I’m a big fan of anger. I like how it feels as it moves through my body. I like the adrenaline rush, the momentum, the feelings of power and invincibility. I like all I’m able to accomplish when my anger is focused and directed toward a greater good. I also know the toll it takes on me and how coming off anger or in this case, rage occurred only when I was good and ready. It was much harder than I like to admit.
When I experienced this sort of intensity toward the man I once called my best friend and lover, it was an upsetting and confusing time. Here I was, caught up in something I loved feeling while being made useless by the after-effects of the high. Does the thought of your ex fill you with rage? Here are 9 empowering ways to deal with your anger and to move on.
Coping with divorce is difficult enough without the heightened betrayal, broken promises, forgotten agreements and unspoken expectations. I hold myself to a high standard, I show up in integrity so when I find myself at the effects of others’ stuff in any part of my life, I have little room for frustration and can easily lose it.
Remembering that every partnership requires spoken and unspoken agreements applies to marriages and being lovers. When trust is broken and you can no longer believe the person you once called yours, a suitable reaction is to become defensive and angry.
(News Flash: I’d like to remind you at this point in our discussion, that two people in agreement and willing to maintain their trust rarely, if ever, end things…)
So don’t expect that you’re going to be able to easily handle unexpected news during discovery or trial. When you see your lost dreams spelled out in black and white, you’re probably not going to remain serene, graceful, and generous. When you have the expectation that being pissed off and in full-blown rage is appropriate, it’ll be a lot easier for you to handle. Every fiber of your being is going to become activated to protect and defend your place in the world.
You’ve got to feel the feelings. If you’re one of those people who was taught that experiencing anger was a bad thing, you’re going to have a tough time dealing with the intensity of the rage as you try to figure out how to get over your breakup. You’ll find yourself judging your ex, your family, God, your career, the town you live in and the choices you’ve made. The anger is going to get misplaced: into your eating or drinking habits, the way you spend money, the way you pull in and try to hide your imperfect self from your friends. There’s nothing worse than being raised with some foolish idea that anger is a bad thing.
This feeling has created the biggest and the best. It’s won wars, it’s pushed people out of their comfort zones, made heroes out of men, saved lives, rescued animals, protected the environment and unfortunately, hurt some at the same time.
You need to get to know your anger. Become friends with it. Learn to channel that rage to help you solve your problems. Want to know the details of her affair? Use your anger. Need to understand where all the money went? Anger will propel you to hire a Private Eye. Need to understand how long the drugs have been part of your marriage? Anger’s a great place to start an intervention. What about all the lies, cheating, stealing… you won’t get anywhere if you sit still and pretend you can handle the news.
Anger will propel you into action and give you permission to make courage.
But if you don’t learn how to channel it, it’ll also hurt you. Remember when you were a child and you were told (hopefully) that you could feel your feelings but not harm yourself, another person, animals or property? In other words, you could cry, scream, yell, run out in a field, get on a bicycle and ride, go to a gym, run on that treadmill, play your music loud, do sports, and basically get the energy out any which way you needed to without hurting anyone or anything?
That’s what anger allows you to do - you use it to get into action and to solve your problems!
Healing from your anger:
If you didn’t get that lesson. If anger is supposed to be shoved down with food or alcohol, drugs and cigarettes then you’ve been set up for illness, disease, unhappiness, and some bad self-care habits.
If rage was a no-no and you were told never to raise your voice or step up to defend yourself against an unjust accusation, then the thought of your ex is going to be tough to deal with. It’ll haunt you as you try to move forward with your separation.
Get to know what it feels like to channel this energy:
You are so much stronger and more capable than you think! I give you permission to channel your thoughts and energy into solving your problems.
Take that fuel and use it to figure out how to get a job, start a new career, master the tech gremlins and put your pictures online or learn to live within a budget so that you’re no longer in debt or beholden to another’s fickle feelings.
When you think about your ex, plan on experiencing a variety of feelings including rage. You have to expect it’s going to go on like this for awhile. There’s blame you’re going to want to place on them. Blame, you’re going to have to take on for yourself too. Divorce doesn’t happen between two healthy people equipped with excellent communication skills and top-notch intimacy.
Divorce is inherently a betrayal problem and betrayals cause us to defend our turf.
The problems come when you’ve forgotten what it’s like to create a new life, wake up with excitement (and fear) and still get going. You’ve found yourself on the other side of negotiation and still are upset? Be wary of Post-Traumatic Divorce Disorder™ it’ll keep you stuck in anger for many, many years if you let it.
If you’re still in rage over what happened, then it’s time to just stop and get still. Consider how much control you’ve ever really had. I suspect not much. Wonder how much you can control your children, never mind time, aging, the judicial system, and the law? Probably slim to none now. And how much time have you put into trying to? I mean, I can barely control my hair on any given day never mind what my kids do in school or what my exwas doing while we were married. How the heck can I expect myself to handle my future without taking a break from the overwhelming and self-righteous anger? So I did.
It’s your choice:
I chose to get over my rage because there came a time when I was sick and tired of being angry. I couldn’t handle the rush any longer. The over-stimulation. The fists clenched, and the TMJ at night. I didn’t recognize the person I had to become to negotiate my settlement, figure out how to run my home, live in NYC with two kids on my own, and create a new career halfway through my life after not working for quite some time.
It was the fuel of anger that carved out this new me.
But it also began to take its toll. I knew if I didn’t stop these feelings, that I was going to prematurely age. I knew something had to give and I was the only one who could make that happen. I stopped liking waking up dreading my day. I didn’t like how I met my kids with exhaustion and fear, I didn’t like that every day felt like the one before, and I couldn’t imagine going on day after day with this same sort of dread and frustration.
What I did:
- I decided to take a leap of faith and let go of trying to control everything and everyone. I immersed myself in the community. Took a risk to trust others again.
- I decided I was going to stop pushing myself and see what happened.
- I was going to give the ex, the benefit of the doubt knowing that if push came to shove, it would fall in my lap anyway.
- I chose to be pleasant, not because anyone was deserving, but because I liked myself that way better.
- I decided that if I was going to be in NYC, I had better start exploring it again.
- I figured that if I was going to have a future relationship with my kids, I’d better stop expecting them to show up perfect too.
I decided that it’s better for me and my life experience to have faith and to trust - to regain the very things broken by my heartache and loss.
I didn’t decide to have faith and trust because all of sudden what happened didn’t matter, I decided to take the risk because the alternative became unbearable. I will never forget. But I no longer need to define myself by that experience.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura's a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.