Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Tracy Foster, Dip.Couns, Dip.CBT Registered (MBACP)
8th October, 20140 Comments
Anger is a normal healthy emotion experienced by us all when we may feel we have been disrespected, let down, or others have not reached the expectations we may have put on them. Anger fuels our adrenaline response to cope by using our “fight or flight” response.
We may respond to this thinking by behaving in aggressive ways like shouting or arguing for example or doing nothing but seethe inside. We can experience physical sensations such as sweating and tensed up muscles to name a few. Our adrenaline response is our reaction to real or perceived threat or danger to ourselves.
But what can we do with our “unresolved anger"? If we can’t retaliate because it’s too late, the person is no longer here and it was a long time ago, the anger can fester, we won’t know what to do with it and it can have a detrimental impact on our life today.
Ali Begoun, life coach and founder for L’Chaim Centre for Inspired Living has a useful six-step programme to shift unresolved anger so that you can turn it around yourself towards a more positive sense of self and living.
Step one – identifying the anger
Firstly, look at what has hurt you and what you feel you have lost in this process. It’s not just a case of “get over it” and “think positive” as advice givers can do. Give yourself the opportunity to really explore what is hurting you and why. We are all individual!
Step two – allow yourself to be angry
Do not deny yourself the right to be angry. Give yourself time to be angry and don’t feel pressured to put the “get over it” and “think positive” advice in place. Think how you can be angry in a safe and controlled way – maybe you want to scream full throttle down the beach to release the tension, if you enjoy exercise go for a long hard walk, beat a pillow, write down on bits of paper how angry you are and then rip it to shreds and throw it around the room. The choice is yours as long as it is safe, discuss with your counsellor how you might best experience anger.
Step three – let compassion replace resentment
Now is the time to think of replacing your “resentment” word looking at it from a different perspective, a deeper level of thinking, looking beyond the behaviour of the person that has hurt and angered us, to the emotionally scarred person beneath. Compassion can replace resentment. Compassion in this sense is based on your own judgement (the background of the person that has hurt you) rather than the emotional side of helping.
Step four – forgiveness
We can hang on to the expectation that the person who has angered us will make amends. But, as in the introduction, if this is not possible – imagine holding a piece of sharp glass in your hand and squeezing. It hurts! Every time we think of the anger, we squeeze, maintaining the unresolved anger. We are the ones doing the “squeezing”. Forgiveness does not mean condoning or justifying another person’s behaviour, but it can mean that we can let go of waiting for things to be put right and move on to healing.
Step five – (I like this phrase) “looking for hidden gems”
From the anger and hurt of the misdeed, you have found something out about yourself. A value or standard for yourself… an “I am thankful for ...” statement that provides you with self-awareness of what is important to you and the behaviour you will or will not accept. To quote Ali Begoun’s example:
"I'm thankful for the pain of my divorce... because it helped me understand what is important to me and what behaviour I will not accept. It has brought me closer to becoming the person I know I need to be to have a healthy marriage based on mutual respect."
Step six – write a letter
Writing a letter, which you do not send, helps you release all that pent-up anger in whatever way you want. You can be as blunt, explicit, mad or emotional as you want – but you can regain your self-esteem at the same from following steps one through to five at what you have actually “gained” from their misdeed to you and tell them with a deep sense of reward to yourself. Do what you want with the letter afterwards – burn it, throw it away or keep it as a reminder of your own self-learning.
Everyone’s experience of “unresolved anger” will be individual and unique. Counselling can help you explore all five steps above in a safe, confidential and therapeutic way so that you can move forward with what is important in your life.
Related articles from our experts
- Anger management: “How do you transform a raging lion into a purring cat?”
Shane Sneyd MBACP, UKCP & BPC17th February, 2018
- Anger: the tip of the iceberg
Tania Freeman - MBACP registered Creative Arts Counsellor12th January, 2018
- The 'gem' of a gift in accepting your own anger
Paul Roberts Embodied Psychotherapeutic Counselling RMBACP12th October, 2017
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