Diane Roberts Stoler Ed.D.

The Resilient Brain

Managing Anger and Letting Go of it: Achieving Inner Peace

Don't let anger get in the way of your happiness.

Posted Nov 07, 2017

Something upsets you. You feel angry and hours later, you are still fuming. Get over it. Deal with it. Let it go. We hear these phrases so often, and it is certainly good to find a way to resolve the anger but some people don’t know how. In some cases, people hold on to that anger for years. Even with all of my training, I have often wondered why people just can’t let go. Several weeks ago, I found the answer.

Inner Peace and the Jewish New Year

with permission from Piaxaby
Source: with permission from Piaxaby

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. 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. 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 critical to achieving inner peace. Holding onto anger can negatively impact one’s health. Thus, I encourage 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

Personal Story of Letting Go

I usually go to a local pond or go to Plum Island beach, a barrier island located off the northeast coast of Massachusetts, north of Cape Ann. When I am there, I feel calm, peaceful, joyful, and at one with the universe.

This year when I went to cast out the stones, the ocean was vastly different due to the effects of the hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean islands. The usually calm ocean waves instead were high and ferocious from the tropical storm off of Plum Island. What was markedly different was the amount of debris on the beach that was being dredged up from the bottom of the dark ocean. Watching the intensity of the ocean and the debris on the beach, made me realize that if I tried to cast my stones they would only be quickly returned back to me. The concept of “letting go” on this day would be futile.

The intensity of the waves striking the beach reminded me of an angry person. 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 not likely walk away unscathed in some fashion.

That day, I chose not to throw out my stones in the turbulent sea, knowing my stones would only return. Instead, I left the ocean and choose to cast my stones in a calm lake nearby my home. I recently returned to Plum Island and found the ocean had returned to the calm, peaceful, rhythmic beauty, with the waves gently lapping the sandy shore.

Anger Suppressed or Repressed

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. For example, 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.

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, like why the husband can’t put down the toilet seat after using the toilet.

Ways to Achieve Inner Peace

Anger brings about intense emotions, irrational thinking, and churns up a lot of debris much like the storm at sea. Once the anger has erupted there is little you can do to stop it and in this moment, you cannot possibly 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.  

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.

There are many ways for you to achieve this. The following are just a few:

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 you’re your feelings altogether. 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. So how do you do this? You must learn how to state your needs and ways of getting your needs met, without hurting others.

Suppressing Anger

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.

Calming Techniques

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℠

with permission from Pixabay
Source: with permission from Pixabay

To achieve the change you want and to reach your goals, you need to let go of the pain 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.

Copyright © Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, November 2017

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