Writing Down Your Anger

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I often suggest to my clients that whenever they feel extremely angry or upset, that they sit down and write about what’s bothering them before taking any action. There are some very good reasons for doing this. First, it gives a time out period where you can cool down rather than acting impulsively and regretting it later. Secondly, you can vent all of those horrible angry thoughts without hurting anyone. Thirdly, this process can assist you in putting things into perspective.

There is an interesting explanation as to why this process works so well, and it has to do with the way in which the human brain functions. The brain consists of two hemispheres, the left and the right. Things are processed differently in each half. The left hemisphere functions in logical, analytical, sequential ways. This is the part of our brain that handles functions such as language and mathematics. The right hemisphere functions in a more global, synthetic way, seeing the “big picture” as opposed to all of the little parts. Its functions relate more to art, music, feeling and emotion. While this is an oversimplification, it helps us to understand how we can take charge of our emotions.

When we are in a highly emotional state, we are functioning from the right brain. Feelings can run rampant, and situations can escalate quickly. It can be difficult at a time like this to tell yourself to calm down and get a grip. But if you engage yourself in a left brain task, it is like a signal to withdraw the troops from the right side, and you can experience a bit of an emotional ceasefire. Hence, taking time to write about what is happening and how you are feeling is a way of tempering your emotional state. If you are able to also write about what you think the other person might be feeling, or the other side of the issue, and generate some solutions, then that is even better, and you’re well on your way to transforming the situation.

If you know that the other person will never understand your point of view, or that it is unlikely that the situation will change, then write advice to yourself about what you know you should do in order to remove yourself from the situation, or if that is not an option, what you must do to cope. There is no sense in going back and fighting some more in what you know is a losing battle. So keep your pen handy, and re-read your writing from time to time to see either how far you have come, or how stuck you are, repeating the same negative pattern again and again. This process can be a very productive way of taking charge of your emotions and your life.