Many individuals who come into counseling are holding onto unresolved bitterness and resentment toward others who have done them wrong.
This anger could relate to their childhood upbringing or failed relationships. It can also relate to being treated unfairly at work by a boss or being let down by a friend. Holding onto this anger can result in far-reaching struggles for that individual spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally.
Research has shown many health issues can also be related to harnessing anger and bitterness. Some of these include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack or stroke and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It’s very important for individuals to learn to let go of the anger that is holding them in captivity and bondage.
New ways of looking at situations can help people get free of anger and hurt. I teach individuals to not take the other person’s behavior or actions personally. When they do us wrong, it’s related to that other person and underlying issues that they have.
An example of this would be a mother who is verbally abusive to a child. As that child becomes an adult, they can begin to evaluate their mother from a different angle. They may find that she was emotionally abused by her own mother growing up or that she has an underlying mental health issue such as borderline personality disorder that affects all relationships in her life. This begins to reshape that adult child’s perspective of their mother so they recognize that it was not personal but that their mother was unhealthy in many areas individually.
The second thing that I teach individuals is that if you hold onto the anger, it is only hurting you and not the other person. There is that old saying that harnessing bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It is true that if you remain angry, not only are you causing yourself mental anguish, but you are continuing to allow that person who hurt you in the past to hurt and haunt your present. If you are upset that they hurt you in the past, then it’s important to ask yourself why you would allow them to continue to have a hold on your peace and positive emotional functioning in the here and now.
To have true peace of mind is to commit to no longer allowing that person’s actions and behaviors to define or affect our happiness and our positive functioning. Letting go of the anger is not condoning or forgetting what they did; it’s releasing and utilizing their negative actions to create positive boundaries in life. A hurt person creates more wisdom about healthy boundaries and healthy relationships, and helps us decipher those who we allow into our lives and those who we remove and place outside of our boundaries.