In the past, I was never competent with handling my emotions. Due to this inclination, I always struggled with overcoming breakups, which are nothing more but an emotional game.
Whenever I got into a breakup, I made heaps of irrational and toxic decisions that I thought would make me feel better. (Especially when I was the dumpee). Unsurprisingly, they didn’t. They only made me feel worse.
At my best, these decisions lead me to badmouth my exes to feel better. And at my worst, they lead me to heavy-drinking, fucking, and partying my pain away.
What I was doing in all my fuckups was trying to escape my suffering, or more accurately, escape the essence of it – anger. Still, the further I tried to run away from it, the stronger the emotion got, and the longer I suffered.
So, what can you learn from my mistakes?
Well, the main lesson is that anger holds a paradoxical quality. Meaning, the harder you try and overcome, subdue or escape it, the more of it you’ll feel. And thus, as I did, you’ll suffer longer.
But now, you might be wondering, “If I shouldn’t try to stop being angry, how the hell can I lessen its clutch over me? How can I feel happier and more at peace?”
I’m glad you asked.
To my knowledge, the healthiest way to deal with your post-breakup anger is by developing three core skills. And on top of that, three critical attitudes that encompass those skills.
Let’s go over each of these elements in turn.
The skills that help you deal with ANGER AFTER A BREAKUP
The skills that we’ll cover are:
- Forgive yourself and your ex.
- Learn to notice that you’re pissed off and misbehaving.
- Redirect your “pissed-off-ness” to other, more productive tasks.
1. Forgive yourself and your ex
Some people stay angry at themselves when their relationship falls apart, thinking it’s all their fault. Others direct their anger towards their ex, thinking it’s all their fault.
Both options suck. They are like chains that restrict breakup survivors from letting go and, consequentially, living a peaceful life.
The way you can lessen the grasp of any side of blame you find yourself is with forgiveness. But Sadly, this notion never comes easily to us.
Forgiveness is something we as humans have to learn. It’s a skill no different than learning to ride a car or doing calculus. And learning this skill is a process. A long one, I must add.
In fact, the longer you’ve been holding on to your anger (towards yourself or your ex), the more time you’ll need to reach the point of resolution – a.k.a, total forgiveness.
But how does one forgive? It’s such an abstract topic, after all.
Well, it all starts and ends with a decision. You need to decide that you’re going to let someone off the hook then follow through on that decision.
I know it sounds simple, maybe even too simple, but this is truly what forgiveness comes down to. It’s like asking someone how to turn on a computer. You don’t need to think about it too hard. You just press a button, and it turns on. Again, it’s the same with forgiveness – you just decide.
So, let’s go over how you would approach forgiveness based on your breakup.
When you’re the one who screwed up the relationship:
If you think the whole breakup was your fault, learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes. We all make them. And we will all keep making them. Besides, you have to make amends with yourself, or else you’re going to keep emotionally torturing yourself.
When your ex is the one who screwed up the relationship:
If your relationship failed due to your ex, try your best to forgive them. Meaning, decide that you won’t let the things they’ve done before, during, and after your breakup affect how you live your life.
But know that this doesn’t mean you forget your ex-lover’s fuckups. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Don’t pretend as nothing happened. Just accept what has happened, and move on.
When both of you screwed up your relationship (most common case):
When a relationship ends, it’s usually because both partners somehow kept making mistakes. In fact, it’s jarringly rare that only one person is to blame for the entire breakup. Maybe your ex cheated, perhaps you’ve lacked boundaries, or you just weren’t compatible with your ex.
The solution to this kind of a breakup is straightforward: forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and your partner for the ones they made, no matter how severe.
Just remember that the sole reason you’re forgiving anyone is to help yourself feel better. When you do it, you’re going to find it easier to forgive anyone and move on gracefully.
2. notice when you’re reacting to your anger and respond intelligently
While noticing when you’re pissed off and misbehaving due to anger sounds easy, it’s actually difficult to pull off. And this is exceptionally true in situations where you’re already reacting in a toxic way.
Like, when you’re shouting at a scruffy teen cashier at Starbucks who poured the wrong type of milk in your Latte, even though you’re just bitter about your ex hurting you.
What you’re doing on a deeper psychological level is reacting to the lack of control and power you have in life. You avoid addressing the fact that you can’t handle or control your current situation. And so you project your pent up resentment on to someone (or something) else, which you do have power and control over.
So basically, the only reason you started arguing with the poor kid at Starbucks is because you don’t know how to handle the dazzling emotions that come with heartbreak.
Nevertheless, there are ways you can become better at noticing your anger-driven behaviors, so you can respond intelligently to them. That is, in a way where you don’t irritate and emotionally (or physically) hurt the people around you.
One way of doing this is by getting better sleep, practicing letting go, journaling, and most importantly, engaging in mindfulness – this is proven to work best.
The way you start with mindfulness, is simple. Find solitude to think, reflect or meditate on the areas of your life and psyche, like love, friendships, or self-esteem, which you lack control over and wish to rebuild.
This solitude should be in a calm, distraction-free environment where you can linger for hours – a place devoid of noise, electronics or any outside influences.
Ultimately, the subtext behind this skill is self-awareness. Once you develop it, you’re going to have an easier time noticing and appropriately responding to a colorful array of emotions, and not just your anger.
After weeks or months of mindfulness practice, the feeling of peace will begin to show itself throughout your day to day life. Consequently, you will befall fewer temper tantrums and become more aware of your emotions.
And when you become more aware of your emotions, you’re also going to become more aware of your actions. This is where the magic starts to happen.
When you become more aware of your actions, you’re also going to have an easier time stopping yourself when you’re acting out based on anger and channeling that toxic-energy into more productive tasks.
3. leverage your anger in productive ways
You can fuss and moan about your breakup not being fair until you’re red in the face, or you can go and clean your living room.
I know this sounds weird, but it is plausible. You can leverage your anger in the most unique and beneficial of ways.
I’ve met people who decided to deal with their post-breakup anger the same way I tried to – by drinking, shopping, or partying like they were a teen. But soon, some of these people realized that those activities were self-destructive long term.
So what have they done?
They directed their anger towards more fruitful tasks. For example, they went all-in on their businesses. They scrubbed and cleaned their cars and apartments. Or they started feverishly tinkering with their passion projects.
THE attitudes that help you DEAL WITH ANGER AFTER A BREAKUP
The attitudes that we’ll cover are:
- Not all anger is bad anger.
- No one can make you angry without your consent.
- It’s all going to pass anyway.
1. Not all anger is bad anger
Anger is an inseparable component of life. You can’t get rid of it. So stop trying to, and instead work on accepting it. Likewise, anger is not necessarily a bad or toxic emotion. Sometimes it’s actually beneficial for you:
- If your ex is bullying you after you broke up, you can use anger to scare them to the point where they back off. Consequently, you avoid unnecessary violence or abuse with this approach.
- If your ex is telling you that they will kill themselves if you don’t give them another shot, you can use anger to set a boundary. One that’s centered around how you’ll feel and respond to their manipulative demand. For example, you can think (or even say), “I’m not responsible for how you feel. Do as you want. But I don’t want us to get back together. And that’s final.”
- If your ex is falsely accusing you of being a cheater, you can use your anger to spread the truth – that you were loyal – faster and with more conviction.
2. No one can make you angry without your consent
Whenever you’re accusing your ex of making you mad, you’re just trying to make them responsible for your emotions. The reality is that no person, event, or circumstance has that sort of hold over you.
Sure, external events such as a breakup can make you angry, but many people take this anger way too far. You can, if you want, choose not to lose your temper.
Remember: anger is not a choice, but your reaction to it is. No one can make you angry unless you decide to let them.
3. anger, like all emotions shall pass
After a breakup, all forms of anger are just elements of the second stage of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). So, once you’re over your ex or even halfway over them, the anger you feel will naturally trickle away from plaguing your heart. At that point, you’ll start to feel more at peace.