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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: July 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letters To and From (more tools for anger)

Don't send.

But write, write and write. One of the best parts of anger is that it creates a lot of energy. While it may be hard to think of anger as having good parts to it, there may be an upside. And on the upside may be this: We can learn a lot more about ourselves and others. But we do need relief, and most of time with anger, at least the anger we know we are feeling, we want the answer right now, and sometimes the best course of action is to wait, to not act on impulse.

But waiting, when you are boiling, is no easy feat. So letters, I think, are a good way to do two good things at the same time. First, writing letters brings on relief. Maybe not relief like Niagara Falls flowing relief that we might like, but at least some. Second: writing can slow us down, help us wait, which can make a huge difference in how we respond. And sometimes this can be relationship saving. Letters help get feelings out and clarified, and help us learn more.

So there are two main types of letter writing:

1) Letters to the person with whom you are angry.

2) Letters from the person with whom you are angry.

Both can work wonders. When you write to the person with whom you are angry, let it all out. Say everything. Say anything you want. Write, rewrite, and write again. Give yourself the freedom to put it all out there.

One of the best tools for anger though, is writing a letter to yourself from the person with whom you are angry. You can apologize, explain, analyze. You can write whatever you think you might want to hear from that person. You may even be able to understand where they are coming from. Ironically enough, much relief from anger can be had from understanding the other person's character, history and perspective. Amazingly, you may find that in addition to getting relief, you will open up new doors inside yourself as well. Sometimes, you can even figure out if you had a role bringing your anger about. This too can be relieving.

Some guidelines.

~Don't write letters on email, text, Facebook, etc. The temptation to send them on impulse is way too great. Try the good ole fashioned way: a pad and pen. Or a word document. You can save them, print them, put them in a safe box. But don't send them.

~If you do feel tempted to send, have someone you trust, who knows you well and respects you enough to be honest with you, read it first. Discuss the pros and cons of sending it.

~Wait. Wait at least three days, three weeks or even three months. Reread your letter on a different day, at a different hour, and during the day, and then if you still want to send it, discuss again with a trusted third party.

As always, easy does it. And of course, letter writing is only one of many tools to deal with anger and with hurt. But I do think that when we are willing to tend to anger, to acknowledge it and work it though, we benefit in many ways.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Okay, at the risk of sounding hokey (is that the word?) I am going to tie anger into the theme of July 4th. It's not such a stretch, since declaring Independence from anger can actually be cause for celebration. If only it were that easy.

Since many folks have been asking me lately about how to deal with anger, I thought maybe this would be a good day to start a series of posts about anger. (At least I think it will be a series. We'll see how it goes.) And since anger is such a hot topic, I am looking forward to posting on it.

I think anger is such a hot topic because it's so painful, and because there are so many different faces of anger. And because anger can influence the way we act, and live and love and work. We often don't know we are angry, or how angry we are until we have really talked a lot about ourselves, or our moods, or our history, or what is not working as well as we'd like it to in our lives. Sometimes anger hides behind depression, addiction, people pleasing, busyness, sleep. Sometimes it's right there front and center. Anger is not the same thing, at least not all the time, as temper. Anger can last a few minutes, a few hours or a few decades.

So in the quest for independence I think there are a few basic ideas to begin with, and then a whole bunch of tools that can help move you from where you are to where you want to be. The ideas are these:

~Some part of you has to be willing to consider the idea that you may be angry (if its not clear to you).

~You (most likely) cannot order yourself to stop being angry.

~To move through and on from anger, some part of you has to be willing to, or want to.

~Letting go of anger does necessarily mean that you have to forgive or forget.

~Most likely, when you are angry, some part of that anger is directed toward yourself.

~Paying attention to anger is well worth the effort. next post will start with some "tools."
Enjoy the fireworks.

And an unrelated PS....for anyone interested in some great webtools for social workers, check out this blog post.