A recent question came up on our forum this morning, which prompted me to write about anger. When recovering from a toxic relationship, feelings of anger are incredibly intense. The question as to whether you should write him a letter or not to express your anger often comes up.
My answer to this is that you can and should write a letter expressing your anger, but do NOT send it to him. Write it for yourself, but do not share it with him. He will only use it to make you look spiteful and it will give him satisfaction he does not deserve.
Instead, honor your anger. Get it out! Share the letter with us here, if you'd like. Many of us were taught to repress anger, especially women. Anger has a negative connotation because most people associate it with aggression. But in reality, anger is followed by violence only 10 percent of the time, according to Howard Kassinove, PH.D., co-author of "Anger Management: The Compete Treatment Guide for Practice." Many of us are conditioned to feel shame for feeling any feelings of anger. We feel guilty if we express anger.
It is important to realize this is irrational and keeps us stuck. We must feel our feelings to heal! It is ok to be angry about how we were treated in the past. We must acknowledge and honor our feelings. We are entitled to feel the way we do.
We may not only feel shame, but in the case of our Narcissist, we simply do not want to face the truth. To face the truth means we have to make changes in our life that will not be easy. It takes courage to get real. I know I buried my head in the sand for years at the end of my marriage. I didn’t want to admit that my marriage was not working. It is simply easier to deny things sometimes. However, to deny our feelings is to deny our true self and is no way to live.
Used productively, anger can help us restore our self-esteem and exert more control over our lives. Processing our anger is absolutely critical to our recovery. However, we must be careful in how we process it. Anger is neither a positive or negative emotion. How we RESPOND and REACT to anger is what makes all the difference in the world. The key is not to avoid anger, the key is to learn how to RESPOND to anger.
The idea of constructive anger is gaining a great deal of empirical support lately. Research tells us that processing our anger in productive ways leads to health benefits. Experts say that constructive anger can improve intimate and work relationships.
It is one thing to stay silent when you disagree with someone or something, but quite another to simply allow others to walk all over you. Some of you may just be starting to realize what an abusive relationship you were really in. I would guarantee that feelings of anger and resentment towards your significant other are what finally caused you to see the light and take action. Anger is a natural defense mechanism designed to protect us from abuse. We should never deny our feelings of anger.
Anger like all feelings is a normal, healthy and essential emotion. Getting angry does not make you a bad person. Personally, I believe without this instinct we would be extinct. Anger is a biological safeguard to ensure our survival. Anger is our body’s response to internal or external demands, threats and pressures. Anger warns us that there is a problem or a potential threat. At the same time, it gives us courage to face the problem or meet the threat by providing us with a release of the hormone adrenaline.
Adrenaline prepares us to meet the threat by raising our defenses and giving us a boost of energy. This in turn provides us with added strength to fight off our enemy or added speed in which to run from the enemy. Think of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory. We should never ignore our emotions. They exist for a reason: to warn us, protect us and guide us through life.
Cruel behavior or abusive remarks from others should not be tolerated. We have a right to be angry when someone hurts or insults us. It is a threat to our emotional well-being. Anger is the emotion that alerts us that something is wrong and causes us to finally take action.
Do not hide from your anger. You must recognize it as a signal that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. We become angry because there is an issue of some kind that requires our attention. In my opinion, anger is like an internal alarm system telling us something is wrong. To ignore it is dangerous.
Research tells us women who do not acknowledge anger or do not process anger in a healthy way are more vulnerable to health problems. Rates of diagnosed breast cancer are found to be higher in women who have never openly expressed their anger.
Do not repress your anger. Acknowledging your anger is the first step in releasing resentment and ultimately allows you to move on. Forgiveness is a personal choice each of us should make. I do not believe it is necessary to forgive the person who abused us. However, I do think it is critical we forgive ourselves for falling for someone who wasn’t who we thought they were. We must not beat ourselves up for the time we spent in a toxic relationship. We did absolutely nothing wrong but believe in the goodness of another human being. Forgiving ourselves is essential.
Hopefully, you’re beginning to see the importance of acknowledging and processing your feelings of anger when they occur. If we do not allow ourselves to feel anger, we lose out on the benefits of it – motivation, strength, energy, power and protection.
Many of us do not realize just how powerful a force anger can be. When anger is used to motivate us to make life changes that promote our emotional well-being, it is positive. However, when we express anger through aggressive or passive-aggressive means, it is negative.
Anger can motivate you to make needed changes in your life or it can make you emotionally and physically ill if you hold it in. It can empower you or it can kill your relationships if you take your anger out on someone in the wrong way. Instead of being honest and acknowledging their anger, many people shift blame, project and abuse others.
I believe the way you handle your anger affects all of your relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Many of us are so afraid of anger that we direct the anger inward at ourselves instead of expressing it outward. Others take their anger out on innocent people. Anger externalized can lead to violence, while anger internalized causes depression and health problems.
Process your anger by writing. Express your feelings through art or music. Create something beautiful to honor yourself and your emotions. Workout, kick-box, run. These are all healthy ways of processing anger and agression. You are entitled to your feelings and should not repress them!
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
~Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C