How To Let Go Of Anger & Resentment To Find Happiness Again

Photo: flamingo images/shutterstock
woman smiling in the sunshine

Let’s get really honest right now, and answer these questions: Are you happy with your life? Do you feel free? How grateful are you, overall?

If your answers are, "not so happy," "free," or, "grateful," I have one more question: What is holding you back from feeling those uplifting and empowering things?

It might be that you are harboring long-standing ill feelings and replaying them over and over and over. Learning how to let go of anger and resentment could be the trick to finding happiness, freedom, and gratitude again.

RELATED: How To Forgive Someone & Let Go Of Anger (Without Letting Them Fool You Again)

Learning how to let go of anger is a process.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suggesting that you should never get angry. Life happens.

Things don’t go as planned, and people can be unkind, hurtful, and disrespectful. When that happens, you get angry.

Mark Twain once said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” So true.

Letting go of anger before it reaches this point of destroying you from the inside is the preventive measure you can take. When you hold on to anger — sometimes for years — it turns into a much heavier burden, called resentment.

As you go along your daily life with resentment buried just beneath the surface, another simple event could trigger it. The pain, fear, and anger play out as if the original circumstance was happening again in the here and now.

On the other hand, the resentment may be so deeply buried that you’ve even forgotten the details of the circumstance that caused it in the first place.

You refused to forgive at the time, so you let things pile up, and you can’t let go of the anger and resentment to save your life. So, what do you do?

You must let go of anger and resentment.

Easy for me to say? Nope. I have harbored resentment and allowed it to steal my happiness, freedom of choice, and gratitude for all that is good.

I resented my father for so many things. Here’s one of them: He would not support my choice to study languages and become an interpreter at the United Nations. He refused to allow his youngest, and one-and-only girl, to live away from home for college.

Instead, he forced me into a school that specialized in graduating teachers. After all, he was paying my tuition.

My resentment lasted for many years and affected my relationships with the rest of my family. I wish I could have those years back.

It took me forgiving myself for my behavior as a result of the disappointment. It also took accepting that I couldn’t change what happened, and letting go of the hurt so I could move on and interact with my family without that cloud hanging over our heads.

There is a 12-step saying that hit home for me when I read it. It claims, “Holding a resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Harsh, but I know just what it means.

Blaming my father for my life not turning out as I had planned ate me up inside, as though I drank the poison. I wanted him to hurt as much as I did. But wishing it did not make it so.

The truth is, he thought he was doing the right thing by me and never gave it a second thought. On the other hand, I wasted a bunch of years trying to be right.

What have you wasted precious time on?

RELATED: How To Stop Feeling So Angry All The Time — And Start Manifesting Love Instead

How can you let go of anger and resentment?

Above all, give yourself time, space, and grace as you move through the act of letting go. No need to rush it — you’ve held on to it for this long, so give it the time it requires for the burdens to lift.

First, identify the origin of anger and resentment. Who is behind it? What were the circumstances?

It may take some digging if you’ve buried it deeply and let more hurt pile up. Plus, this may be a pattern with many events causing you to feel angry and resentful. Begin with one at a time.

Once you know what it is and where it comes from, think about what role you played in the situation. This one can be tough and requires honest self-assessment. 

Did you throw a fit, so he dug in his heels, as I did?

Or did you clam up and say nothing about what you were feeling, so he didn’t even know how disappointed you were, or that you didn’t want to do what he was suggesting?

Here is where the first instance of forgiveness comes into play. Forgive yourself and decide never to do that again.

Then you get to replay, in a different way, the situation that holds you hostage. What if you were to become an objective observer of what happened?

Imagine that you watch the event play out and are recording it on a video camera. You can distance yourself and change the way you look at what happened.

Taking this new perspective allows you to stand outside of the emotional connection you have with the event.

From here, you can choose to acknowledge that what happened is in the past, and there is nothing you can do to change it — except how you allow it to continue to affect you!

Remember, you can find happiness again.

Although it is not easy to let go of anger and resentment, it is worth the effort.

When you take back control of your response to any situation — and we all have the choice to do that — you step into the role of power over your life.

Giving someone else the reins by staying angry and resentful will only zap your energy, erode your confidence, and impede your resilience to bounce back.

Releasing the burdens you carry makes room for those uplifting and empowering emotions of happiness, freedom, and gratitude.

Remember this: You can combat fear with faith, anger with love, and resentment with acceptance. When you choose to learn how to let go of anger, happiness returns, as does your power to live without lingering anger and resentment.

What will you choose?

RELATED: Why Forgiveness Is Important For Your Own Self-Care (And 4 Steps To Help You Forgive Someone)

María Tomás-Keegan is a certified life & career coach specializing in transition, and founder of Transition & Thrive with Maria. Learn more about the impact change can have on your life and how to move through it with more dignity and grace in her free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.

This article was originally published at Transition and Thrive With Maria. Reprinted with permission from the author.