Anger is a necessary emotion. In fact, it can be a really healthy emotion. It can tell us when our boundaries have been crossed, it can tell us when we think we’ve been treated unfairly and it can motivate us to take action to resolve the wrongs done to us, or if that’s not possible, it can give us the determination to move away from people and situations that are causing us harm.
But if left unresolved, anger can become unhealthy and morph into exhausting mental chatter that only serves to drag us down. It can make us become obsessive in our thinking and behaviour, it can skew our perceptions, transfer our negative feelings to those around us, and even create physical illness.
Unlike emotions like happiness and excitement that create energy, anger effectively consumes it; and other than time, energy is the scarcest resource we have. It’s also the most precious thing we have to create the happiest life we can. I know that when I have an abundance of energy I’m more likely to spend time actively playing and engaging with my son, making new plans, fostering new ideas and making things happen.
During some of the toughest moments of my divorce, there were times when I’d start to let my anger spiral, mulling over my husband’s betrayal obsessively, desperate to resolve a wrong that in reality, there was nothing I could do to resolve. Eventually it’d end up leaving me so drained that all I’d want to do was slump on the couch and sleep; my attention would be scattered, I’d find it hard to concentrate on conversations, I’d lack patience and enthusiasm, and nausea would become a constant background irritation that made it difficult for me to eat or get the sleep I needed to nourish myself and ensure I kept on being the best mum I could be for my son.
Then one day while I was out walking, my little boy bouncing along in his carrier on my shoulders and angry thoughts of my ex-husband pounding about in my head with every single one of my foot steps, the reality of my anger dawned on me – I was the one feeling shitty, not him. I was the one who was tired, not him. And while it felt justified, nothing about it felt motivating anymore, nothing about it felt good or positive or happy… and wasn’t that what I wanted?, to feel happy again?
Suddenly an analogy smacked me right in the face, one that made me drop the bundle of anger I’d been holding onto in a way I hadn’t been able to do before… I realised that being angry with my ex-husband was essentially just like giving him a gift – the gift of my energy. While I was expending all that energy thinking about him, I might as well have been taking every good thing I could’ve be creating in my life, dumping it all in a box and handing it to him with a big freaking bow.
From that moment, whenever I found my mind starting to churn with anger, I’d imagine myself handing him that bright red gift wrapped box filled with my energy, and funnily enough, I didn’t really want to be angry with him anymore.
Sure, it didn’t instantly stop the anger from coming, and even today certain things can still spark the feeling, but that one little analogy was the motivation I needed to stop wasting one more ounce of my energy on someone who undeniably did not deserve it.
So as you flow along the path of your divorce, or perhaps I should say ‘bump along on it like an apple cart with a dicky wheel’, if you find anger shifting from being a motivating force in your recovery to being a drain on your energy, it might help to ask yourself if it’s time to stop giving away any more of that precious gift to your ex.
About the author
Naomi is the editor of Lift e-Magazine and single mum to 19 month old Jim. For the last 12 months she’s documented her journey of single motherhood in her award winning daily blog ‘365 Days, a Diary of a Newly Single Mum’. When she’s not experimenting with new cookie recipes or planning her next trekking, climbing or snowboarding adventure, you can find her at her desk in the picturesque city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, weaving together solo mum stories… whether it be handy tips, triumphs, tragedies, exotic tales of travel or other tidbits to publish here. And before you ask, no, she doesn’t mind the freezing cold Tasmanian winters and yes, she had her second head removed years ago in an unfortunate accident involving a curtain rod and a drunk moose (and no, she’s not interested in hearing from anyone who doesn’t believe that drunk mooses exist in Tasmania… or those who may suppose that ‘mooses’ is not really a word).