Getting Past Anger
There is often a thin line between anger and hatred. After I discovered my husbands’ unfaithfulness, I found myself grappling with strong emotions of anger and hatred, murder and revenge, emotions so strong, I didn’t know I was capable of feeling such things. I couldn’t imagine ever getting past anger I felt, yet I was desperate to do so, because neither could I imagine continuing to live with it.
“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James A. Baldwin
Getting past my anger came through a decision to forgive, to let go, and to lean into the pain that was behind my anger, instead of trying to run from the pain, deny its existence, or escape from it through some sort of destructive coping mechanism like alcohol, drugs or other self-defeating behaviors.
Our hatred and our anger are merely outward expressions of our pain.
If we are honest with ourselves, while we claim, “I want to get past my anger,” another part of us wants to hang on to it. Anger releases adrenaline into our bodies, which feels good, and we can become addicted to this, and therefore addicted to anger. Anger gives us a surge of power. Experiencing anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Anger is a positive emotion given to you for your healing. Ideally, we take the energy from our anger to take positive action to change our lives. The problem is not the anger itself. Anger can be both positive and negative. It’s what we often do when we are angry that so easily becomes a problem.
Hurt people hurt people. Never are we more likely to hurt someone then when we ourselves are hurting. The secret to getting past anger, is to break the cycle by being willing to have compassion and see the pain in the person who hurt us, the pain that was behind their hurtful, selfish actions. Yet many betrayed spouses will be read these words, and think, “Screw you and screw the pain of my spouse. I want to hold onto my self-righteous rage!”
But is that working for you? Are you getting your joy back? Are you being the person that you want to be?
Pain subsides only when we acknowledge it and care for it.
In her book, “Braving the Wilderness,” Brene Brown wrote:
“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 lifegiving: courage, love, change, compassion, justice. Or 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.”
“I can’t think of a more powerful example than the sentence, “You will not have my hate.” In November 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was killed by terrorists at the Bataclan theater in Paris along with eighty-eight other people. Two days after the attacks, in an open letter to his wife’s killers posted on Facebook, Leiris wrote:
“On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. You are dead souls. If that God for whom you blindly kill made us in his image, every bullet in my wife’s body will have been a wound in his heart.
“So, no, I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. That is what you want, but to respond to your hate with anger would be to yield to the same ignorance that made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to see my fellow citizens through suspicious eyes, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have failed. I will not change.”
“Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness. I love what Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailish Satyarthi says in his 2015 TED talk:
“Anger is within each one of you, and I will share a secret for a few seconds: that if we are confined in the narrow shells of egos, and the circles of selfishness, then anger will turn out to be hatred, violence, revenge, destruction. But if we are able to break the circles, then the same anger could turn into a great power. We can break the circles by using our inherent compassion and connect with the world through compassion to make this world better. That same anger could be transformed into it.”
We pay for anger with our lives, and that’s too big a price to pay! Decide getting past anger today. Replace it with love and compassion. Get past your anger by acknowledging the pain behind your anger, letting yourself grieve your loss, and processing your hurt.