Do you know how to let go of anger and resentment?
At some point, if you live long enough, someone will do or say something that hurts you. And when you’re in pain or deeply offended, it’s not so easy to just brush it off.
But if you’ve ever held onto your anger and held a grudge against the one who hurt you, then you know how much more pain it creates for you.
It solves nothing. It heals nothing. You’re just stuck, and the more you hold onto your anger — justifying it and defending it against all reasons to let it go — the more miserable you become.
So, how do you free yourself from it?
How do you release anger when you feel completely justified in holding onto it? Is letting go of bitterness even possible when the person who hurt you isn’t even sorry?
Not only is it possible to get rid of anger, it's necessary. Your own happiness depends on it. Releasing anger is not as difficult as you might think.
How to Know if You Harbor Resentment
Merriam-Webster defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.”
But usually, when we’re resentful, those feelings are directed at a person rather a thing. We resent the one who hurt or offended us, and we feel justified in holding onto our anger over something this person has done or said. Our resentment manifests in a variety of ways.
- Withholding (or lack of) affection
- Brief, tense responses — often with a hostile tone and closed body language
- A readiness to launch into an argument over the smallest things
- A tendency to criticize more frequently and with little or no provocation
- Sadness (over the loss of closeness or of trust)
- Reluctance to celebrate wins or milestones (because the pain of that anger makes it impossible to enjoy anything else)
From Bitterness to Blessing
Considering the list of signs just given, it makes sense to ask yourself what (if anything) you’ve gained by holding onto your anger. And what have you lost?
If you’ve felt the ill effects of bitterness and resentment, you owe it to yourself and to those you love to address and let go of the anger that has compromised your happiness and well-being.
Bitterness will eventually (if it hasn’t already) manifest as illness — both mental and physical — because it is spiritual poison. And nothing survives that for long without suffering a deep and needless misery.
We hope you agree that you deserve better.
Read on to learn how to let go of anger and resentment, so you can turn the insult or injury into an occasion for blessings and growth.
How to Let Go of Anger: 15 Steps to Healing
1. Recognize that the unkindness of others is a result of their own unhappiness.
You don’t have to pry into the other’s personal business to verify this. Generally speaking, when someone tears down another person, the cruelty comes from that person’s own dark place — the anger they’ve held onto themselves.
Instead of reacting with anger, choose to be compassionate toward the person who has hurt or offended you.
Toxic people are their own worst punishment. Don’t let their poison infect you, too. As hard as it can be when the pain is fresh, choose to forgive and have compassion toward the other person.
Ask forgiveness for anything you’ve done to offend them, and leave the ball in their court.
2. Address your own lack of confidence.
Often we hold onto things that make us feel inadequate, “lesser than,” or not enough. We’re angry because we’re unable to counter those attacks with calm confidence in our own self-worth.
A healthy degree of confidence makes it easier to see past the offense to the inner angst of the one who inflicted it — and to respond with compassion rather than anger.
How confident are you, and what could you do to build more confidence?
3. Give yourself some quiet time.
Take time away from the offending person, and give yourself some time to quietly reflect on your anger and on how you can free yourself and move forward. For the best start to your day, meditate on the benefits of letting go of anger and choosing forgiveness and peace.
Give yourself the silence and space to breathe and to see the offense as a tiny part of your life — and not something that deserves to darken any more minutes than it already has.
No one’s asking you to become best friends with the person who hurt you, but take this time to show and to feel appreciation for yourself and your ability to forgive, to heal, and to grow into the person you were always meant to be.
Anger holds you back; forgiveness propels you forward. Take the leap.
4. Visualize your anger as a drop of water.
Picture your mind as a tranquil lake with a surface smooth as glass. One drop of water falling to its surface will make some ripples but not many before the lake absorbs it and restores calm.
Right now, you may feel more like the changeable ocean, with fierce undercurrents and roiling waves that crash and thunder, leaving their froth on the beach. Even with those feelings of affinity, though, no one can sustain that level of fury for long without consequences.
Related: How To Get Over Someone You Love
Lakes can be affected by storms, too, but once the storm passes, peace is restored. And its surface can reflect the light again.
5. Create a more calming environment.
Make your surroundings more conducive to calm by decluttering and cleaning your space. Add some inspirational art or personal touches (like a mug with a calming phrase), along with daily, visible reminders to take time out for quiet reflection and personal growth.
A less cluttered environment feels calmer, and something as simple as a clean countertop with a vase of flowers can remind you to be kinder to yourself and to others.
Even one thing that brings a smile to your face (like a scented candle by your computer or a vision board) can make a huge difference in your mood and your readiness to forgive past offenses.
You want to enjoy the present and each new milestone, so whatever draws your attention away from the past and redirects it to the present can help you let go of anger and choose compassion instead.
6. Put your anger to sleep.
Sleep deprivation is often at the root of anger, and it makes it much easier to overreact and compound the problem.
Just getting a decent night’s sleep — or even taking a power nap — can be the difference between you having the presence of mind to reflect and forgive and you exploding with rage the next time the offending person says something.
Anything, really. It doesn’t take much to reach the boiling point when you’re already simmering.
Take the Dalai Lama’s words to heart: “Sleep is the best meditation.” This is especially true when you haven’t been getting enough of it.
7. Take responsibility for your anger.
Only you can control your anger response. You can also choose to let go of that anger and change your focus to restore calm.
Consider the following quote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” — Viktor E. Frankl
Also, remember that much depends on the choice you make.
“He who angers you conquers you.” — Elizabeth Kenny
Choose a better response. The Hawaiian healing practice of Ho’oponopono is all about taking 100% responsibility for the situation you’re in by repeating the following mantra:
“I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
This practice runs counter to our usual idea of responsibility: I’m responsible for what I say and do; you’re responsible for your own words and actions.
With ho’oponopono, you accept personal responsibility for everything you experience — including other people’s words and actions that affect you — and you work on yourself. The process begins with love and ends with gratitude (as every day should).
8. Focus on the present moment.
Instead of dwelling on (holding onto) past hurts, focus your attention on the present moment and on the beauty in it.
Allow yourself to feel gratitude for all the good in this moment, and remind yourself that the truth of who and what you are is more important than whatever pain or offense you’re holding onto.
Also, no matter what the other person has done to make you angry, you can probably find something good in that person to appreciate. Focus on that. Or focus on the good that will come of your letting go of the anger and moving on.
Allow yourself to feel the relief as though you’ve already done it. It’s harder to hold onto anger once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the happy consequences of letting it go.
Bring forgiveness into the present, and allow yourself to enjoy it.
9. Recognize that in holding onto anger, you only hurt yourself.
Whatever pain you inflict on the other by withholding forgiveness, the poison takes deeper root in you and keeps you from growing as a person. It keeps you stuck and miserable while the rest of the world moves on.
You might think, “How dare he move on when he hasn’t suffered enough for what he’s done to me?” What do you really know of someone else’s suffering, though? And even if you knew, would it ever be enough to balance the scales?
Ditch those scales, and clear your list of charges. You gain nothing by trying to collect when your motive is punishment. And as long as you hold onto anger, nothing the offender could say or do would diminish the debt owed to your self-worth.
A healthy degree of self-worth (like confidence) doesn’t get along with resentment. But if you aren’t enough in your own eyes, no one on earth can do enough to convince you that you are.
It starts with you — not anyone else. Take back your power.
10. Repeat positive, healing affirmations or mantras.
Post them where you’ll see them, too, and repeat them when you see them. You can also use a smartphone app to set up daily reminders with those affirmations.
- I am enough.
- I love who and what I am.
- I choose forgiveness.
- I’m most powerful when I forgive and feel compassion toward others.
- “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” (Ho’oponopono)
11. Choose a positive and healthy outlet.
No need to sit still as you process your anger. Put that furious energy to work in any of the following positive and constructive ways:
- Solving puzzles
- Writing / Journaling
Sometimes just having a creative (or at least constructive) outlet to vent that anger helps you declutter your head so you can think more clearly.
These activities can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which lighten your mood and make you more amenable to reconciliation.
12. Be honest with yourself.
This is where journaling comes in handy, but you can also be honest with yourself by talking to your mirror reflection or writing a letter to yourself or to the person with whom you’re angry.
Talking to yourself is actually therapeutic. Get used to telling yourself out loud the things you need to hear, whether those are positive affirmations or simply the truth of who you are, what you’re good at, and why you deserve to let go of your anger and choose happiness for yourself and the people you love.
Talk to yourself every day. It doesn’t have to take long. And if you have to whisper, make sure you can at least hear the words.
13. Personify your anger.
Picture your anger as a troll (or other belligerent creature) standing in your path — foaming at the mouth, spewing rage, or whining loudly about the things others have said or done to him.
Tell the troll that his anger and resentment is not something you want in your life. Renounce the anger, choose to respond with compassion and responsibility, and sidestep that troll. Because once you let go of that anger, he no longer has the power to stand in your way.
This might sound contrary to the practice of taking responsibility for your own anger and looking within for the root cause of your misery.
Think of this as taking that anger from within and facing it as though it were outside of you. Then tell it it’s no longer welcome in your life. Expel it with an act of forgiveness, and send it away.
14. Be kind to yourself.
Take a soothing shower or bath. Buy a fragrant rose (or another favorite flower) for your desktop. Dress more nicely than you usually do. Give yourself some TLC and mindfully enjoy it for at least a few minutes each time, throughout the day.
If you’re holding onto your anger over an unkind word or action from someone else, you can diminish the effect of that injury by building yourself up again with kindness and thoughtful self-care.
This isn’t about self-indulgence to dull the pain and make amends to your ego. This is active self-compassion. Give yourself what you feel you need from others.
15. Seek help to defeat your anger and move on.
If none of these steps get you closer to letting go of your anger, there’s no shame in getting help from someone else. Try taking a course in forgiveness or any course that helps you grow by letting go of your past.
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Find a good counselor and schedule regular appointments to help you make better choices. Talk to an understanding friend and be open to what those who care about you might suggest.
They want you to heal and to be free of toxic baggage because they love you. So, shouldn’t you want that just as much?
Anger Is Toxic
Anger is toxic, and everyone deserves a chance to rid themselves of that poison and replace it with love and peace.
You’re responsible for the thoughts you choose to dwell on and for the effects of those thoughts — both in you and in your relationships.
Choose happiness. Choose not to limit yourself. Let the power of forgiveness light you up inside.
Did this help you let go of your anger against someone?
Have you learned something that has changed your thinking about this person — and about yourself –in a positive way?
If you’ve found value in this article, please pass it on to help your fellow humans to let go of their anger, cultivate inner peace, and grow into happier, more confident people.
And may your courage and compassion influence everything else you do today.