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Practical tips for dealing with anger during separation

Updated on April 29, 2015

Anger can make one prickly in personality

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Feeling angry

It is not unusual for people to feel angry during separation. In fact it is probably quite normal. But staying angry at your ex and the world for too long can lead to serious health problems.

Being angry produces a range of physiological changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and various hormones.

In addition, being constantly angry may lead you to suffer from depression and thus stop you from properly recovering from the break down of the relationship. Looking at world negatively all the time stops you from enjoying and appreciating the good times.

Remember you are in charge of your emotions. You can do something about them.

Different emotional stages of separation

Separating from your spouse (be it wife/ husband/de-facto) is emotionally taxing. It is accepted that people experience four distinct emotional phases during the process of the separation.

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Guilt
  4. Acceptance

What is also know is each person experiences these emotional stages at different times during separation to their ex partner. And more than likely how long each person spends in each stage depends on the individual and to an extent on the circumstances surrounding the separation.

Someone who finds their partner in bed with their best friend, will no doubt be angry longer than the person who decides to leave for the best friend.

Whilst it is accepted, and healthy, for these emotions to be part of separation, if one gets ‘stuck’ in one of the phases it can be difficult to move forward and out of the separation.

Being 'stuck' in one of the phases may also make it difficult to communicate effectively or make decisions that are long term based as opposed to short term.

A person who is really angry with their ex may want to punish them by spending as much in legal fees as possible to sort out things like property settlement. The long term effect of this is the more both parties spend on legal fees the less there maybe available to distribute at the end of the day.

Protracted legal proceedings rarely benefit either of the parties.

Being angry can make you feel isolated

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Degrees of anger

Anger is of course an emotion everyone experiences from time to time. It is also an emotion with varying degrees of intensity. One can be mildly irritated by something that has happened to them or extremely annoyed to the point where they want to hit someone or something.

If you have been waiting for a parking space and someone else comes along and drives in before you get a chance, you may feel slightly irriated about this. You are angry. But, hopefully, this dissipates relatively quickly.

But if you find your spouse in bed with your best mate, you will feel more than a little irritated. You will be angry. Of course you may feel like punching the culprit, but you know you cannot.

Solving your feelings of anger with violence will not solve anything full stop.

There are things though, other than turning violent, you can do to manage and ultimately get rid of feeling angry toward your ex spouse and maybe the whole world.

Recognizing you are angry

It may be difficult for you to accept you are angry and that you need to do something about it.

Ultimately it is only you though who can change.

If you have seen the movie Anger Management you may be familiar with the term used 'sarcasm is anger's cousin,' or something along the lines. Being constantly sarcastic may be a sign you are angry.

Your communications with others, particularly your ex spouse, are filled with abuse, negative statements and sarcastic comments. Comments like 'it's all your fault I'm left with nothing,' or 'it's all your fault I can't afford to get my hair done,' are indicative of someone who has not dealt with their anger and resorts to blame the other person for the situation as opposed to take charge and move on.

Once you accept your emotions you can take charge and change them.

A storm brewing

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How to change

We can train ourselves to feel different, just like we can train our muscles to do certain things. Training the brain is really no different to training muscles.

  1. Start every day by thinking about two or three things that make you happy, or bring a smile to your face. It is difficult to stay feeling angry when smiling. If you need to read cartoons to make you smile or laugh so be it. Do it.
  2. Make a list of five things you are going to do each day to make you feel good. This could be something like going to the library, or taking a walk through the park or getting your hair done. Make sure you do what you set out to do. Don't just say you are going to do it and then not see it through.
  3. Chose not to be angry. Be firm and deliberate about this. If you are out and about and someone does something to increase or make you angry, try to force the feeling away by thinking something positive. The power of thought does work. Athletes spend large parts of their training doing visualization. They do not visualize failure but success. You can do the same.
  4. Let off some steam. There is no harm in letting off steam in a controlled environment. You can let off steam by going for a run, getting a punching bag and boxing gloves and going for it, or you can go for a bike ride, swim or any other physical activity you can think off. Exercise is a fantastic way to get rid of anger. After a thirty minute run (or an hour) you will be filled with feel good hormones, which will have replaced all your negative ones.
  5. Stop being a victim and take charge of your own emotions. Blaming others for how they make you feel turns you into a victim. We all chose how we react to different situations and things people say to us. If you chose to be angry you chose to be the victim. Instead of being angry be calm. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what is the benefit to you to get angry as opposed to stay calm. Chances are there are no benefits in you getting angry, so don't.

Motivational Video Clip

Final Words

It is easy to write about techniques to stop feeling angry all the time and a lot harder to implement. But it can be done. The rocky road of separation has been traveled by many before you and will be traveled by many more yet.

Allow yourself the time to heal, but do move on and be kind to yourself. Being angry does not hurt your ex spouse, only yourself.

Also remember the saying Rome was not built in a day. It may take time to change your behavior, but it will be worth it.

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