Coping with anger letting it all out

The Letting It Out Fallacy

This rests on the belief that people who hurt you or cause you pain should be punished. It often feels good to express anger when you are frustrated and hurting. It helps to discharge the pain. And it functions as a kind of revenge for any perceived injustice.

The underlying belief is that you are not responsible for your pain, someone else is. That person must have done wrong for you to feel so badly. Therefore, he or she deserves every bit of anger you feel like expressing. Maybe he or she will learn to do better in the future.

The problem with this whole line of reasoning is that you are responsible for your pain. And taking care of yourself is always your first responsibility. Pain and pleasure are essentially private experiences. No one else can be held responsible for your private experience. You know it and you feel it. Therefore you are the only one who can be responsible for it. If someone is frustrating or hurting you or causing you pain, your job is either to negotiate for your needs or let go of the relationship.

The second problem with letting it out is that anger destroys relationships. When the object of your anger is to inflict the same degree of hurt that you are feeling on someone else, people begin to erect psychological barriers to protect themselves from you. The tissue of a relationship becomes thickened and scarred. And finally you both become insensitive to pain and pleasure. This is how anger kills love: it make you thick-skinned, untouchable.

The last reason letting it out doesn’t work is that anger rarely gets you what you want. What you want is to be listened to, appreciated, cared for. Anger gets you coldness, withdrawal, and anger in return. Letting it out feels good, but it’s like smoking crack: a five-minute high followed by depression, pain, and emotional bankruptcy.

Exercise: When you are tempted to let it out, first review the positive and negative consequences of using anger with this particular person in the past. Make four columns down a piece of paper. Over two of the columns write “short-term consequences” and over the other two “long-term consequences”. Label the two short-term columns “positive” and “negative”, and the same with long-term columns. Write down all the short and long-term consequences you can think of, both positive and negative. At the end of the exercise, ask yourself this question: “Did anger get me what I wanted?”

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