Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After a Breakup: Dealing With Anger

The start of a new relationship is often bliss. You’re energized, excited and happy. You think about him all the time and you can’t wait to be near him again. It feels so wonderfully good to have that air of anticipation and expectancy as you wonder what’s going to happen next.

You soon discover that you really enjoy each other, and maybe you even begin to envision a life together. I think Robert Browning must have been in love when the poet penned, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

Then Cloud 9 bursts. Instead of walking on sunshine, you can hardly slug through the day because longing and loss are weighing you down. Or you’re a bundle of nerves, you’re totally confused or you’re mad as a hornet.

Breaking up produces a multitude of emotions. What do you do with them? Or should you do anything with them?

While your relationship may be over, your life isn’t.

By identifying, expressing and releasing emotions you can find relief. It's not the emotion itself, it's what you do with it that matters. Left untreated or unexpressed, emotional pain can wreak havoc in your love life. You may sabotage a perfectly good relationship because of your own commitment fears. Or, you may withhold affection and trust because others have wounded you deeply.

The good news is you can get rid of emotional pain. In time, night will give way to day, and then a brand new day—your new beginning!

Let's take the emotion of anger, for instance.

1. You can write an anger letter expressing to God about what happened during your breakup and/or since then, and how you feel about it. It can even include things that happened during the time you dated, if needed. Pour out your heart—what you’re mad about and why.

2. Or, you could write a different kind of anger letter. This exercise helps you to get the release you need, but you never ever mail the letter. Picture the person who broke up with you sitting across the table from you as you write. If you could say anything you wanted to him or her right now, what would you say?  If you could say anything to them in a Christ-like way, what would you say? It’s up to you how much to include.

Basically, the purpose of the letter it to get the emotion out of you and release it. No one else will ever see what you write and you can feel safe to express yourself, vent, and be free of the tangled emotions inside of you. When you’re done, you can choose to burn or shred it if you’d like, but never (never!) mail it.

3. Write an anger action plan. In the midst of a heated conversation, sometimes you may need to leave so you (or the other person) can cool off and address your issues later. When you need to think through why you’re irritated, this can be helpful. Make a list of what happened, if you need to respond (you may not), how it makes you feel, and some potential ways you can respond. Then, after you’ve reviewed your options you can choose what to do. It will be helpful to pray before you begin.

For example:

What happened? Tony constantly cuts me off before I can finish a sentence.

Do I need to respond? Yes, I feel like I need to stand up for myself.

How does this make me feel? I feel angry when Tony doesn’t let me finish what I’m saying. I feel like what he has to say is more important than what I want to say. I feel diminished and unimportant.  

Options to responding: When Tony cuts in when I’m talking, I could say, “Could I please finish my sentence?” or “I wasn’t done yet.” Or, I could spend less time with Tony.  Or. . .?

4. Other ways. There are other ways to manage your anger too. Some people find it helpful to get punch pillows, talk to a trusted friend, pull out the Bible and read, journal their thoughts, go workout, or get outside for a long walk or bike ride. A good hearty laugh or getting some humor into your life can advance your heart toward joy again. In other words, find activities that relieve stress for you.

For more help getting through a relationship breakup, see When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty by Jackie M. Johnson.

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