Letting go of anger is challenging, and is often made more difficult because people don’t understand that anger is a response to other emotions. People tend to feel anger to mask things like emotional pain, and without understanding the pain, they may remain angry. To let go of being angry means acknowledging the underlying hurt, and feeling it. When this is accomplished, anger often dissipates.
In many cultures, certain emotions are more acceptable than others. In American culture it’s acceptable to be happy, to be excited, or to be angry. It is less usual for people to be allowed to be sad or hurt, except under certain conditions, like having suffered a loss. Even then, culturally, people are expected to recover from loss quickly. Additionally, especially for men, accessing feelings of pain or acknowledging them can be very challenging because men have been taught not to show their hurt.
This cultural predilection toward not expressing pain makes it extremely difficult for people who are angry. When the angry state is not viewed as a state that really masks pain and sadness, it’s hard to recover from it. The only step in letting go of anger is finding the underlying pain that is causing it. If a person is angry with someone else, it’s important to ask what is really happening.
For instance, a boyfriend fails to show up for a date. He forgot it, he had a flat tire and his cell phone battery was dead, or he just isn’t very sensitive. The girlfriend is furious. If she looks at her underlying feelings, she may notice some other things. She may have been afraid that something happened to her boyfriend. She might feel abandoned and sad, and this could evoke painful memories of her past relationships with other boyfriends or with her parents or siblings. Understanding and feeling the pain that fuels the anger is the first step toward letting go.
For many people who experience anger on a regular basis, it may be helpful to determine what kind of situations or relationships trigger angry feelings. Avoiding these situations is the first step in avoiding anger. Certain occupations may put easily angered people in constantly tense situations. Harboring anger against customers, co-workers, superiors, etc., may necessitate a job or career change in order to stop feeling chronically angry.
When angry feelings persist, many people benefit from finding ways to distract themselves from dwelling on the anger by taking up a hobby, exercising, meditating, or even praying. Something as simple as counting to ten or taking a deep breath may provide enough distance and perspective to help avoid an angry reaction or outburst. Replacing negative thoughts about the source of the anger with a positive thought may also help some people let go of anger and resentment more easily.
Confronting the person who caused the angry feelings may help as well, but in some cases, it may only fuel the anger. Many people benefit from simply talking "through" the anger with a sympathetic friend and find that they can set the anger aside more easily. Not all people are born with a predilection to be forgiving, but most people can learn how to let go of anger by focusing on forgiving the person responsible. Many people holding a long term grudge can benefit from attempting to make a fresh start with the other party.
Some people feel angry all the time and this is often because they’re not dealing with underlying feelings of deep pain. It is useful for these people to get help through therapy. Work with a therapist helps people uncover feelings that cause the anger. Additionally, a few people who are angry often or who have rages may be suffering from conditions like borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. Help for these conditions include working with a therapist and use of some psychiatric medications.