Letting Go of Anger and Resentment

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. ~

Letting Go of Anger and Resentment

Everyone has been wronged by someone else at some point in their life. Sometimes, the physical and emotional scars caused by this trauma can begin to feel unbearable. While it can be difficult, letting go of anger and resentment can be an extremely freeing experience.

Why Should I Let Go?

While being angry at the person who hurt you might feel good at first, continuing to be angry can lead to adverse physical and emotional consequences for you. Some of the possible consequences of long-term anger include heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Depression and anxiety are among some of the emotional consequences that you may suffer.

How Do I Let Go?

Of course, knowing that you should let go of anger and resentment is the easy part. Actually doing it is often a lot harder. If you are ready to let go of the anger and resentment that you have felt for months, years or even decades, there are several things you can do to get started.

Write It Down

Acknowledge your anger and write down what caused it. This can be done in a journal, in the notes section of your phone or even just on a piece of blank paper. Don't hold back. Write your thoughts and feelings down and let all your anger flow onto the paper or document. It doesn’t have to be full well thought out sentences, it can even be just words or bullet points. If you prefer, you can also draw or paint a picture to express this anger. What colour would your anger be? Would it have a shape, texture, image or metaphor? What would it say if it could speak? Acknowledging these feelings is important. Once your anger is written down or drawn, it is up to you to decide what you want to do with it. You can rip up the paper. You can store the paper or the journal somewhere you can use it again when the angry feelings return. You may even want to share it with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional.

Chose to Stop Focusing on It

Once you have acknowledged your anger, it might be time to make a choice to stop focusing on it. As long as you are focused on your anger, you are not going to be able to let it go. When you feel the anger building up, try to instead focus on something positive in life. This is called attention switching. Some people have found that creating a gratitude journal helps them to focus on positive rather than negative feelings. It can also help you decrease your emotional response toward negative situations.

You may also want to consider engaging in a habit that takes your mind off your anger and resentment or which allows you to discharge some of the energy associated with that anger. Exercising, such as boxing, running, or lifting weights might be a good option. Cooking, drawing, or watching a movie with a friend may also help.

Mindfulness Meditation

Spend some time being present with and getting to know your anger. Mindfulness teaches you how to turn towards things that are difficult within us, rather than avoid them. Bring curiosity, non-judgment, interest and kindness to your anger and/or resentment and take a closer look. What are the thoughts that arise when you open to your feelings? What are the sensations that arise and pass, moment-by-moment as you observe the anger. Where exactly do you feel it in your body? Does it change at all as you bring mindful attention to the sensations in the body in a friendly and interested way? Breathe calmly and steadily with the sensations, feeling rooted to the surface that you’re on. Remind yourself that we are accountable for our own emotions and how we process them. With practice, and guidance, we can learn how to reduce anger and to let these difficult feelings go in moments where we’re caught and tangled up. Being able to get to know anger and other unpleasant emotions builds our tolerance, confidence and resilience.

Do It For You

When deciding to let go of anger and resentment, remember that you are doing it for you. You are not doing it for the other person. As the Buddha wisely said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. We are the recipient of that anger. It is also important to realize that just because you let these feelings go does not necessarily mean you have let the other person's actions go. It doesn’t mean you like what happened or consent to what happens. It just means you’re accepting reality as it is and are letting it now be in the past. When your attention and thoughts drift to the memories, hold your hand over your heart, feel your body breathing in the present moment, and remind yourself that you have let go of the emotions associated with that past hurt. At times, letting it go may mean ending a toxic relationship or only continuing to associate with someone based on your own stipulations.

Of course, these are just a few of the strategies for letting go of anger and resentment. Working with a therapist can also be an option if you’d like some professional support and guidance through the process. This is especially important if you are faced with roadblocks that are difficult to overcome.

It is important to know that different strategies work better for different people. It is also important to remember that letting go of anger and resentment generally takes time and is a process. If you have been feeling anger and resentment for years, at first, you may find that the feelings have only faded a little. As time goes by, you may realize one day that it's been days or even longer since you felt those feelings.