This has been a year like no other, and with all the goings-on, most everybody is agitated about something or at somebody else. Be it personal, political or pandemic-related, most all of us are holding on to some kind of anger. And that is never a good thing for the human psyche.
There is a lot of talk about unity, but a lot of people are still holding on to their opinions and hostility, which is not going to make anyone’s life better. I know we are not all going to get along, but a sense of belonging is part of our DNA — and the belief that on some level we are all connected is actually reassuring.
Anyone who promotes anger and division is an unbalanced person. They want everyone else to feel the same way they do because that validates their negativity. It makes perfect sense except for one thing: The rest of us end up having to deal with the fallout and clean up the mess. The most often used option, if you get triggered, is to stay away, but that really doesn’t work when you want to be on the same page with those around you.
When I’m angry, I don’t yell or lash out. I just walk away, and that person loses me. It takes some effort to let go of the bad feelings, and if I don’t make that effort, my unhealed wounds can get reinjured, making life harder. I don’t expect to become friends with the past, but I can allow a toxic memory to dissolve so it doesn’t become a constant thought.
I know couples who are on opposite sides politically, and they do bump heads, but they get along just fine and actually support one another. The same is true for those who feel more vulnerable to the virus living with others who are more carefree or careless — they have to learn to compromise. These kinds of dynamics can make or break interpersonal relationships, and I think we are obliged to do the work it takes to let go of our anger without making others uncomfortable.
When someone has triggered your anger, it leaves you feeling icky in a bunch of different ways. Having to navigate through those feelings takes time and energy and usually doesn’t feel very good. It’s far better to let go of your anger, because the truth is it won’t help you at all.
Once you make the realization that your anger is more destructive to you than to the person you are angry at, a little cognitive work will guide you to the proper steps to release it. There are any number of ways, from the old counting-to-10 trick to running a mile. We all have tools at our disposal to help release those negative feelings so we can find balance again.
Healing anger is the first step in healing hate. It is also necessary for any unity, and it will help us end this plague and move our lives forward again. If you keep in mind that anger only holds you back, the choice of holding it in your shirt pocket or kicking it to the curb becomes a no-brainer.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time." Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith, or email him at Barton@bartongoldsmith.com. ©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.