Mastering Anger/Anger releasing



One of my issues is that I, for some strange reason, keep coming back to certain irritating scenes in my past and reliving them differently with me being more aggressive in those scenes than in the real past. Or I imagine possible future scenarios where I am very aggressive towards certain rather hostile people. Say, about 10 scenes or so, in all. How do I get out of frequently thinking about such matters and returning to the present? Thanks, Geoff.

Hi, Geoff,

What an interesting question. I am really impressed that you are concerned enough to seek a way out of the behavior you have observed in yourself.

Bear in mind that I do not have any background information on you, so I will only be able to offer you my educated guess on what is happening. I will, however, give you ideas on what you can do.

When people spend time in their brains thinking about situations that involve anger and aggression, it usually means that they have stored anger in themselves over a period of time. Whenever we hold onto (store) emotions, they tend to grow. Anger is our most active emotion, and so grows easily and a lot. Once it has started to grow, it begins to look for a way out. Daydreams and actual dreams are ways that anger can be looking to escape. The particular scenes are not so important as that your thinking continues to go toward anger and aggression, and particularly toward being angry toward others you perceive as hostile. The principle is that we tend to perceive in others what we also have in ourselves (another clue that suggests anger is building up inside of you).

The best way to deal with this is to start releasing (safely) the anger that is in you.

Safest is to enroll in psychotherapy and have a skilled therapist help you release the anger and deal with whatever comes up.

You can also work with this anger on your own. However, I caution you that since the anger has built up in you, it may come out explosively; and it may take a long time to release. When I had stored up anger (which I had stored over about 25 years), it took me two years to release all of it. Be advised also that once you start allowing the anger to come out, you will not be able to stop it from releasing. Like being on a roller coaster, you'll have to stay on the cart until the ride comes to its own end! The Principle is this: "Get anger out of you, but not onto someone else." This means most of the work with anger that I suggest is work you will do alone.

Here are some things you can do:
1. Daily, sit down for 10 minutes and write, without stopping, what you might be angry about. If you want to use the scenarios in your head, this is fine. Even more effective would be to think about the earliest times you felt angry. Especially if you find situations in which it was not safe to allow yourself to get angry, and instead stuffed your feelings down, those are the ones to write about. You can do this writing by hand or on the computer. However, it is important that you NOT keep the paper (or the file) around you. Once you write it by hand, burn the paper or put it in an outside refuse container. Don't keep it around you. On the computer, delete the file once you write your feelings out. When you do this, you might have even more anger come up inside of you. Each time you're aware of it (depending on the time you can spend), write it out and get rid of it. Anger (and all emotions) is energy. Therefore, think about the fact that you are getting the energy of anger out of you. You can see why it's a good thing to keep releasing and releasing and releasing.

2. It is possible that in doing this you will be flooded with anger. I have had the feeling of "drowning" in anger. The best thing to do in that case, is to sit quietly and ask (your Higher Self, God, something Larger than Yourself--whatever you believe in) to help you forgive. "To forgive" means "to turn loose." As a help in this, you might ask yourself how you can see what is coming up in the most loving way possible. Keep asking. Help will come through for you.

3. You can also write what is known as a "hate letter." This is where you write a letter that you never send, putting all your anger there, about a specific scenario of situation. Once you have written it, take the letter and hide it away overnight (bottom of a drawer, pocket of a coat, etc.) The next day, take it out, read it aloud, and make corrections or additions as you wish. Hide it away overnight a second night. The third day, take it out, read it aloud again, and then burn it up or tear it up. Any pieces should be discarded outside of where you live.

Anger occurs when we have a picture of how we think things are "supposed to be," and they're not. We think of this in "shoulds." If I believe you, as my spouse "should" come home every day and greet me with a hug and a kiss, and you don't, I'll get angry. If I think you "should not" bother me until you come home, take some time to relax, and then come to greet me, I'll get angry if you immediately give me a hug and a kiss! The key regarding anger is that our "shoulds" could not be violated if our expectations about how things "are supposed to be" were correct. Anger really is alerting us to the issue that we have unreal expectations which need to be changed.

Changing those expectations is a matter of looking squarely at how things really DO happen and create the intention to accept that as "how things are" instead of continuing to think our previous expectation really "should" be met!

If you are interested in reading, get a copy of Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Anger. On my web site,, I also have an inexpensive e-booklet entitled "Bouncing Back from Anger and Argument."

Try these suggestions out. If you need more input, contact me again, please.

In the meantime, will you rate this response before leaving the site.

Thanks, again, for working with yourself on this. There is nothing wrong with you. Like so many of us, you have been holding anger inside of yourself for far too long. Anger doesn't tolerate this--it keeps trying to break through. Do these things now, and avoid your fantasies or reactions growing wilder or stronger.

My best to you, Geoff.


Mastering Anger

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Ilene L. Dillon, M.S.W.


As a "Recovering Angry Person" and psychotherapist, I have thoroughly explored Anger and its related emotions, hurt, fear, depression and guilt. I'll give a free half-hour of coaching to anyone who can ask me a question I cannot address!


36 years as a family, individual and group psychotherapist. 15 years of teaching for California Probation Officers and Psychotherapists. Author of "Exploring Anger with Your Child" (now "The ABCs of Anger in its updated version). Personal, clinical and group work with anger, including in the parenting arena.

C.A.M.F.T. (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) N.S.A. (National Speakers Association) Professional Member since 1984

Magazines: Woman's Day, Personal Excellence, Care Notes Newspapers: Marin Independent Journal, The FAX, San Francisco Chronicle, in-house publications for therapy organizations Books and CDs: Total of 17 published works (

M.S.W. from University of California in Berkeley Two California Licenses: Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker Lifetime Jr. College Instructor License in California Host of Internet radio program (since 2004)Full Power Living, focused on "awakening the world to the power and importance of human emotions"

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