A wrap-up of how to reduce the intensity of an unwanted emotion.

Have you experienced an incident and still feel angry or resentful about it? Would you like to let go of the hurt and anger? Apply any or all of the following tips:

Be like Alice. If you haven’t already given permission for the pain to be there, and aimed to truly feel it, then do so.

Label the emotion, and be specific. To get rid of some of that inner turmoil we need to know precisely what we are dealing with. Just knowing what is going on can provide reduce a little of the fear and provide some relief.

Find a friend (or someone else you trust) to talk with.

(i) Complain to your friend. If you want to blame and criticise, do so. Blame is fine in the beginning. To complain can relieve the pain a little.
(ii) Identify the root of your distress. Identify the real reason it hurts.
(iii) If you played a part in what happened, acknowledge it without self blame.
(iv) If you can, work with your friend to make a plan that aims to rectify the problem.
(v) Aim to let go of the idea that you are a helpless victim.

If it is long term resentment you are feeling, list all the ways those resentments might be harming you.  For example, are you wasting time and energy pursuing retribution? Losing sleep over it? Becoming bitter? Becoming distrustful of the world, and fearful of it? Are you obsessing over the incident? Wasting time on revenge fantasies?
In what other ways is your resentment hindering you?
List your resentments with your answers in mind. That might prompt you to see the futility of keeping them. You might find it easier to ‘aim to let go’.

If it’s long term pain, aim to one day let the pain dissipate. Say to yourself something like, ‘I don’t want to feel this pain, so at some time in the future I am going to let the anger and resentment dissipate.’
In other words, don’t aim to stay angry. If you aim to stay angry you will remain anchored to the incident while the rest of the world moves forward. You will continue to be a victim, and that can lead to sadness and resentment. Yes, it’s okay to feel anger now; just don’t aim to maintain it.

Remind yourself that you are creating your emotions, not the incident. (Key 18) But start blaming yourself. Self-blame is a cop-out.

If you’re punishing the perpetrator in some way, consider not doing so. It is usually bad for you. Don’t insist on your rights merely because ‘it’s the principle of the thing’. Remove anything that will make you dwell on the incident.

Consider the state of mind of the perpetrator. What was their intention? If they cheated you, what alienation might they feel to do such a thing? What insecurity? Are they feeling a loss of self respect, do you think? (I’m not suggesting you gloat over their shortcomings. I am asking you to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what their life must be like for them to do that.)

Write about it. You might see the situation more clearly and reduce the intensity of what you’re feeling.
 Or try an idea from Professor Richard Wiseman’s book, 59 Seconds: spend 15 minutes describing in writing the benefits you gained from your unwanted experience. When you run out of things to say, answer the following questions: Did you become a stronger person? A wiser person? Have you become more empathic? More compassionate? Did you discover personal strengths you didn’t know you had? Do you appreciate aspects of your life more than before? Have you strengthened a relationship with the person triggering your hurt? Or with someone else? In what way is your life better as a result?
I’ll add that you might also ask yourself if your expectation of the other person was unrealistic. Or if you need to gain assertiveness skills.

Look for your shoulds. If your complaint is full of ‘shoulds’, ‘oughts’ and ‘musts’, consider rephrasing your opinion with aims, suggestions, or preferences. You could reduce your frustration.

Practise letting go in daily life, so that when you do feel an unwanted emotion it’s easier to let go of it.

- Overlook mistakes.
– Let go of your judgments.
– Limit your complaints.
– Apply de Bono’s shrug.
Get good at these and you will get good at letting go.

Use symbolism. Burning a memory in the backyard is still one of my favourites.

If the pain is still there, at least compliment yourself for making the attempt.

If the unwanted emotion does dissipate, be aware that sometimes it returns. That’s natural. When an emotion resurfaces allow it to be. Don’t judge it. Again apply one of the above strategies.

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