At one point or another, we felt angry, betrayed, hurt, and utterly disappointed at someone.
Feeling those emotions are normal. But holding them in and not letting them go—now that’s where the problem comes in.
Anger is a powerful force that can take over your emotions. So when you hold on to it, it may lead you to say or do things that you wouldn’t think you were even capable of.
Lawrence Douglas Wilder said it best, “Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything.”
Holding on to anger and hate only leads to destruction.
It will cause you to irrationally and impulsively react to certain situations which can compromise your relationship with other people. But how does one let go of anger and hate?
We asked experts to share their insights on how to deal with these emotions in a healthy way.
Clinical Psychologist | Founder, Purple Heart Behavioral Health LLC | Best Selling Author | Transformational Speaker
Welcome the uncomfortableness of being vulnerable
Anger is what we call a secondary emotion. It’s an emotion we have when it’s actually too hard to experience what we really feel. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we can have the true emotion that is being masked, such as disappointment, guilt, hurt, shame or even worthlessness.
It is just so much easier to be angry or to profess hate. All the while we are really hurting or broken and want to feel love, encouragement and something good about ourselves.
If a romantic partner does something to cause a rift in the relationship, such as infidelity, it is ever so much easier to be upset and angry rather than experience the hurt and disappointment of the betrayal.
Related: How to Get over Infidelity Pain
There may also be fear about the future which can be quite distressful. With so many emotions that could occur, anger and hate allow us to sum it up in one easy to manage emotion.
When we welcome the uncomfortableness of being vulnerable, we allow ourselves an opportunity to heal from the true emotion of disappointment or guilt and then negating feelings of anger or hate.
Clinical/Community Psychologist and Psychoanalyst
Process the more vulnerable feelings that sustain our anger and hatred
Letting go of anger and hate is often less about letting go of an incident—or even series of incidents—and more about finding ourselves repeating relationship patterns that trigger the dynamics of old and unresolved interpersonal conflict.
Anger and hatred often turn out to be reactive defenses that, in a given relationship, protect us against experiencing the more vulnerable and intimate feelings that they cover us: pain and fear.
Of course, when we think about letting go of anger and hate, we tend to think about it as a process of forgiveness and amend-making—that is, us forgiving someone else for the wrongs he or she has done us.
And while the occurrence and process of forgiving someone for what she or he has done to us is not easy, and, depending on the degree of hurt and harm, not always possible, this is still a process that stresses the harm done us, and tends to rely on the contrition of a someone else.
What I find, however, is that a more effective way to genuinely let go of anger and hate is to look for the answer to two uncomfortable questions:
- What, if anything, could my part in the issue, problem or injury be?
- What might I be getting out of holding onto the anger and hate (and injury)?
There are many instances where the answers to those questions are so fully inundated with our own legitimate pain that we cannot imagine how (or if) either of those questions are relevant.
There are also psychological defense mechanisms (specifically, denial, rationalization, and projection) that make accessing the answers to these questions elusive—perhaps impossible—to ascertain.
To be fair, there are many instances where letting go of anger and hate does require some genuine sense of contrition by the party who caused it: an apology, a change of behavior that has some degree of duration, depth and sincerity.
But we are not always going to receive that (often we will not), and we might still very much want to be released from the burden and the baggage of carrying anger and hate from previous injuries into the new and current relationships (we psychoanalysts call that transference).
So, back to the answer to our questions. The discovery of our part in the anger and hatred that we experience has nothing to do with blaming the victim (us, when we’ve been hurt). It is about taking inventory of our own behavior and developing a better understanding of ways that we may—without our awareness—place ourselves in situations where we are likely to be hurt.
Often, we find that when we are holding onto anger and hatred, it relates to a dynamic that we keep repeating (for instance, dating a person with whom we re-enact a familiar pattern of interaction) with the people we attract and are attracted to—especially romantic.
The what-might-I-be-getting-out-of-this question can sometimes feel like adding insult to injury. Psychoanalysts call this “secondary gain.” Our actions can express our hurt or fear in ways that allow our feelings to bypass awareness (i.e., acting our behavior). When this occurs, we are unaware that we have an emotional investment in seeking out and repeating the behavioral patterns that put us back in touch with unresolved conflict.
Often the acted out “gain” is that we have a valid reason to protect ourselves from emotional vulnerability (from being hut again). But the cost of this is high: we live with the anger and hatred that fuels our defenses, and often feel isolated and lonely.
But when we answer these questions in the affirmative, when we see what our part in the incident that caused us to feel and hold onto anger and hatred, and assess what, if anything, there is to be gained from it, we empower ourselves to see what it is going on.
With this vision, we can question our own behavior and ask ourselves if, when and how we might “put ourselves in a position to be hurt.”
Most of us genuinely desire to heal our old wounds, and repeating unresolved conflicts in current relationships—while they can and do trigger often intense feelings of anger and hatred—also gives us a chance to resolve, with the people in our contemporary lives, the old wounds that have not yet healed.
With the insight gained by answering these (tough, penetrative) questions, we can process the more vulnerable feelings that sustain our anger and hatred. When we do so we can begin to let go of anger and hatred and have a better chance of not repeating the underlying dynamics that placed us in positions to be hurt.
Psychotherapist, Trinity Wellness
Honor those emotions
Don’t try to rush past them. They’re telling you something, and chances are there is a way that your emotions are trying to protect you. That doesn’t mean you have to accept them or believe what they’re telling you—just honor the role that they’re playing. They’re trying to help you.
Explore what these emotions are trying to tell you. Chances are, they might be a clue that the person you’re feeling anger toward didn’t live up to your expectations in some way.
What expectations did you have of them?
How did they fall short?
Were your expectations legitimate?
Also, ask yourself if what you’re feeling now might be tied to experiences you had in the past that you haven’t fully worked through or processed yet. Some of what you’re feeling might not be about this person or this situation at all, but might be about a previous relationship and experience that’s similar to what you’re going through now.
Until you fully explore and process these emotions, they’ll keep resurfacing.
Author, Superior Self series | Nutrition Educator
Write down anything that you feel is holding you back
The longer that we are alive on earth the more negative experiences we have. The longer we are alive on earth the more positive experiences we have. So basically our holding onto those bad experiences more than our good experiences may result in resentment and bitterness towards the world, and it even poisons good moments in our lives.
Basically, it is what we choose to look at; is the glass half empty or is the glass half full?
If we are holding onto the negative things that happened in our lives, sometimes writing down what we would have wanted the outcome to be is helpful in letting it go forever.
For example, if you have been cheated on by a lover or spouse, rather than hate the future possible lovers or spouses or swear off relationships with bitterness and hatred, write down how you would have preferred the ending of the relationship to be. Your imagination can be a healer.
If I’m treated unfairly at work and someone is sabotaging my efforts, I can hold on to the anger and not trust any new coworkers. I may be guarded. Rather than hold on to the anger, I can use the Negative Thought Pot.
Related: Building Strong Work Relationships
This is a small ceramic pot that I used to burn up negative thoughts on little strips of paper. I write down anything that I feel is holding me back inside my head or heart, or any self-deprecating thoughts I may have. I scroll up the small piece of paper and I set it on fire inside the clay pot.
This allows me to see a physical response to something that’s inside my body and mind. The next time that angry negative thought or hatred comes into my space, I can remember burning it up physically and destroying it. Then I am free to write myself a new story.
Editor | Content Provider, e-counseling.com
Look forward, not backward
Some life lessons hurt. We can choose to protect ourselves from more pain by reminding ourselves of a grudge, the source of our anger and pain as if that memory can serve as a filter to keep out future problems.
The irony of that “I won’t let myself be hurt twice” mindset, though, is that it keeps you bitter and does not make your life better.
Harboring a sense of anger and hate prevents your ability to accept change, hampering your ability to adjust to life which tends to change over time. It prevents your ability to see life from different perspectives that can prove valuable. Your anger and hate don’t hurt the person you’re thinking of.
They also promote a false sense of security when you deceive yourself into believing that your enduring anger or hate can help you to control other people’s actions. The best mental health professionals can’t even pull off that trick!
Letting go of anger and hate is a matter of overcoming fear and everything that can lead to it, such as disappointment, embarrassment, knowing that you were lied to, and more. The person or people who hurt you will not be affected by your long-lasting negativity. You will, though, and in negative ways.
Get past all that with the realization that jerks, scoundrels, in-laws who behave as outlaws, rotten neighbors and anybody else who messed with your happiness don’t get to live in your head rent-free. Toss them out and free up space with a sense of acceptance, and of increased social sophistication.
Social sophistication comes with a sense of acceptance: life has limits and pain is not preventable. Life also allows some do-overs.
Forgive yourself for being human and move forward.
Cry over the emotional and physical or financial losses that you’ve experienced. Grieve until you’re ready to breathe in fresh air and to start over.
Behave in a cultured manner, proud of your efforts and of your interactions with people. Do things to benefit yourself and never at the expense of someone else. Think constructive thoughts and take constructive actions.
Wallowing in misery is a guaranteed road to failure and endless anger and/or sadness. Skip it. Re-assess what went wrong, why, and what you can do to prevent repeating the mistake(s) involved.
Recharge your emotional strengths with memories of when you succeeded in the past. Think about why you succeeded, and take notes on that. Repeat the strategies that have worked for you. Explore other strategies that might prove helpful. And when you need a pep talk, ask a friend or mentor for one. They can prove helpful.
Letting go of anger and hate is a process, not an instantaneous 1-2 punch.
You’ll make mistakes. But sometimes you’ll experience exciting insights. That’s normal. Keep practicing until you’re succeeding with your goal of focusing on positive thoughts and actions instead of negativity.
Look forward, not backward. Your blood pressure and mood will improve with the efforts you make. The rest of your life will follow along.
Certified Interpersonal Hypnotherapist | Author, The Acorn’s Song
Letting go allows room for forgiveness and healing
Thoughts are seeds that sprout into tomorrows. The more attention we give a thought, the more it will grow. Anger works the same way.
Given the right environment, anger can sprout from an acorn into an oak. But if we choose to stop putting the energy of our thoughts into the situation that angers us, the emotional charge will dissipate. Though it may not seem like it, we have a choice whether or not to carry that heated emotion inside of us.
Letting go allows room for forgiveness and healing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning hurtful actions or allowing someone to hurt us repeatedly.
Forgiveness is the refusal to allow hate and resentment to take up residence within us.
Releasing the anger and choosing to forgive is one of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves. Forgiveness shifts the power away from those who have wronged us and frees us to pursue more joy and love.
Who doesn’t want that?
Health & Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
Know the source of your frustration
Anger and hate are toxic and can seep into every part of your life. Therefore, it’s best to try to let go of these strong negative feelings, but it’s often hard to do so.
The first step is to identify why you are angry. For instance, you might be lashing out at your coworker when really you are upset over a fight you had with your spouse.
Recognizing that you are misdirecting your anger can help you cool down and apologize to the wronged party. You don’t want to burn bridges with everyone in your life, so make sure to know the source of your frustration so that you can manage the issue properly.
Also recognize that when you hate someone, you’re letting them control you. The other person might be going about their lives totally oblivious to your feelings, while you hold an internal grudge that eats away at you whenever you see them or think about them.
It’s no fun being upset at someone and being in a bad mood whenever their name comes up. So, in order to release yourself from this anger and tension, release your hate. View this as a way to free yourself from their grip, and you’ll find breaking off the hate much easier to do.
Related: What is Anger Management?
Eiram A. Nairb
Mindset and Manifestation Expert, The Blue Optimist
Anger and hate are burdens that do nothing more than destroying your happiness. These dark emotions will only cast a dark shadow over your life and make you miserable. You need not to live this way. Only you can free yourself of these destructive feelings.
Regardless of what is going on around you, you have to take responsibility for your own happiness. No one else can do that for you.
Really take a moment to step back and pinpoint the source of your anger and hate. Ask yourself “Why does this situation make me feel this way? Where did this all start?” Then ask yourself the tough question. . . “What is my role in this?”
Accepting responsibility for your thoughts and emotions empowers you to take control of the direction of your life.
When you understand that you are in charge of your own happiness, you regain control of your life and can then make the necessary changes. Your perception of the external is nothing more than a reflection of your internal.
RMT Certified Coach
Make a list of rules that will help you identify why you are feeling hate and anger
We’ve all experienced anger and hate. These emotions are particularly strong and we tend to hold on to them. What we forget is anger and hate cause stress, which also cause cortisol to be constantly dripping in our veins. Have you thought about the damage you are doing to yourself by carrying anger and hate with you?
Anger and hate don’t feel good. Period. It weighs you down and sends negative energy to those around you, which will weigh them down too.
Yes, it’s true, the cranky people create more cranky people.
Stress also wreaks havoc on our minds and bodies and can manifest into illness, injury, and mental health challenges. Why would you want to hold on to that?
While it may seem impossible, especially in the heat of the moment, there are ways to get past it.
The one thing we ALL have to do when we are experiencing negative emotions is FORGIVE. Forgive yourself and forgive others.
If you can’t reach a point of forgiving, you need to dig into WHY you are experiencing hate and anger. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help identify the root of the pain.
- What am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- When was the last time I felt like this?
- What caused me to feel this way before?
- What does this instance have in common with instances of the past?
- Are the anger and hate worth it?
- Does it stem from a lack of validation?
- Can you be “the bigger” person and forgive?
- Can you forgive yourself for allowing yourself to hold on to the anger and hate?
Did that help? By now you should have an understanding of where the anger and hate come from. Have you reached a point where you can forgive?
Let’s make a list. Ask yourself “What needs to happen for me to feel anger and hate?” Your answers are a list of rules that will help you identify why you are feeling hate and anger.
Write down the first thing that pops into your mind. Ask yourself this question over and over and over until you have 8-10 different answers.
Next, ask yourself what is the opposite of anger and hate? It’s not the same for everyone. Just make sure it’s true for you.
Now ask that same question, but this time for your opposite for anger and hate. “What needs to happen for me to feel (your opposite for anger and hate)?” Again, ask yourself until you’ve come up with another 8-10 answers that are your rules for why you feel this way.
Now that you’ve identified your rules, read through them. Do they make sense?
Do you have anything that is the same on both lists? If you do, something is wrong – you are saying the same thing that causes you anger and hate ALSO causes you the opposite of anger and hate. That’s a vicious circle to try and overcome.
Do you have things that are the opposite? This makes more sense. For me to feel anger, someone has to hurt my loved ones well being. For me to feel the opposite of anger (in my case love), someone needs to do something that shows love for my loved ones.
Read through your rules. Now that you have an understanding of what your rules are to feel anger and hate, you have the power to change them and with the power to create change, you now have the power to FORGIVE.
Related: The 16 Best Anger Management Books
Confidence Coach | Divorce Recovery Expert
Anger and hate are two very powerful emotions that we tend to cling to, even when they make us feel incredibly bad.
The effects of living with these emotions are incredibly detrimental to our physical, mental and even social lives.
For the most part, we believe that the anger is directed outwards, but on reflection, it can be so hard to let go of because it is actually directed at ourselves. People often use these strong, negative emotions to shield them from other feelings and greater fears that they don’t want to face.
In the case of a divorce, for example, it is much easier to spin in the emotions that pop straight to the surface than to face what may be next on your own.
- You will need to look at who you are angry at specifically.
- What happened?- and take a step back to be realistic about the actual event
- Was what happened something inevitable, or beyond control?
- What are the true consequences of the event that made you so angry?
- Face those fears and break them down into things that you can take in small steps
- Is there any benefit or negative to you for holding on to this? List either way
- Stop “picking the scab“. Whether that means staying away from a person or situation or letting the subject drop.
- Forgive ( yourself included)
- Anchor yourself in this present moment
- Look at new goals for your future.