Oh, yes: anger is a big part of divorce. It doesn’t matter how well we understand the damage anger causes, we still struggle to let it go.
Anger increases our stress and blood pressure, it weakens the heart, it promotes headaches and wrinkles, and it makes us cranky and not much fun to be with. Most of all, anger prevents us from moving forward.
Here are some thoughts I draw upon when I need to let my anger go.
- We believe anger is hurting the other person, but it’s actually hurting us. – Yoga instructor
- The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. – Gloria Steinem
- Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. – Ambrose Bierce
- Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain
- Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the one getting burned. – the Buddha
- And my favorite, paraphrased from an article I read while at a yoga teacher training center:
Holding onto anger is like holding a sack of potatoes. For every person or situation you are angry with, you must add a potato to your sack. After a while, the sack becomes heavy and the contents begin to rot and smell. Tossing away the potatoes will lighten your load, reduce the smell, and keep the sack from being eaten away.
I carry a sack, but I continually remind myself that each stupid potato is in there because I allow it to be. Once the awareness sets in, I toss or bury the potato.
Friends sometimes ask me: why aren’t you mad? How are you able to move on as if nothing happened? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get hurt again?
Maybe I am, but I’ve made the decision not to live with anger. As a result, the frequency of the “issues” between me and my ex-husband has decreased considerably. (As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I make him angry too, and he also lets it go.)
Letting go of anger doesn’t mean you’ve accepted, agreed with, or approve of the other person’s action or behavior. It means you are refusing to harbor a negative emotion that’s doing nothing but eating away at your core. You’re choosing to focus on the positive – and to sleep better, look better, be healthier, and feel calmer. The true winners, of course, are your kids.
The next time you get angry, ask yourself:
- What purpose does my anger serve?
- Who is my anger really hurting?
- How does being angry benefit me?
- How does it affect my loved ones?
- How is being angry helping or solving the problem?
- How can I let it go?
And then throw that potato away, as far as you can. Someplace you can’t see it or smell it.