You probably did not know you could feel such rage. I certainly did not. Secrets and lies are almost always central to a divorce. That loss of control over our personal life leaves us crushed, defeated and angry.
Not only is there rage toward our former partner but often debilitating rage against ourselves. We trusted and believed in this person, loved this person, and our self-confidence is shattered.
The rage serves a purpose for a while as it propels us forward, but eventually, it is wearing on our family and friends and can affect our own health.
The next part of social-emotional learning -self -management- will allow you to focus on anger management because to reclaim your life you need to reclaim emotional control. It also includes managing stress which is a big driver of your divorce anger.
In this part of the series, you want to work toward controlling your impulse to flare up in anger and manage your anger in a healthy way. We will first shift the focus inward to identify the root of your anger before you explode and learn some strategies for managing the anger reaction.
What is anger in divorce recovery?
Anger is a normal human response but left unchecked it can undermine our lives. Going through a divorce there is good reason to be angry. A future uprooted, betrayal of trust, and self blame are just some of the reasons for anger. It becomes a problem when anger controls us, and we lose the capacity to control it. Anger at your former spouse can become addicting as you replay all the wrongs in your head over and over.
That is just not healthy. The path forward requires you to reclaim yourself and your goals.
Why does understanding what makes you angry help in divorce recovery?
Understanding what makes you angry is the first step to controlling your anger. There is more to it than your former spouse driving this anger. Your life has been upended by the divorce. People you once thought were friends or family may have stepped back from your life. You may feel alone and abandoned as a result. Identifying all the reasons you are angry is the first step in taking back your personal control.
It is time to take out your Divorce Recovery Journal. We will explore what makes you angry and how you manage it.
Our reasons for getting angry are called triggers. These triggers can be thoughts around the betrayal and deception you experienced or your fear about the future. Possibly you feel a sense of abandonment or you may feel embarrassed. Embarrassment was a big driver in my anger. Perhaps it is a sense of powerlessness because your former spouse may have spread lies about you to justify their actions. Again, I know that reality. The result is that you may feel helpless, frustrated and- angry.
Take a careful look at your own anger and write down all the reasons you are angry. Make a list. No matter how trivial you think a reason might be, remember that it matters. It could be as simple as being the only one to walk the dog now.
Now answer the question: Why does this make me angry?
Take your time and answer why for each reason you have put in your journal. The why of it may not be immediately evident so do not rush.
Self-management is another way we can explore ourselves and it takes time, but it is time well spent. Investing in your own wellbeing is the absolute best investment you will ever make.
Finish as many sentences as needed:
I feel ____________ because__________________________________
As an example, you may feel afraid because your financial security has been impacted and you feel vulnerable.
Now for some emotional heavy lifting.
Begin by focusing on one step forward for each of these feelings.
My first step toward feeling less ____________ is____________________.
Complete as many sentences as needed.
As an example, you may feel embarrassed but that feeling gives your former spouse power over you. Reclaim that power. Accept you cannot change their actions. Starting right now and take control of your own feelings. When you feel embarrassed for what they did, what you allowed, change the channel in your head. Think of how you coped through it all. Change ‘they did this’ to ‘I coped by ’ thoughts.
Managing our anger
And this is where that conscious thinking helps. When you feel those emotions, identify them. Identify the trigger that might have caused it to resurface. Instead of replaying, try rejigging your thinking to something/ anything more positive. It might be the view out the window. It might be a deep breath. Every time you do that you reclaim a bit more of yourself.
Take yourself out of the anger response.
Irrational Beliefs about Ourselves
Divorce comes with a bevy of negative thoughts that are often based on irrational beliefs. One example is that the marriage failed and thus we are failures.
No, you are not.
Anger and defeat are emotional consequences of irrational beliefs. You are not the first and will not be the last person to think that they are a failure as the result of a failed marriage.
Another central irrational belief is that any criticism of you by your former spouse must be true. Why allow their criticism to have power over you?
Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.
Many believe their former spouse will come to their senses and come back but chances are they will do neither –come to their senses or come back. And would you want anyone in your life who does not value you?
These last two irrational beliefs are enormously debilitating.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.’ Maya Angelou
Times you owned your anger
In your Divorce Recovery Journal keep track of times you owned your anger. Maybe you walked away or maybe you practised some other form of self -regulation. Recognize your victories.
Forgiveness and Release
There is so much talk about forgiveness. What is rarely discussed is that forgiveness is not a black and white issue and purely about forgiving others. Perhaps most important is forgiving yourself for the choices you made.
Acknowledge that you married in good faith.
Your marriage was real for you.
Let go of your anger.
Don’t think “I can’t because “Yes you can.”
We are living through difficult times and if your life has been impacted by divorce contact The Divorce Magazine UK for your complimentary divorce coaching session with Linda. She is a divorce coach who is also a traumatic divorce survivor. Her insights and empathy will help you find your path forward to a brighter future. She looks forward to meeting you – firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.