hurt, but you’ve been brave enough to choose to forgive. Understand the real reasons you are angry. If you have the courage to discuss this with a friend, you may be surprised, and maybe even want to take another look at the situation. Forgiveness exercises personal choice to bring peace and healing into our relationships, and to ourselves.

So, if you are harbouring a grudge, angry, or just downright miserable over something, personally or professionally, maybe you should kiss and make up.

Or don’t kiss and make up!

Just get over it.

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