Lots of things can make us angry throughout the course of a day. From little moments like a rude comment or a bad driver to big events like a friend betraying you or a boss overlooking you for a promotion.
When we are angry, there are three responses. We can actively be angry, try to ignore the anger, or forgive/rethink/reflect and move on. Many find that anger is often easier. For most people, there is no option to simply turn anger off. If you are pushing it down in an effort to do so, you’ll likely run into bigger problems later when you are forced to finally confront that anger.
Despite the difficulties of letting go of anger, holding onto it by either carrying a grudge or attempting to ignore it can have long term effects on your physical and mental health. The sooner you can work towards controlling anger, the better your mental wellness will be.
The Insidious Effects of Anger
Let’s discuss two situations in response to a trigger that makes you angry. In the first one, you respond. Maybe you shout at the person who upset you or react in a physical way. Then, whether or not the person apologizes, you carry the anger and blame going forward.
In the other situation, you resist any reaction and prevent an escalation in the moment, but you are still upset about what happened. Then another event angers you, and another, until you lose your temper and finally react, letting all the anger you felt for months or years out – sometimes in ways that seem irrational to the person you’re mad at, that may not be aware that you’ve been holding this anger in all this time.
Both of these situations involve maintaining your anger for a long time. But by making anger a part of your life, you let the anger control and dictate your actions. Even if you never have an outburst that upsets loved ones, friends, or coworkers, the role anger plays in your life will inevitably impact your interpersonal relationships.
Anger will also have a health impact. Just like carrying a physical burden for a long period of time will wear you down, so will the mental burden of anger or a grudge. Anger takes energy to maintain, and constantly using that energy can potentially lead to physical concerns, such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Bowel Diseases
Lasting anger can also lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression which will only cause you additional stress without ever satisfying your grudge.
How to Let Go of Anger
The first step to letting your anger go is to acknowledge it. Admit that you are angry, and know that the feeling is alright. Anger is a natural response when we perceive a threat. It is a way we process fear and frustration. In certain situations, anger can help us make necessary changes, such as standing up against an injustice or leaving a bad relationship.
But anger responses are not always rational, and even when it is, there is limited personal benefit to holding onto it. Try these tips to help:
- Determine the Cause of Anger – While a comment or action may directly trigger your anger, there are likely other emotions there too. Take time to understand those feelings as you process the anger.
- Vent to the Right People – Venting to trusted friends and family members who will talk you down from anger can help. If you need to talk to the person you’re angry with, wait until you can do it calmly.
- Look from an Outside Perspective – Using a third person perspective can help you rationalize both your actions and those of the person who offended you.
- Find a Distraction – Redirect your anger into a healthy distraction like television, a hobby, or exercise.
Even with these tips, forgiveness is still a challenge for almost everyone. As professional psychotherapists, we can help you process your anger and put it behind you. Call us today to learn more.