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Strategies to Cope with Anger After Divorce
By Michele Germain, www.thejillprinciple.com
When you are standing in the "10 item or less line" at the supermarket behind a person making 14 purchases do you feel yourself getting ready to jump on top of him? Do you ever ask yourself why you feel upset about this minor incident? Or do you simply ignore your physical and psychological reaction by quickly moving to the next task of the day?
Unresolved and misdirected anger can keep the heart closed, the body tense and the mind chaotic. Spiritually you can feel lost and become disconnected from your deepest self - your soul. Therefore, it is critical to understand and work with your anger in an appropriate way allowing your body, heart and mind to be in an open peaceful state. Here is where you meet the spiritual aspect of yourself and where you find the answers to your unrest.
Most of us have never learned how to recognize or express our anger in a healthy way so we overact to trivial situations or respond with inappropriate behaviors to show - or hide - our anger. We develop a dysfunctional style of expressing and responding to anger that we learned during childhood. As we grow older, we are likely to develop an adult version of one of the early inappropriate styles listed below. Look Familiar?
1. The Silent One - Withdraws when angry, leaving others wondering what went wrong. She may mope and not speak for days.
2. The Suffering One - She says she feels no anger, yet seethes underneath, accepts things in a martyr-like way.
3. The Shooter - She's quick to express anger and quick to forge it. She is impulsive, volatile, and does not realize the impact this behavior has on others.
4. The Sarcastic - She hides her hurt and anger by sarcastic and intellectual criticism.
5. The Guilty One - She hides her anger at others by telling herself she is responsible for everything that goes wrong. She often puts herself down and feels unworthy.
Anger is a normal human emotion. It tells us that something is wrong. It exists to deliver a message and to let others know how we feel. If we learn to recognize our anger, we will express it directly and openly at the time the feelings occur, or as close to the time as possible. There is resolution in the very act of expressing our feelings, even though we cannot change the circumstance or the person involved.
Anger that is not felt, expressed and managed gets suppressed and affects our health and our relationships. Unmanaged and suppressed anger contributes to depression, rebellious behavior and insomnia. We can get headaches, stomachaches, and want to go to the refrigerator every hour even though we are not hungry. We walk around stuffing it, misdirecting it, or escalating it, everything but expressing it appropriately and letting it go.
Try these steps to help you connect with and manage your anger in a healthy way:
- Mop up old, unresolved anger from past circumstances and from those we feel have wronged us. Write a letter to everyone you are angry with. Give yourself permission to say anything and let your feelings out, but do not mail the letter. Your child can do this too through writing or drawing.
- Learn to recognize physical or behavioral "cues" that signal you are angry. Where do you feel tight, tense or numb? What do you do when anger occurs? How did the situation make you feel besides angry? As you learn about your behavior, you will be able to help your child identify hers or his.
- Identify what you are angry about. Are you angry at others, angry at yourself or is it residual anger from the past? Ask yourself what about this situation, interaction or circumstances angers you the most? Replace any self-recrimination with self-acceptance.
- Validate your feelings. Allow feelings to be there. Identify, accept and validate your feelings to manage your anger. Sometimes that is all we need to do. Validate your child's anger too. When she/he knows their feelings are being understood, they can let it go.
Once you have recognized that you are angry, deal with it constructively:
- List the possible solutions. You may have decided to deal with it by talking to a friend, writing out your feelings, taking a walk and giving yourself a "time out." You may decide to express your feelings directly to the person who made you angry or not.
- Think before you speak and always use "I" messages. This is not about winning an argument; it is about letting someone know how you feel and working out a resolution. Instead of "you never pay attention to me," state your feelings and follow it by a request: "I feel very left out when you don't pay attention to me. Would you be willing to set some time aside for us to connect?" Learn this and model this way of communication for your children. Praise yourself for your efforts. Teach yourself and your children to identify, manage and ultimately let go of anger. Letting go of anger will help you to develop a more forgiving nature. As we forgive others, we are more likely to forgive ourselves. It is here where we begin to connect with our spiritual essence and awaken our soul.
About the author:
Michele Germain, author of The Jill Principle: A Woman's Guide to Healing Your Spirit after Divorce or Breakup, has a master's degree in social work from Wayne State University and is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage Family Therapist in California. She is a Certified Bioenergetic Analyst, offering an approach that resolves the emotional pain remaining in the body, increasing the individuals well being and capacity for pleasure. She conducts workshops and seminars on a variety of mental health topics and life changing issues. She has appeared on radio, cable television and in print media, and has lectured aboard major cruise lines such as the Pearl and Royal Caribbean. For more information visit www.thejillprinciple.com.