Holding on to Anger and Resentment

Recently, I published the following quote on Twitter:  “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”- The Buddha

One of the things I teach my coaching clients is to keep an inspiration file–something that allows them to access inspiration when they need a dose of positivity and beauty.  I love to collect quotes as part of my inspiration file.  This one about anger is one of those quotes that is one of those great reminders of how to live an extraordinary life.

During my incredibly stressful divorce, I began to search out and keep inspirational quotes in a Word doc–it’s over 20 single-spaced pages now!  One of the quotes that helped was the one above by Buddha.  Going through a divorce can really bring out some negative emotions.  I remember being so freakin’ stressed sometimes that I am so glad I had my therapist and running to rely on for processing.

Because my mother passed away at an early age, I try to live my life knowing that it is a gift and it is short.  I want to live without regrets.  I want to go through my feelings–I don’t want to deny they exist–but I also don’t want them to define me.  I consciously work on my reactions and triggers–I don’t want my feelings taking over my life.  I’ve got a full life ahead of me–full of more love, happiness, and peace if I so choose.  And that’s the key word–CHOOSE.  You choose the emotions that drive you.  You’re in the driver’s seat.  Emotions only last in the human body for approximately 90 seconds.  Anything else that is held over, you know that it’s your thoughts and belief process that’s holding on.

Biologically, humans are wired to look for negativity. 

Uh oh!  There’s a tiger in the bushes–run!  Our ancestors scanned their environment for threats to keep them safe and alive.  You don’t have to do that anymore (at least to that extent.  Drivers who text though…).  You don’t have to hold onto anger–you have that choice.  You don’t have to ruminate over justice and revenge.  You have the choice to think any way you want.  Your thoughts bring up feelings within you.  Wanna feel empowered?  Think thoughts that empower you.  There are no “negative” or “bad” thoughts–think of them as either empowering you or disempowering you.  It’s okay to feel angry–what is not empowering however is holding on to the feeling.  It’s the meaning you’ve attached to the feeling of anger that is keeping you stuck.  When you change the meaning, you’ll stop holding on to the thoughts and feelings that are holding you back from experiencing an extraordinary life.

You always have the choice to be present in the moment. 

You always have the choice what to focus on. 

You are 100% responsible for your thoughts, words, and actions.

Think about all of the emotions you experience in the day.  If you want, take a moment to list the positive and negative emotions you experience let’s say in a week.  Write them down and look at them.  Circle the ones you want to experience the most.  Add ones if you haven’t felt them recently–like happiness, delight, and caring.

Consciously choose to spend more time in your positive emotions. 

Holding onto anger is only hurting yourself–not the other person.  The other person is off doing their own thing.  I think people know that already, but you get something out of holding on–maybe a feeling of safety, maybe it’s a story or meaning you’ve attached to it, and maybe you don’t know how to let go.  If you were playing a tug-of-war with a person and you didn’t want to play anymore, what would you do?  Let go of the rope.  That’s it.  Same thing with anger.  Let peace take over the space that anger resides.  Let love in for yourself.  It’s such a loving act toward yourself to give yourself the gift of peace.  You don’t have to forget what happened, but let go of the judgment, let go of the emotions keeping it locked in, and free your heart and mind for other more beautiful things in life.

marriage counselingI’d like to thank Irene Hutchison for the idea of this post.  You can see her response to the quote on the left.  A lot of people struggle with letting go of the anger, hurt, and resentment of what they feel has been done to them. That’s the thing–something has been done to them.  Regardless of what that thing is, you move on by transforming that “thing” into a lesson.  All challenges are learning opportunities in disguise.  If you’re still carrying that proverbial hot coal around, you haven’t gained the wisdom from it yet.

When you get to be a certain age you realize the world isn’t fair and people can do some really crappy things.  I recently read an article about affairs.  Many people who are cheated on go through PTSD (I did).  They are so overwhelmed, it becomes a traumatic event.  It reminds me of animals in the wild who are chased by their predator and escape.  Afterwards, animals shake off the tension of their adrenalized state.  Humans don’t.  We’re thinking creatures after all.

You take yourself out of the beauty of life when you aren’t present.  When you’re holding onto anger, you’re in the past, flooding your body with emotions that will eventually reflect outward as sickness.  This doesn’t help you to move forward but only keeps you stuck.  A lot of people haven’t learned how to let go so they carry with them all of their baggage.  You don’t have to.  Consciously choose which emotions you want to spend your day feeling.  What would a person who wants to feel more amusement or hope be doing?


If you know someone who can benefit from this or if you like this article please like or share this on FB, tweet it, link to this, and/or leave a comment.  Thanks!  Let’s get the word out on what it takes to have an extraordinary relationship!  My mission is to help as many people create loving and long-lasting relationships as possible!

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If your relationship needs some attention, and you’re not sure just reading articles like these and books will help, I invite you to discover relationship coaching.  You can find out more by clicking here:  Relationship Coaching.


Nicole Nenninger counselor My passion is to enrich people’s lives by helping them create extraordinary relationships.  I am a certified life coach, have a Master’s degree in psychology, and am a Marriage and Family Therapy Candidate.  I am the author of Transforming Divorce, the Transforming Divorce Workbook, and co-author (with my husband Don Nenninger) of The Secrets of Loving Relationships, and The Art and Science of Parenting:  How to Act When Your Kid’s Acting Out.

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