Hang on to unexpressed anger and say hello to depression. Psychologists tell us that’s how it works. From my personal experience, I agree. It took me a while to learn this, but I’d like to offer you three ways letting go of anger and resentment will change your life, just like it changed mine.
How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment
I want to focus on the life-changing results of letting go of anger and resentment, but if that’s still a challenge for you, fear not. There’s helpful how-to about that ready and waiting for you here.
The First Way – Powerfully Good Outcomes
Anger and resentment, like joy, fear, and sadness, are types of emotional energy. Like all energy, even the types we don’t want to experience, anger and resentment have a purpose. They offer us guidance. There are excellent righteous reasons to be angry, and we sometimes ignore those reasons at our own peril.
Imagine that, 10,000 years ago, you and your tribe huddled in a cave as you listened to the roar of a hungry prehistoric tiger just outside. You can feel the fear in everyone present. The tiger has stalked you and your people for some time, making life more difficult than it ought to be for everyone. In your imagination, you feel the fear. You also feel another kind of energy that urges you to do something about the tiger…something that will banish it for good. That other energy – the type that isn’t fear – is anger.
Instead of making us cower, the energy of anger makes us act. We need that energy to take on the tigers that threaten us. Anger is powerful and, back in the day, humans needed power to vanquish tigers. Of course, we still get angry these days. Used properly, the energy in anger helps us rise up confidently against the dangers of our world.
When anger energy is properly and appropriately applied, things change for good. Our world seems to be in bitter disagreement about the proper and appropriate application of anger, but understanding how to use anger starts with each of us, individually. Experience is helpful so that we become familiar with how much anger energy is sufficient for a given response.
We can measure the proper and appropriate application of anger energy by its results.
Issues ranging from child abuse to political narcissism reveal a huge range of inappropriate anger-based responses! Healthy, emotionally strong, confident children result in part from the skillful use of anger energy by their parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors. The world’s most successful economic and social systems have resulted in part from anger energy applied properly on the scale of a nation-state. Proper use of anger energy is a big part of protecting our children and our countries from dangerous threats.
So, the first way that letting go of anger and resentment will change your life is to reward you with beneficial outcomes. Lock up all that unused anger and you lose its useful energy. Use the anger energy properly and you’re free from the threat of self-induced depression, or terror-inducing blind psychotic rage.
The Second Way – A More Peace-Inspired Life
If you knew that you were doing something hurtful to yourself, would you stop doing that thing? Like a volcano that is close to eruption, there’s only so much anger energy a person can contain before something blows. I happen to believe that part of the reason things are so volatile in society these days is that the world has repressed anger for so long. Sure, we like to laugh about movies like Anger Management and Analyze This, but did you catch the warning signals? If anger was in proper use, would we have to laugh about how inappropriate and uncontrolled its expression can be?
Anger is a big business in the therapeutic world. By the time psychotherapy encounters anger, though, it’s too late. We wouldn’t need therapy for anger issues if we’d learned how to use anger correctly in the first place!
Whether through therapy or self-work, your task is to learn how to let the anger flow, rather than letting it build up inside or leak out all over the place. It’s just as crazy to hold on to anger as it is to let it poison everyone and everything around you. Who needs that?
It has taken most of my adult life to learn this lesson, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Am I anger-free? Depression-free? Not yet. But I’m better. Life is more peaceful, both for me and the people around me.
The Third Way – Be The Change You Want To See In The World
We have to clear up a bit of mythology before going forward: this pithy aphorism is often attributed to Gandhi, but he never said it. What Gandhi actually said was:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
The point here is that, as we come to a more useful practice of anger (that’s what this article is all about!), we start to change the world’s perception of us.
As you look around the world today, there are plenty of loud and disturbing examples of what inappropriate anger can do. The media thrive on reporting them, and many of us thrive on consuming them.
That’s not right or wrong per se, but some of us want to know if the results of this popular practice of anger are actually the way to sustain the world. Some of us want to know why righteous anger doesn’t have a place at the same table as psychotic anger or chronic depression, or narcissism, or whatever “mental illness” might be in play there.
Some of us are steady in our anger about the damage being done, and persistent about our disdain towards the outcomes of those doing the damage. (Notice the anger is not directed at those doing the damage, but at the outcomes.)
And, for all of us, Gandhi’s promise rings true: the attitude of the world changes toward us. And usually not in a good way. Powerfully good outcomes and lives inspired by peace are bad for the business of fear and hate. But we would rather use our anger energy productively than hurtfully, for good rather than for harm.
Like Gandhi, we understand the end game of anger and resentment can be ugly and destructive, and we choose the opposite.
Deus ex Machina
It is high time for “something unexpected or implausible” to disentangle the story of our world. Could it be the appropriate use of the energy in anger? I trust you to decide for yourself and to give yourself fully and consciously to that choice.
You’re Not Alone
This can be lonely work. Every so often, though, we meet a fellow traveler and journey together for a while. If that’s you, walk with us. Contact us here.
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Three Ways Letting Go Of Anger And Resentment Will Change Your Life