Going through a divorce or breakup is never easy, and it can be difficult not to feel hard done by. Anger and resentments towards the ex you once loved can build quickly.
The problem is that anger, while a useful emotion in many ways, left to run rampant is also a form of stress. It can play havoc with your adrenal system and digestive system and end up draining and exhausting you just when you need to collect your energies and focus on healing.
So while suppressing or denying your anger after experiencing a heartbreak is never a good idea, and examining why you feel so angry with the support of a coach or counsellor can lead to great revelations, you also need to find ways that stop anger towards your ex – and even your life for taking you to this place of pain – from controlling your days.
5 Ways to Manage Your Anger After a Breakup
You can’t change or let go of what you are denying, so it is first and foremost important to get honest with yourself about what you are really feeling.
How big is your anger, really? When did you last (if ever) feel so angry? Is this anger triggering other, older upsets for you? What is behind the anger – sadness, despair, fear? Awareness is the first step towards change and will help you to own your feelings, which is the key to letting them go.
And you’ll also have to get honest about how you might be trying to run away from your feelings. Are you turning to drugs, alcohol, or overeating? Are you overworking or overexercising to avoid how you feel?
Also pay attention to whether you are judging yourself for feeling angry. It’s common post-breakup to turn our anger towards ourselves, too, judging our feelings and thoughts, and blaming our feelings for making us feel bad.
Perhaps you are also judging yourself for not being ‘good enough’ to keep a relationship going, or feeling things are all your fault. What would happen if you just accepted that you feel low and upset, and decided to show yourself some compassion?
2. Get physical
Science is increasingly showing a connection between the mind, body, and emotions. For some people, it can be helpful when managing anger to release it physically. This might mean bashing a pillow with a rolling pin or your fist, shouting and screaming where nobody can here you, or going for a long hard run. For other people a more calming physical exercise, like yoga, can help you feel balanced and centred even though you are processing anger.
3. Find ways to feel centred in the storm
Anger can make us feel so tense and distracted that it can be hard to get through our days, let alone when we are also dealing with sadness and then the practicalities of separating your life from that of your ex. It can be very helpful to find routes to feeling grounded.
This might involve time in nature, a physical exercise like yoga, or a few minutes a day spent deep breathing or journalling.
Mindfulness can be something that helps. Involving present moment awareness, it helps you to stay with what is going on for you in the now, instead of being so distracted by the upset of the past and your worries for the future. It also allows you to really hear your thoughts and feelings as they arise.
4. Learn the power of balanced thinking
Speaking of mindfulness, one of the great side effects it offers is helping us to choose what we think (and therefore what we feel, too, as thoughts create feelings). When we train our attention on what we are thinking, we can learn with practise to catch our thoughts fast enough that we can then decide whether to continue with a thought or instead choose another way of seeing things.
Hopefully we will choose a balanced way of thinking, instead of the extreme, black and white thinking it’s easy to fall prey to when life is challenging or we are upset. In psychology, such thinking is called ‘cognitive distortions‘. Balanced thoughts don’t involve words like ‘every’, ‘only’, and ‘forever’, but are thoughts that allow for possibility. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) especially works to help you notice and change your cognitive distortions into more useful patterns of thought and behaviour.
And when you listen to your thoughts in a mindful way, might be surprised to find that sometimes it’s your own thoughts creating and triggering your feelings of fury, as opposed to anything your ex really did in the past. At the end of the day, a lot of our negative feelings are an interpretation of what we think happened, as opposed to anything based on real fact. Mindfulness helps you to catch yourself having such distorted thoughts as well as having angry thoughts, and with practice helps you gain enough control you can consciously decide whether you want to continue to have certain angry thoughts – or not.
Your anger can in this way become a sort of guidepost. Every time you feel anger, you can ask yourself, what am I thinking or feeling here? Is it how my situation really is, or how I am perceiving it? And how could I choose to see it differently, what balanced thought could I have instead?
5. Talk it out.
Friends, no matter how well meaning, are sometimes too personally invested in our situation to be a good listener or to be honest with us. Their own desire for us to not be upset can stop us from feeling comfortable expressing the depth of our anger and sadness. Also, they might agree with outrageous things we say or do out of anger and hurt because it seems easier then upsetting us further by telling us when we are out of line.
The trouble is, to heal, we need to be able to be honest with ourselves both about what we are feeling and the choices we are now making.
Sometimes outside help can be the best thing. This might be in the form of a support group, an online forum, a coach, or a counsellor. The wonderful thing about working with a professional is that they are not invested in our situation and offer a completely unbiased perspective. They are also trained to listen fully, which in itself can be deeply healing and lead to you coming up with your own realisations that help you process and step through your anger.
Why struggle on your own when you don’t have to? When we are fresh from a breakup of a marriage or relationship we can feel so alone and awful we feel we don’t deserve help, or that we are now ‘destined’ to have to do things alone so should just ‘get used to it’. Don’t let such negative thoughts stop you from getting the support you need process your anger and heal your heart.
Have you managed your emotions after a breakup? Share your tips below, we love hearing from you.
Marina Pearson is an author, facilitator, and speaker on the subject of Effortless Living. She supports professionals and entrepreneurs to transform stress into ease and results.
(Photos by Nicolas Raymond, Michael Theis, B Rosen)