Are you still angry and resentful towards your ex?

Different emotions are involved when you let go or end a relationship. People who go through this liken it to death. And like grieving for death, either or both of the persons involved may experience the different stages of grief including anger. Experts believe that on average, we get angry at least once a day.[1]

Anger is a powerful and basic human emotion. It is usually triggered by emotional hurt. We usually feel angry when we think we have been mistreated, injured, opposed to, or when we faced challenges that keep us from achieving our goal.

The intensity, frequency, and how long we keep anger varies. Experts believe that on average, we get angry at least once a day.[1] Although anger is a totally normal and unavoidable emotion, it can have an impact on our health and well-being and can put a strain on the relationships with ourselves and the people around us.  

Why You May Still Be Angry with Your Ex

It’s normal to feel angry after the relationship ended. We may feel angry towards our ex, yourself, at the Universe for letting this happen, and even for certain people and situations that we thought have something to do with the breakup.

While it’s normal to feel angry at some point after the relationship ended, it’s not typical to stay angry for too long. At times, we may still feel angry or resentful towards our ex because we think it’s a form of revenge – of showing the other person how much he/she has hurt us. Sometimes, we have this form of fantasy that if we hold on to that anger or resentment for that long, the other person may realize how much he/she has hurt us and in return, would feel bad or worse than we did.

There are also some of us who may still feel angry towards the ex because it makes us still feel connected with them. Since anger is such a strong emotion, it can have the same form of intense attachment as love.[2]

What Happens When You’re Angry

Anger is a primal instinct. It’s one of the most primitive emotions hard-wired in our brains.[3] When we are angry, the amygdala, part of the brain responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events, is triggered. It reacts to the stimulus and causes a series of body response.

Adrenal glands are one of the first few things stimulated by the amygdala. Located on top of the kidneys, these glands start to pump out chemicals like adrenaline. The release of these chemicals creates a series of physical and emotional response including an increase in heart rate and aggression (this results when the body starts producing testosterone).

When we’re angry, we do not just feel our rapid heartbeat and notice our cheeks flushing, we also notice that we start to speak louder and faster.

The chemicals released when we are angry can also take a toll in our health. Researchers found out that being angry increases our risk of heart disease, decrease our lung function, and speed up our aging process.[4]

The Different Stages of Anger

There are different stages of anger and one can go from one stage to the next very quickly.

  1. Bothered
    This is the initial stage of anger when something starts to bother us and we can’t help it. At this stage, we could be rolling our eyes in the back of our head. 
  2. Mild irritation
    We start to feel mild irritation when we think we’re right but other people think otherwise.
  3. Annoyed
    We get to the point of annoyance when we no longer care what other people think. We may start to roll our eyes on them.
  4. Indignation
    During the indignation phase, we start to confront people.
  5. Frustrated
    From indignation, our anger can escalate very quickly and turn that into frustration. At this point, we start to take our anger out on inanimate objects.
  6. Infuriated
    Uncontrollable anger like infuriation may lead us to do things to express our anger. This includes screaming.
  7. Hostile
    Hostile is the stage when we start to hurt people as a result of our anger.
  8. Wrath
    When our anger doesn’t dissipate, we can go from throwing inanimate objects to other people to threatening them.
  9. Fury
    We are furious when we get to the stage of making our threats to other people a reality.
  10. Rage
    The final stage of anger when we do unimaginable things to express our anger and get rid of the stimulus that triggers it. This stage is very crucial as it is often at this stage that we begin to do things that we regret later on.

What You Can Do to Manage Anger

Each of us have varying tolerance for frustration. This explains why some people get angry more easily than the others. These are people who easily get frustrated or annoyed even with the smallest things. One study suggests that this low level of tolerance for frustration could be genetic.[5] This simply means that being ‘hot-headed’ can run in families.

Anger, when unmanaged properly, can be a destructive emotion. This is why it’s very important to know what triggers our anger and coming up with effective strategies to deal with it. Here are some of the effective ways to keep the triggers from escalating into full rage.

  • Learn to relax
    Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and visual imagery can help in calming down angry feelings. Even relaxing and non-strenuous activities like yoga can help in managing anger. A study published by International Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that yoga can produce a temporary self-contemplative mental state and there are evidences showing  that it can suppress sympathetic activity.[6]
  • Manage your thoughts
    Cognitive restructuring is changing the way we think. Whenever we use the words “always” and “never” when talking to someone when we’re angry, we do not only humiliate and alienate them; we also make them feel that nothing can be done to solve the problem.

    A good way to reframe things when we’re angry is to think that things may be this bad and it’s frustrating but it’s not the end of the world.

    Managing our thoughts can also help in letting go of our resentment towards our ex. Instead of clinging to the thought of him/her cheating on you or the thought of you not doing enough, it’s better to have that mindset that we are in a better situation now.
  • Take it as a learning experience
    Anger can be a powerful emotion but when we learn to forgive and let go of our ex, it’s also one way of letting go of our anger and resentment towards them. When we learn to let go and see things as part of a learning experience, we no longer let anger have control over us; we are no longer in bondage to the wounds of our past.
  • Seek professional help
    When our anger lead us to do things that are against the law, make us violent, and affect the relationship we have with the people around us, then it’s time to seek professional help.

    There are different kinds of professional help available for anger management; one of which is hypnotherapy.

    We, hypnotherapists, know that problems with anger management stem from the past experiences. Through different hypnosis techniques, we help you find out the underlying cause of the problem and change your response to your anger triggers.

    In my hypnotherapy practice, I combine hypnotherapy and coaching in order to help my clients feel more calm and at ease and help them dissolve their anger-related thoughts.

It’s never easy to let go of powerful emotions like anger but doing so can have a positive impact in our lives including our health. It may not be easy but it’s doable especially when we reach out for some help.

Image: Kelvyn Skee
References:
[1] “What Is Anger?”. Mentalhelp.net. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.
[2] “The Real Reason You Can’t Stop Hating Your Ex”. Psychology Today. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.
[3], [4] “10 Facts About How Our Brain Gets Angry”. Nat Geo TV Blogs. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.
[5] “A Functional Polymorphism Of The MAOA Gene Is Associated With Neural Responses To Induced Anger Control | Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience | MIT Press Journals”. Mitpressjournals.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.
[6] Sengupta, Pallav. “Health Impacts Of Yoga And Pranayama: A State-Of-The-Art Review”. PubMed Central (PMC). N.p., 2017. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.

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