Managing Anger and Letting Go of it : Achieving Inner Peace
How many times when you are in a stressful, upsetting situation, do you hear from a friend, “Just let it go” or “Don’t let that (whatever it is) upset you.” And, as we all know that doesn’t help you manage your anger. You could still be fuming or feeling agitated about what happened for several hours or even days. In some cases, some people hold on to that anger for years and years.
I too with all my training have often wondered why people just can’t let go. And then this past month, I found the answer. Okay, you say, what is this great insight?
Inner Peace and the Jewish New Year
Well, it started in September. For many people, September feels more like the beginning of a new year with school starting, and in some parts of the country the change of season. This time of year always brings a flurry of garage and yard sales. It seems people are clearing out of their homes, getting ready to fill it with new stuff. Along with this is the Jewish New Year. One aspect of celebrating the Jewish New Year is the casting out of stones. This is called Tashlikh – which means “cast off”. The tradition is to cast out stones in a large, natural body of flowing water (e.g., river, lake, sea, or ocean) on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Casting stones is symbolic of letting go of any aspects in your life that hinder your happiness, growth and success in life. This could be feelings, ideas, people, behavioral patterns, and unneeded parts of ourselves that no longer serve us.
Regardless of a person’s religious belief, the concept of “Letting Go” is important and critical to achieving inner peace. Harboring anger and negative emotions can negatively impact one’s health. Thus, I encourage and even suggest to family, friends, patients and even strangers to take time to gather some stones and cast out —Let Go– of those things that are impeding them from having joy, happiness, good health, and achieving their dreams. There has never been an individual that didn’t embrace this concept and many have actually gone to a body of water to cast out what stands in their way of truly “Letting Go.”
Personal Story of Letting Go
For me, I usually go to a local pond or go to Plum Island, a barrier island located off the northeast coast of Massachusetts, north of Cape Ann, in the United States. It is approximately 11 miles in length. The island is named for the wild beach plum shrubs that grow on its dunes. Also, it is a bird sanctuary for such birds as Piping Plover as part of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Therefore, there are parts of the year when you cannot walk the entire length of the beach.
However, September is a time you can walk the entire length. When I am there, I feel calm, peaceful and joyful – one with the universe. It is a place of healing and restorativeness. I try to go there weekly until the cold sets in. While I was there the other day, I met a man with his wife. They said they come every week, regardless of the weather, to walk or sit on the beach. It is a breathtaking spot. On a typical day, the ocean is calm with gentle waves lapping the shore. Along the expansive beach with high dunes, there is one spot where all of the seagulls congregate and below them are the sandpipers. I know how far I have walked when I see all the seagulls sitting together. The sand is brownish with some debris from the ocean bottom.
This year when I went to cast out the stones, the ocean was vastly different due to the effects of hurricane that devastated the Caribbean islands. The usually calm ocean waves instead were high and ferocious from the tropical storm off of Plum Island. There wasn’t a bird or animal on the beach, and when I reached the location of the typical group of seagulls that spot too was vacant. What was markedly different was the amount of debris on the beach that was being dredged up from the bowels of the ocean bottom. Seeing the intensity of the ocean and the debris on the beach, caused me to realize that if I tried to throw out my few stones they would only be quickly returned back to me. The concept of “Letting Go” would be futile!
Suddenly it occurred to me that the effects this storm had on the beach were very similar to angry person. Anyone in the presence of an enraged person would describe the intensity of emotions. Just as the intensity of the gigantic ocean waves striking the beach. If I would have walked to the ocean’s edge, I would have been consumed by these furious waves and probably drown. So too, if you engage with the angry person, you will feel the effects.
Anger Suppressed or Repressed?
Think of a time when you were enraged and overcome by anger. In that moment, there is very little that will calm you down. All the repressed feelings that you have kept inside are thrown out to anyone within ear shot.
The difference between feelings that are suppressed and repressed is being aware of the feeling. Suppressed anger is when you know you are angry and know best not to vent it. Such as, when the police officer pulls you over for speeding, you may feel angry, however, you know better than to express it to the officer. Repressed anger is when you aren’t aware of how angry or hurt you are, and on an unconscious level the feeling is internalized. If something is repressed, it’s restrained or held in. When an emotion is repressed, you hold it inside so you don’t have to show how you feel. It usually doesn’t surface unless provoked and the ability to contain it is fleeting. This is often seen in couples engaged in a heated argument, and one of them brings up an event or situation that the other person may not have even been aware was so upsetting to them. A typical example is why the husband can’t put down the toilet seat after using the toilet.
Many Ways to Achieve Inner Peace
Just as the turbulent ocean, anger brings about intense emotions, irrational thinking and also lots and lots of debris which is churned up and left on the shore.
In this moment, like the enormous crashing waves, there is no way can you decide to just “let go.” Instead, just as the ocean eventually returns to calm, you need time and space. Then and only then, can you cast out those issues that are impeding your success, growth and inner peace.
This is true for letting go of what caused your anger. It needs to be dealt with in a calmer, more mindful, peaceful and rational environment. There are many ways for you to achieve this.
The following are just a few:
- Spiritual Coaching
- Group Therapy
- Support Group
- Heart Rate Variability Breathing
- A long walk in the woods and/or the beach
For me, that day of the storm, I choose NOT to throw out my stones in the turbulent, rough sea knowing my stones would only return. Instead, I left the ocean and choose to thrown them out in a calm lake near where I live. Today, I returned to Plum Island, and found the ocean had returned to the calm, peaceful, rhythmic beauty, with the waves gently going back and forth. The seagulls were back together in their usual spot on the beach. And today there were many people on the beach too.
Anger is a normal emotion which can be caused by both internal and external events. Everyone gets angry. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems and affect the quality of your life. How we deal with the anger is the key. Learning to effectively manage anger, instead of suppressing it will result in more positive energy and peace of mind.
People use both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. Three approaches to processing and dealing with anger are expressing, suppressing, and calming.
Expressing Anger Properly
Express your anger in healthy assertive manner, instead of being aggressive or ignoring your anger all together. This could be achieved by allowing your side of the story to get heard or by dealing with the cause of the anger when it happens rather than internalize it. Also, being assertive does not mean you need to be forceful or pushy. Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively, with self-confidence and self-respect, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. So how do you do this? You must learn how to state your needs and ways of getting your needs met, without hurting others.
Anger can also be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and turn your focus on something positive. The goal is to suppress your anger and turn it into a more constructive behavior. However, not outwardly expressing anger allows it to turn inward—on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause health issues including high blood pressure, or depression.
And lastly, there is calming. This is not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses. There are many effective calming techniques, like deep breathing to lower your heart rate.
Anger Solutions and Resources℠
Thus, to achieve the change you want and to reach your goals, you need to let go of the various hurts you have endured and the issues standing in the way to peace and serenity. Just as I realized it was counterproductive to cast my stones into the angry ocean, you cannot achieve inner peace when you are in a tumultuous environment. Let the anger go, but only when the time, or in my case, the place is right.
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