Anger is an ugly beast. It can take hold of you completely, stop you from being rational and instantly engulf you in a red hot mess of emotion. Anger needs time to fade, and even then, it’s incredibly long-lasting. Anything can jog your memory and spark the anger again. But how do we manage it? How do we control it in order to avoid it completely disrupting our days? While practicing mindfulness and meditation is definitely useful, the only thing which has worked so far is the Anger List.
The Story of the Anger List
The Anger List is exactly what you would expect from its name. It’s a list of things which make you angry. It’s not however, a short list but a longhand, handwritten stream of angry consciousness.
Here’s how it came about.
One evening, I was feeling particularly angry; I don’t remember why, but I do remember I was very very angry about something that I actually couldn’t change. I was ranting while my boyfriend was patiently listening to me, and suddenly I wasn’t even ranting about the thing I was originally angry about but about some other thing which had made me angry in the past.
Anger sparks more anger, and before long I was feeling really frustrated and almost in tears. As I was looking through my bag for some water to calm me down I found a pen and an A4 sheet of paper.
Without thinking about it too much, I started writing. I wrote in order, started from what had made me mad that very same evening and went backwards and wrote about every single thing that made me still feel vaguely angry. This included some issues with my parents which actually went back more than ten years! I wrote without thinking about sentences or about making particular sense and also without holding anything back. I just spilled all of my thoughts and anger onto the page in an angry stream of consciousness.
Before I knew it, I had a list numbered 1-24 of things that seriously pissed me off and that I still held on to. I felt completely spent. As I looked over the list again, I realised that I held on to situations for way too long, and this was preventing me from being the best version of myself.
The Negative Impact of Grudges and Bitterness
Reading my anger list made me realise that I was still holding on to grudges from many many years before and I was still angry and bitter about them.
This was holding me back in so many ways. First of all, sometimes I still spent time thinking about those things which made me angry, so that was just time wasted in an unproductive way. Furthermore, I was convinced that because all of those things had happened in the past, it was too late to change. Finally, the anger was preventing from being happy and enjoying the positive in my life, as I was always dwelling on the past.
Once I finished writing my Anger List, I let it simmer for a while. I slept on it, and reread it the morning afterwards. I read each and every single item on the list slowly and repeated to myself “I’m letting this go” every time. Finally, I burned the list.
I felt much better after that, almost as if I’d lifted a weight that had been following me around for a long long time.
The Anger List – Guidelines
Here’s the brief summary for those of you who don’t feel like reading the whole story!
- Take a pen and a sheet of A4 paper.
- Make a list of things that make you angry. Number the list but aside from this write everything as a stream of consciousness. Don’t hold anything back.
- Let the list simmer for some time, until you’ve calmed down.
- Re-read the list slowly; for every item, tell yourself that you’re letting that grudge go. It’s forgotten, gone, in the past…whatever works for you. It’s done, there’s no point dwelling on it anymore.
- Destroy the list. Cut it into pieces, burn it, soak it in water until it dissolves, throw it off a cliff…whatever you want!
Maybe this is an obvious method to deal with anger. Writing is therapeutic…everyone knows that! While this is true, I’d never really put this into practice in order to deal with anger. I just spent a lot of time and energy trying to repress the anger, thinking that I wasn’t allowed to be angry.
I still use the Anger List when I need it. It’s ok to write about a situation in more than one list, it just means it’s a stronger grudge. Many of the anger inducing situations which were on my original list have never made their way back onto the list. If I think about those situations, I don’t feel angry anymore. Perhaps a little sad sometimes, but all the anger and resentment are gone…and I can’t tell you how much of a relief that is!
I’m not a psychologist nor an expert in psychology in any way. I don’t know why this works for me, but it does. It also brings me back to being somewhat positive and productive in a short amount of time!
Do you have your own anger management tips? Looking forward to reading them!