This is a tough one. It’s not tough because anger is a “negative” emotion, or is likely to turn off many people around you (although both can be true). It’s tough because it’s a mixed bag, and one that can be very difficult to manage.
We’re not talking about self-help classes here – you know, the “Anger Management” parodied in recent Hollywood films. We’re talking about recognizing and harnessing the true good that can exist in anger, and how to use it effectively and efficiently.
When is anger good? It’s good when you have worked through the preliminary stages of denial and bargaining over the end of a relationship, and have decided that the super-low energy phase of situational depression has run its course. At that point, when anger floods in with its powerful energy, it can clean your head and heart and lift you out of the swamp. It can clear the way toward a brighter, more successful future.
How do you know when you’re there? Typically, it starts with a sharper, more focused self talk: “Wait a minute – wait just a doggone minute – who is the one who was trying hard to make this work? I did everything my partner wanted – and it didn’t work anyway! This is so unfair to me!”
This is the point of “critical mass” – at which things either blow up in your face, or start a cascading wave of real progress. The remarkable thing is that you can generally choose which way it’s going to break!
Anger means you are moving forward. Anger means that you are on the cusp of sorting out your own personal priorities and are ready to make decisions about your future – good decisions – the right ones, which will shape and guide your life in a positive new direction.
The danger comes from getting stuck in anger – in not being able to work through it intentionally as you did the previous stages in your thinking.
Here are three tips for using your anger productively and intentionally:
- Decide your anger is good. Don’t use it to deny or mask where you could have tried harder in the relationship, or to deny that sometimes you may have been in the wrong. Instead, decide how and where it may be justified and own that truth, so long as it is honest.
- Respect and honor your anger. It may be very worthwhile to give yourself some time to sit with it and digest it. This is where good therapeutic support can be really important. The therapeutic resources listed on this website are a good place to start if you haven’t found such support already.
- Review all of your financial and parenting options once again after you have had some time to digest the anger. Has your anger been a good teacher? Has it helped you to clarify what is most important to you? Take a fresh look at the decisions you can make, and the control you have over your life, and see if you don’t feel a greater confidence about the future.