I have a question about what I am calling “angry crying,” or crying every time I am mad at someone. Is “angry crying” something good or to be avoided?
“Angry crying” can be a catharsis and this release of the negative feelings is good, at least to a point. A key issue to consider is the intensity, duration (at any given time), and how long over time you cry. In other words, when you look at your pattern, is it very intense and long lasting? If so, then the cathartic benefits are not necessarily leading to a cure of the anger. Forgiveness has as one of its goals the cure of deep resentment so that it goes away or is reduced to very manageable levels. So, “angry crying” is not necessarily good or bad in and of itself. If it is intense and the release is only temporary, then you need more, such as forgiving those who are making you cry.
You recently asked me how power can help me overcome the anger within. Well, I will tell you. If I can get back at the one who was ridiculous to me, then I get rid of the anger. You as a psychologist should know this. The name of this cleansing is called catharsis, right?
Catharsis or “letting it all out” will not necessarily cleanse your anger in the long run. Yes, you may feel empowered for a short time, but if the injustice against you is deep, then the internal effects on you can last for many years. For example, we have worked in a hospice situation in which some of the participants in our forgiveness intervention had been carrying anger within them for over 40 years. Nothing they had tried cleansed that anger until, 40 years later, they made the choice to forgive.
Your critic has another issue on which I would like you to respond, please. He is a mental health professional who said this: One of his clients who was angry about her divorce sent a strong letter to her ex-husband asserting how unfair he was. This made her feel much better. There was no need for forgiveness. How would you respond?
The technique employed above is what we call catharsis, or “letting off steam.” Yes, this can help in the short-run. As you ask someone who just sent such a letter, you might get a report of feeling empowered or relieved. Yet, there is a 25-year longitudinal study by Judith Wallerstein who found that many people who felt unjustly treated in the divorce are still suffering from considerable anger 10 years after the divorce. In other words, the short-term catharsis may not last and may require a stronger approach to reduce unhealthy anger. Forgiveness may be more effective in the long-run, if the client willingly chooses forgives and is not pressured into it.
For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.
Can a person get rid of anger permanently simply by letting it out or is forgiveness necessary to be rid of anger?
The answer depends on the level of injustice and the depth of the anger. If the other was insensitive without being cruel, then your expressing an appropriate, measured level of anger may take care of the issue. On the other hand, if you have been treated very unfairly and your anger is deep, then catharsis (letting out the anger) may not be effective. Forgiveness then may be required to rid yourself of the anger. Please keep in mind that catharsis by itself, when the problem is serious and the anger is deep, actually can increase the anger and lead to a pattern of being angry and expressing it. Catharsis then needs forgiveness to deal in a healthy way with the anger.
Learn more at How to Forgive.