Anger is normal and healthy. It is one of the five stages of the entire grief process (along with denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Not only is anger healthy, it is even considered to be an essential part of grieving. As uncomfortable as it can be to feel so angry, it is crucial to allow yourself to go through this phase.
Anger can be a very scary experience, regardless of whether it’s your own anger or anger that is directed at you. For this reason, many people try hard to avoid it. Yet feeling angry is not wrong. It’s what you do with your anger that determines whether it is constructive or destructive.
Using anger in a constructive way, such as to stand up for and take care of yourself and your children can actually serve you well. On the contrary, screaming and raging can damage relationships and self-esteem and is, therefore, destructive.
Another expression of anger not discussed as often as screaming and raging is the kind of anger in which someone seethes for years. This is the person who cannot get over the wrongs that have been done to her or him, and self-identifies as a victim. Although it may feel powerful to wield your anger over someone, it is actually quite disempowering, because you are spending your valuable time and energy thinking about the person with whom you are angry. The act of focusing on that other person is sometimes called “giving your power away.”
Because divorce is such an intense experience, fraught with feelings of rejection, failure, and mistrust, it is a situation in which people have the potential to stay angry for years. They may resent the fact that they have had to return to work, or that they now have the burden of child care responsibilities, or that they have no hope of having children anymore and feel that they “wasted” valuable years with their ex-spouse. Perhaps they trusted someone who was untrustworthy and now their anger is directed at themselves as well as at their spouse.
There are endless scenarios and reasons why people can become—and stay—angry, but if you do stay angry, you should know that the toxic emotion is in you and the other person may have no clue that you are feeling the way you do. It is always in your best interest to move beyond feeling high levels of anger.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Stronger Day By Day with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc, copyright © 2010, written by Susan Pease Gadoua