Transforming Your Anger

A Chinese proverb said

“If you are patient in one moment of anger,

you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

You are not your anger – but you may feel angry in divorce. Instead of escalating conflict during a divorce, first it is important to recognize the validity of your emotions. Anger is a natural emotion, and divorce tends to bring out hostility. If your expectations, dreams, and hopes about your life with your spouse are dissolving, this is painful, but it is important to find optimism in times of struggle. In reality, your divorce is an opportunity for great insight and growth.

Anger is unresolved hurt that needs to be resolved. Successful mediation is key to allow that resolution which turns adversity into opportunity. Qualified mediators assist the parties in discovering mutually acceptable solutions. As a neutral third party, he/she allows the parties to express themselves in a safe environment. Mediators educate the parties about family-law legal issues and help them to create successful solutions. Mediation empowers you to make informed decisions about your children, finances, and future life.

Whether you are in litigation, a collaborative process, or mediation, it is both a financial and emotional advantage to understand your anger and learn tools to maintain control over your emotions. You can achieve greater financial benefits, save yourself from stress, and obtain more of what you want if you communicate effectively with your spouse in a calm, focused manner. In litigation you argue about who is “right” but in mediation you focus on problem solving collaboratively.

Elizabeth Kenny said, “He who angers you, conquers you.” When anger rules our reasoning, we lose the ability to make effective decisions.

The following “Hard Loving” strategy may help you in the future to deflect conflict and control anger:

1. Halt

Stop yourself from the knee-jerk reaction. Listen, don’t express negative emotions, and breathe slowly. By acting out in anger, you will only invite more hostility.

2. Anger Control

Focus on your physical sensations which may be dryness in the throat, tightness in the neck, knife in the solar plexus, etc. By recognizing your body’s reaction to anger, you can override its power over you.

3. Reverse reaction

Consciously reverse the negative auto-reaction through your awareness. Take calm slow breaths as you release the anger until you are calm and centered.

4. Disengage

Now that you have disengaged physically, disengage mentally. Separate the person from the problem. Remember, offensive perceptions from your spouse are just his/her thoughts that are not your perspectives. When you disengage, the fight has ended. In the end, you win control over yourself so you can engage the other person in finding solutions.

5. Listen effectively

Listen without resistance. By thinking of your response, you demonstrate a willingness to understand. This promotes reciprocal receptivity.

6. Openly mirror

Restate in a neutral tone what the other person said in order to demonstrate your understanding of what you have heard. Rephrase any negative words into positive words (i.e. This is a “problem” changes to this is a “challenge.”)

7. Voice open-ended questions

Ask an open-ended question that clarifies the situation. This opens the door to mutual understanding and problem solving.

8. Imagine solutions

Brainstorm various options for settlement. Share what you think would be fair for you both, what you really need, and what would resolve the issues for everyone.

9. Non-aggression

If the other person becomes aggressive, stay calm and keep breathing slowly. Listen without engaging in anger. Repeat steps one to four throughout the discussion.

10. Go away

If the other person seems too highly charged, gently, leave the situation and allow the other party to think things through. Take a time out, when needed, in order to manage your hostility.

Although anger is a tough feeling to deal with at times, remind yourself that you are responsible for 50% of the problems in your marriage – no more and no less. Recognize and own your 50%. Remember you may be feeling angry but you are not your anger. You can feel differently when you are in control of your thoughts. Seek emotional counseling in order to release the hurt and find a way to forgive one another and move on with your lives. When you forgive – you do it to “give up” the resentment that is hurting you. It relieves you from carrying the heavy burden of being unforgiving. When you forgive, it frees you to be happy again.

Mari Frank has been an attorney/mediator for 26 years.  She’s a professor of negotiations/conflict management at the University of California; Radio host of Prescriptions for Healing Conflict;  author of several books; and she’s been on over 300 radio interviews and quoted in various national newspapers. Visit and View her profile on here.


1 comment

  1. Nic says:

    Great article.!

    The tips are very helpful to those people who have some anger management issues.