Managing Your Anger in Divorce
When involved in a divorce or custody case, people commonly get angry. They are faced with vindictive spouses, unhappy children, and a court system that seems indifferent to their situation. While anger can motivate you to become energized to help yourself, it is extremely important to keep it under control.
Anger is a normal emotion. It’s our body and mind’s natural way of dealing with a stressful situation, and it’s been with us since the dawn of time. There is nothing inherently wrong with anger. It’s what we do with it and how we choose to express it that often gets us into trouble. Finding positive ways to express our anger can help us to lead happier, safer lives.
Anger can sometimes get the best of us, and we usually know it when we, or someone else, gets angry. When we get angry, our physiology changes. We may shake, sweat, cry, get an upset stomach, pace, or get hot. The expression of anger varies from person to person. Some people keep it inside and say nothing, letting it simmer for hours, days, months, even years, and either explode in a rage or end up at the doctors office asking for a prescription for anxiety or depression. Others explode in a rage and end up hurting someone, landing in jail, or ending their own lives.
The best way to manage anger is to recognize it when it’s coming on. Pay attention to those physical feelings that may change how your body and emotions feel. Then make a conscious choice in how to deal with that anger. Give yourself a time out to actually think about what you should do. Take a breath, take a few steps back, calm down, think it through, because your actions will have a consequence, as all actions do. Realize that anger also cloaks other emotions, like grief, pain, sadness, revenge, bitterness, inadequacy, abandonment. Learn to identify these feelings. You may be hurt inside because your spouse calls you names, but the hurt is expressed as anger, and you may yell back, never letting the spouse know how hurt you are inside. Keeping a journal of your feelings is a good way to know what you are feeling and putting a label on it. Is it divorce that’s getting under your skin? Is it finances? Is it that you don’t feel respected by your family, co-workers, or friends?
Anger happens because we want something and aren’t getting it. Listen to your inner goals. What do you want from people? What do you expect? Are your expectations realistic? Do you expect your spouse to work long hours and then come home and do work at home too without a break? Do you expect your spouse to work at home all day and then be able to take on a second job without it affecting your home life? Do you think that your debt will go away by worrying about it? Or that your teenagers will help more around the house just by asking them?
When you recognize you are building up anger, have a few ready-made responses handy. There’s a reason why you should count to 10. It gives you time to cool off. There’s a reason why you should walk away. It may keep you from hurting someone.
The best way to handle anger is by expressing it in words, by saying what it is you’re feeling. People can’t read your mind or your emotions. They can’t know how you’re feeling unless you tell them. If your neighbor upsets you by constantly talking to your friends about you behind your back, don’t just keep it inside, don’t start mimicking their bad behavior by gossiping about them, and don’t punch them in the mouth for it. Go directly to the neighbor and tell them exactly how you feel. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel just by getting it off your chest. Starting a dialogue with the person you’re angry at is the first step in controlling anger. You can’t control how your neighbor will react. You can only control your own actions. Be ready to tell yourself that whatever happens, you don’t have to take it all so personally and let it eat you up inside, because eventually, it will if you let it. Tell yourself that in the grand scheme of life, this is just a minor incident and that your feelings will pass.
If you have a problem managing anger and feel that you need help in dealing with it, there are a lot of services available to you. You can join a support group, talk to an anger coach, go to individual or group counseling. Anger often leads to violence, and you should deal with it before the legal system does. We actually can change the world, one person at a time. We actually can control how we behave and how we treat others. We don’t have to be a victim of our emotions. Take action now and set yourself on the road to a happier, safer you.