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How to Let Go of Anger and Do Deep Emotional Work

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To start this blog post, let's discuss what causes emotional pain. There are many reasons for having an emotional pain -- starting with childhood issues like neglect, abuse and abandonment or adulthood issues like relationship problems, loss of a loved one, being a crime victim, and other situations in which you feel powerless.

One of the deep emotional issues some people struggle with is passive or active anger. To be able to discharge anger and resentment, you have to know why it's good for you to let go. First, let's take a look at the physiology of anger. When anger happens, it is the amygdala that is experiencing it, which is a small structure within the limbic system. The limbic system is the center of the emotional brain and is in the lower area of the brain and is considered more primitive. We also have the cerebral cortex, which is the thinking and more evolved part of the brain where logic takes part.

When you are experiencing and expressing anger, you are using your limbic center. In other words, the information comes from the world to the amygdala, and that is where a decision is made to act in a "fight or flight" kind of way or to send the information to the cortex for further processing to make a sound judgment as to how we want to respond considering all the consequences. Therefore, if we have an incident of an amygdala hijack, we cannot send the information for further processing to the cortex, and may respond quickly and impulsively -- which can create further problems for us and those interacting with us.

When there is an amygdala hijack, there is a rush of hormones that can cause an excess alertness preparing the person for a response. During this flow of hormones, the person may be out of control and may do or say things that are out of proportion, too harmful and that she may regret. Besides the initial rush of hormone, there is another hormone that is released that may last for several hours. This is why you may have an angry reaction then calm down but have an over reactive episode again over something small a little later on. It is the "leftover" of that rush of hormone that lasts for hours. So if you or someone you know is amygdala hijacked, give it at least 20 minutes for the calming down process to happen and monitor the side effects.

Now, to go back to the main focus of this blog post, let's look at some ways to do deep anger damage control and release any deep emotional feelings attached to this emotion. If you have a form of overt or covert (hidden or active) anger, you may find these useful:

1. Writing/journaling: When you write, you can let go of your feelings. Writing your feelings as they come, writing to the person whom you have anger towards and then burning the letter, and writing short stories.

2. Meditation/prayer: The benefit of meditation and mindfulness for letting go of anger and doing deep emotional work is significant. Learning to focus on the present, shifting your thought to be in your command rather than the other way around, and learning to distract yourself from the past and only go back to it when you are doing self-healing work or thinking of some useful and positive memory.

3. Managing your thought: On average about 50-70,000 thoughts go through your mind every day. What you think shapes your emotional response to things. For example, if you see something as being "scary" then you will have a specific emotional response to that thing. If you see the same situation as "different" or a "challenge," then your emotional response also changes.

4. Behavior modification: Changing your behavior can change your thought. For example, have specific stress-management techniques handy so that you can use them if a stressful situation hits you. These may be things like exercising, dancing, or doing some form of an artistic work or sports you enjoy, in addition to doing meditation, having hobbies, and doing something that takes your mind off of the stress.

5. Creative visualization: Use this technique to release self-imposing and restricting thoughts and burdening emotions from the past.

6. Working on forgiveness: Whether it is self-forgiveness or forgiving others, this is a must-do for any healing to happen. Self-forgiveness usually has to do with letting go of the guilt and shame, and forgiving others has to do with cutting any negative attachment to people and freeing yourself from their influence.

Remember, feelings that are buried alive do not die but try. When I was doing my own deep emotional healing, I learned that I had layers of these buried emotions. I started with the basic and went deeper so as not to overwhelm myself. But the experience has liberated me beyond my imagination. So, give yourself permission to do some serious emotional healing to become your happiest self and remember, it is a process more than a destination.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD

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