Click play to listen to this article.
Feeling anger after a breakup is unavoidable. Anger is literally one of the stages of recovery you need to go through. You can’t suppress it. You can’t avoid it. You can’t make it go away.
If you’ve been reading other articles on overcoming anger after a breakup, you’ve probably come across a bunch of techniques and tools and encouragement for getting rid of it altogether.
Surprisingly, that’s actually a very unproductive — often even self-destructive — thing to do.
You see, the harder you try to get the anger out of your system, the more that anger will expand and grow. And when it reaches a certain threshold, it’s going to burst out of you in the form of a temper tantrum, increasing your chances of hurting someone emotionally or physically.
And if that happens, you’ll probably criticize yourself, and as a result, only get angrier — you’ll start feeling angry for being angry. At that point, you’ll repeat the entire process and keep repeating it — at least that’s what happens to most people dealing with anger after their breakup:
Feel anger -> Suppress/Avoid/Escape Anger -> Pile Up Anger -> Tamper Tantrum -> Bad Shit Happens -> More Anger -> Feel anger -> Repeat… (1)
The lesson here is to avoid trying to get rid of your anger. The only thing you can and should do when you feel it is manage it better. And before you even do that, know that anger is healthy. Hell, anger is normal. Anger is not something you should ever feel ashamed about. (2)
Feeling Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Anger After A Breakup
Before we jump into the proper techniques and mindsets for managing anger, I insist you take a moment and determine to what extent you’ll need to manage it.
For instance, if your anger is healthy, there’s not much need to manage it. Usually, a combination of mindfulness, forgiveness, and acceptance should do the trick. But if your anger is a deeper shade of unhealthy, you should look into more advanced ways of managing it. Luckily, I’ll cover both the simple and the advanced in this article.
Okay, so I know what you’re thinking, “But Max, how do you distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger in the first place?” Well, it invariably boils down to the intensity of your anger and how your response to it.
Feeling healthy anger makes you think a greater amount of accepting and apathetic thoughts about your breakup. You recognize your ex hurt you. You recognize their involvement in the demise of your relationship. You recognize you feel betrayed. However, you’re not consumed by those thoughts and the emotions bound to them.
In other words, despite feeling angry after your breakup, you still feel in control of yourself and are able to behave in an assertive but non-threatening manner when, for example, friends enquire about your ex.
Feeling unhealthy anger, however, makes you think far more harshly about your breakup. Your thoughts become intrusive, and the emotions bound to them intensify. You also tend to behave in an intimidating manner that you may later regret as a result.
A rule of thumb: feeling unhealthily angry after your breakup is best described as experiencing a persistent and intense stream of uncomfortable and overwhelming anger that you seldom control, and that makes you a danger to others.
Best Ways To Deal With Anger After a breakup
There are numerous ways you can better manage anger after your breakup, so don’t take this as an exhaustive list. Below I’ll exclusively cover anger management techniques and tools that worked best for my clients and readers.
1. Forgive Yourself And Your Ex
Some people become and stay angry with themselves after their breakup, thinking it’s all their fault. Other people direct that anger toward their ex, thinking it’s all their fault.
Newsflash: both options suck donkey dick.
You avoid pointing fingers and take a step toward disintegrating some of the anger you feel by cultivating forgiveness. Sadly, most people have difficulties with it because they have skewed perceptions of what forgiveness actually is. So let’s discuss that, and hopefully, you’ll become more open to utilizing it.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or condoning someone’s bad behavior. Forgiveness is a powerful stance that rests on your ability to let go of your painful feelings about a person or an event so you can move on with your life. Your act of forgiveness is for your own benefit, not anyone else’s.
So forgive yourself for your mistakes. We all make them. And we will all keep making them. And then also forgive your ex for their mistakes. Decide that you won’t let the things they’ve done before, during, and after your breakup affect how you live your life.
2. Expand Your Awareness Of Anger
The way you start expanding your awareness is through mindfulness. Here’s how it looks like: find solitude to reflect and ponder on your anger and the situations that you’re most often angry in. This solitude should be set in a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can relax.
It also helps if you launch yourself into a full-blown mediation session at some point during your mindful reflection. If you’re interested in learning how to do that, I encourage you to read my article on meditation.
After a few weeks of daily mindfulness practice, your self-awareness should improve. In fact, you should start noticing your anger more frequently and become better at letting it go so you can focus on your day-to-day tasks.
On top of that, you’ll find yourself with fewer temper tantrums, and you’ll be better equipped to take control of your actions since you’ll become, like with emotions, more aware of them.
3. Leverage Anger In Productive Ways
You can bemoan your breakup until you’re red in the face, or you can clean your living room. You can badmouth your ex’s height, weight, guts, and personality, or you can pour that anger into your studies. You can keep punching holes in your living room wall or you can start patching them up.
You can either choose to direct your anger to fruitful and productive tasks that increase your happiness, well-being, and sense of accomplishment or you can choose to direct it toward tasks that make you more pissed off, irritable, and a pain in the ass to be around.
The first option is harder to stick with but has life-changing long-term benefits. The second option feels good in the moment and is generally easier to stick with, but is destructive to your self-esteem and well-being.
4. Stop playing the victim
A lot of people start playing the victim when they’re angry after their breakup. They start thinking,
- “I don’t deserve this!”
- “I deserve to be happy!”
- “Life’s not fair”
- “It shouldn’t be this way!”
- “I shouldn’t feel like this!”
When you begin to think in this way, you’re essentially deflecting the responsibility that you should be taking. You make other people, events, and circumstances responsible for your emotions. You remove any shred of personal accountability from your conscience. This is a formula for disaster.
When you don’t take responsibility for your breakup — regardless if it’s your fault or not — you’re only dulling the power you could have over your breakup recovery. In other words, it’s a trap — an easy one to fall into.
Rather, forget about deserving and faults. You don’t deserve anything. You’re not entitled to anything. Your ex doesn’t owe you anything. No one does. Just take responsibility for your life, and you’ll re-take the ability to not let your anger, as well as other emotions, take your mind hostage.
5. Build and engage in a support system
A support system of friends, family, and peers who are willing and able to listen to your problems, give advice, and stand by your side, is proven to help ease any anger you feel after your breakup. (3)
In fact, studies show that support systems carry numerous mental and emotional health benefits, like:
- Improving your ability to cope with stressful situations.
- Alleviating effects of emotional distress.
- Promoting lifelong good mental health.
- Enhancing self-worth.
- Lowering cardiovascular risks.
- Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors.
- Encouraging adherence to a treatment plan.
So, don’t wait. Build your support system and engage with it. And if you already have a system like that in place, jump into it headfirst — you lucky, lucky bastard.
6. Take Care Of Your Sleep and Diet
When it comes to sleep:
- Avoid napping during the day. Napping will only disrupt your internal clock and make it even more challenging to fall asleep at night. Still, if you’re exhausted and need to nap, set your alarm to 20minutes max. (4)
- Buy a quality set of goose-down pillows (anything but synthetics, at least), a weighted blanket, a white-noise machine, and blackout curtains. Make your room pitch black! And set your bedroom temperature to somewhere between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius). (5)
- Limit (or remove) your intake of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, as well as the use of screens several hours before bedtime. (6)
When it comes to diet:
- Avoid changing your meal times too often or skipping meals entirely. (7)
- Snack smart. If you choose to eat a snack between meals, make sure it’s something made of protein, (healthy) fat, and carbohydrates to keep yourself going without blowing a fuse.
- Avoid or extensively limit wheat-based meals (i.e., pasta dishes), foods containing sugar and unhealthy fat, as well as processed food. (8)
7. Develop A realistic Outlook on your breakup
When you maintain a positive outlook, you become more able to manage your interpretation of your breakup. In fact, your outlook on your breakup has far more to do with how you feel about it than it does with your ex or the experience in general.
Sure, it’s painful, but if you see it as an event that you can’t possibly bounce back from and you let it define you, you’ll create a formula for feeling even angrier after your breakup.
But if you see it as a gift of growth (albeit a painful one) you create a formula for feeling better despite it. You’ll build resilience around heartbreak — you’ll eventually become good at feeling bad.
For example, I can describe my breakup in two ways: unnecessarily pessimistic (example 1) or realistic (example 2).
No wonder my ex dumped my insecure, needy, and validation-seeking ass. I was an uncentered hollow emotional mess. I was not even brushing at the edges of her league. I didn’t court her. I didn’t communicate the right way. It was horrible.
And when she dumped me, I ended up stealing money from my parents to buy several “get your ex back” programs and hire psychologists. I was also on the brink of shooting myself in the face. Twice. I wanted to die.
Sure my ex leaving me hurt a lot. But truth is, my relationship was destined to fail, and I’m surprised I didn’t expect it. After all, it was my first relationship, and I had no idea of how to approach it — especially when problems arose. So it’s no wonder my ex left. I’ve also done many stupid things after she left — like trying to get them back at all costs. Don’t ask. It was a challenging period.
However, despite my breakup being one of the most painful experiences of my life, it was also an immense gift of growth. I had to royally fuck a relationship to learn how to make the next one last. I had to lose myself to find myself again. I had to reach my personal rock bottom to get the opportunity to build myself up stronger and better than before.
8. Identify the Costs of Anger
One of the more profound ways of letting go of anger after a breakup is by identifying its costs.
Seneca once wrote, “We will ensure that we not become angry if we put before our eyes all the vices anger gives rise to and take good measure of them. We must accuse and condemn anger, scrutinize its crimes and expose it to the light of day, compare it with the worst evils so that we can see clearly what it is… Anger squanders things and rarely comes without cost.”
Now, I want you to identify the cost of your anger. What could it cost you?
Maybe you’ll make a horrible impression on a potential customer. Maybe you’ll never score that lucrative business deal. Maybe you’ll never get the date with that cute guy or girl you’ve been eye-fucking for the past few days. Maybe you’ll embarrass yourself in front of your friends. Maybe you’ll say something offensive when you didn’t mean to and unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings.
The options are endless.
Anger can quickly spiral out of control, and there’s no telling what consequences could befall you because of it. But let’s shift our focus to the past instead of dwelling in the future.
What has your anger cost you till now? Try to think of a specific example.
Were you ranting over and pontificating about your ex for hours to your friend, making them think you need therapy? Did you send your ex something stupid, like a sappy text message professing your undying love for them? Did you damage any important relationships in your life? Did you have a stressful or embarrassing experience? Did you drink ten too many beers and pissed inside your friend’s asshole? Figure these things out.
As the prolific author and blogger Ryan Holiday once wrote, “when the costs are laid bare, we will be less likely to give into anger.”
Attitudes That Help You Deal With Anger After A Breakup
We covered a lot of practical techniques and tools for managing anger after a breakup. However, let’s flip the script. Let’s talk theory — specifically, mindsets.
Below, I’ll go over six that will better your moods and lessen your anger’s hold on you if you adopt them.
1. Anger means you’re nearing recovery. Feeling angry after your breakup means you’re healing. As I said at the beginning of this article, it’s one of the stages of breakup recovery. However, a little detail I left out is that it’s one of the last stages of breakup recovery. It’s a definitive sign you’ll be able to let your ex go soon.
2. Anger can be used for good. If your ex is bullying you after you broke up, you can use anger to scare them to the point where they back off and avoid unnecessary conflict or abuse. Or if they’re telling you how they will kill themselves if you don’t get back together, you can use your anger to set a boundary with them. For example, “I’m not responsible for how you feel. Do as you want. But I’m not giving you another chance and that’s final.”
3. Anger is often a source of immense personal growth. After my ex dumped me, I swore to myself that I would improve so much she would feel sorry for leaving me. I started working out, eating cleaner, studying more, and investing in my appearance for the first time in my life. And, as you could’ve guessed, for the most part, all that fuelled my radical self-improvement journey was anger.
4. No one can make you angry without your consent. 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. Anger is not a choice, but your reaction to it is. No one can make you angry unless you decide to let them.
5. Anger Is fleeting. Like all emotions, anger only exists only for a moment. Sure, it may reappear at random throughout the following weeks or months after your breakup, but it’s not like you’ll feel angry all the time. You’ll probably already feel better tomorrow. So don’t take your anger too seriously, and always take a moment to calm down before you act on it.
6. Life is short. Both you and your ex will be dead soon. Try to see your breakup in perspective. Do you really want to waste your life being angry because of it for long?
Best Books To Deal With Anger After a breakup
If you love to read and would like to know more about managing anger after a breakup, I encourage you to pick up one or more of these anger management books:
- Anger Management For Dummies — By Gill Bloxham and W. Doyle Gentry.
- Anger Management Workbook for Men — By Aaron Karmin LCPC.
- Mindfulness for Anger Management — By Stephen Dansiger PsyD MFT.
- The Anger Management Workbook for Women — By Julie Catalano MSW LICSW.
If you prefer to watch videos or listen to audio, give my Radical Recovery Course a shot. But if your anger feels totally out of control and all over the place, consider booking a therapist. Professional help goes a long way.
How To Deal With Uncertainty After A Breakup
Learn how to deal with uncertainty effectively and grow into a more resilient and less shitty person despite your breakup.
The Social Media Detox
Learn how a social media detox can improve your well-being, increase your confidence, and help you heal from your breakup.
The Dark Side Of Breakup Recovery
Don't overwhelm yourself with breakup recovery and know that the whole point of it is to come to a place where you no longer need it.
How To Rebuild (Or Build) Self-Esteem After A Breakup
Learn about the nature of self-esteem and a handful of therapy-approved solutions for rebuilding (or building) it after your breakup.
How To Never Get Over A Breakup
Learn how to never get over a breakup and become a perpetually heartbroken and miserable person. It's easy if you put your mind to it!