Anger, especially after divorce can promote growth if used correctly. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel angry, perturbed or downright mad as hell at some point during the process of divorce?
It’s normal! What isn’t normal or healthy is allowing the anger to destroy you, your ex, and your children. And, I’ve heard stories of irrational people doing just that. For some anger is an emotion that sends them into a tailspin they never recover from. For those folks, anger is not a virtue. Don’t be one of those folks!
In order for anger to work in your favor instead of against you, you need to be creative with how you use your anger. Use your anger as a constructive force, not a destructive force. When used properly constructive anger allows you to feel powerful and motivated to go after what you want.
How to Properly Use Divorce-Related Anger
Expressing Anger Constructively:
Constructive anger serves the greater good. In other words, when you use constructive anger you are using a negative emotion in a way that benefits you instead of in a way that destroys you. You’ve heard the phrase, “become the change you want to see.” Essentially, this means taking your anger and using it to make positive change.
This can be hard to do during divorce when it feels like everything around you is falling apart and you aren’t sure what next month or next year will bring. That is the exact point at which your anger can be of most value. If you are uncertain of where you will be living or how you will be earning an income, use your anger…your unwavering need to not live in the dark, to help you set goals and take the steps needed to attain those goals.
Instead of allowing your anger to cause you to lash out or curl up in a ball and give up, use it to help you face your fears, heal your wounds and move toward healing and forgiveness instead of away from those healthy attitudes.
Anger Can Lead To Positive Outcomes:
A study by psychologists, Jennifer Lerner, Roxanna Gonzales, Deborah Small, and Baruch Fischoff from Carnegie Mellon University, published in the March 2003 issue of Psychological Science, examined the responses of the public during two stages following the 9/11 attacks. The first stage took place nine days following the attacks.
As a baseline, 1786 people were assessed regarding their feelings about the event and their levels of stress, anxiety, and desire for revenge. Two months later, at stage two of their study, Lerner and colleagues primed 973 participants to feel angry, fearful or sad. The different groups had different reactions. More specifically, those primed to feel angry were found to give more realistic and optimistic assessments of 25 terrorist-related risks compared to the participants primed to feel fearful. In this way, angry people feel more in control and have a higher degree of certainty than fearful people.
I know we can’t compare our feelings over divorce to the great tragedy of 9/11 but, anger is anger regardless of the reason for that anger. The bigger enemy during divorce is fear, not those healthy feelings of anger.
Anger is Especially Beneficial For Women:
Women are more likely to openly express feelings of anger, as a result, they become more empowered to use anger constructively. They become stronger in the face of anger and adversity because they are more willing to tell their stories. Most online articles about divorce or divorce stories are written by women. They name their pain, they name the one who did them wrong and they name what they had to do to work through feelings of pain, shame, and vulnerability.
Women are more likely to use anger for the good of their children, especially during divorce. Women are more capable of separating their relationship with their ex from their relationship with their children. Men, on the other hand, tend to entangle those relationships and when striking out at their ex cause their children to suffer collateral damage. In the majority of cases, a mother can fight for what her child needs from a father without putting her child in harm’s way.
The bottom line, some men use anger to strike out while some women use anger to protect themselves. Doing the latter promotes positive change via anger.
Regardless of your gender, if used properly divorce-related anger doesn’t have to lead to high-conflict divorce. It can lead to quicker healing, healthier co-parenting, and more fulfilling future relationships.