The Festering Process: How I Deal With Anger

In my experience, there are usually three ways in which people deal with anger.

The first group go from zero to sixty very quickly, let everything fly, calm down just as quickly and move on.

The second take their time – after the initial incident the rage builds and spreads over a period of days, reaching its peak long after everyone else have got on with their lives.

The third have the ability to shut off, compartmentalise and just walk away.

I am in the second group. I go from zero to sixty in about four days. It doesn’t happen often, but when something truly upsets me (and we’re not talking just a general level of minor irritation here) then I start what The Bloke refers to as ‘The Festering Process,’ during which I mull everything over to the point where I end up in such a state that even functioning beyond a certain level becomes difficult for a while.

I know exactly why it happens. My life was changed beyond all recognition in my late teens by the actions of a family member when it became apparent that everything we had ever known was a lie, and not only did they get away with it, but I was absolutely powerless to do anything. My feelings of wanting to exact some sort of revenge and the pain of the injustice of the whole situation almost destroyed me – I’m not being melodramatic when I tell you that it took me YEARS, failed counselling attempts and a LOT of talking about the same things over and over before I actually came to terms with what happened.

While I’ve made great strides to improve the way that I deal with my anger and ability to calm down over the years, there was still the rare occasion where The Festering Process took over and all I felt that I could do was wait for it to subside.

The last time it happened, however, I made a decision. After 48 hours of being so angry that I didn’t even feel like I was even in my own body (however strange that may sound) and getting just seven hours of sleep in those two days, I realised that The Festering Process was raging away in my mind and I was sinking.

It was exhausting, and I was going to do something about it. I planned an experimental day where I would focus on targeted and mindful activities:

I walked. I’m lucky to live right next to a beautiful park and so I put on my trainers, left my phone at home and just went for a walk. The weather was reasonable and the temperature has improved so it wasn’t as uncomfortably cold as it has been over recent weeks. I took the time to be mindful of the scenery, spent a lot of time doing some deep breathing exercises and to avoid allowing my brain to wander too much I focused on different areas that would make beautiful photographs the next time I visited. I didn’t set myself a time limit – I just walked until I felt that I’d had enough.

I talked. I spoke to someone I trust that allowed me to get everything I was feeling out in the open. The process of verbalising the situation and my anger didn’t change anything, but it allowed me to take ownership and put a number of things into perspective that I hadn’t considered before.

I cried. I cried a lot. A good cry always makes me feel better.

I wrote. Writing has always been an effective form of therapy so in an old notebook I did a free-writing activity and got out everything that I was thinking. Once I’d finished I tore the pages up and threw them away. I then wrote a gratitude list of everything that is positive in my life and all of the exciting things that I have coming up in the future. My life is a blessed one and I’m extremely lucky.

I got some sleep. Only a few hours, but it made a difference.

I had a long hot bath. I got out all of my favourite products and treated myself to a homemade spa session.

I referenced my favourite videos and tutorials on YouTube. I keep a list of things that I find motivational, hilarious and/or inspiring, and I watch them when I’m feeling low.

I cleaned and tidied up. I hate doing both, but the end result of having clean laundry and a tidy house always makes me feel better.

I used the fact that an angry Suzie is a productive one, so I did some work finishing a whole bunch of tasks that had been on my list for a little while.

I met up with a friend for a drink at the end of the day. There’s one friend in particular who brightens my mood simply by allowing me to be in her presence, and a drink and a catch-up in the local pub not only helped me to temporarily forget about the situation, but the laughter I had during the conversation brightened my mood for the evening.

When I got home, I snuggled up on the couch with my two favourite boys (The Bloke and the cat) under a duvet. We talked, we laughed and we watched our favourite TV programmes. There’s no better place to be.

Essentially, what I discovered was that keeping myself busy, exercising, indulging in self-care activities, focusing on inspirational thoughts and ideas, being mindful of what I was doing, reminding myself about how lucky I am and surrounding myself with the people who make me happy and lift my soul worked wonders. It didn’t necessarily change or solve the situation, but it prevented The Festering Process from reaching its full extremes.

Above all, it was important for me to remember that time is the biggest healer of all wounds, and I accepted that I would feel better in a few days.

Life is short – claim your power back and go out and enjoy it.

What about you guys? How do you calm down when you’re feeling angry?

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48 thoughts on “The Festering Process: How I Deal With Anger

  1. It’s interesting how that whole festering process can reach great heights in such a short period of time!. All of these are great strategies to use in those times of need. Distraction is important. 😉

  2. I too tend to do a slow, long Fester when angry. I find that very long walks help, as well as music. My music! I don’t want anyone around me, I don’t want anyone to offer their suggestions about what song we should hear next. Just me (well, and the cat) and the music. Then I walk some more. Usually this will help me actually process my anger and stop the fester.

  3. After many years of holding anger inside for decades I let go of it as soon as I can. Many hours counseling have taught me life is short. Live in the now. Life is over very quickly. Learning to forgive help you to move in too.

      • I ask myself. How will this effect me in a week a month a years time? Most thing don’t matter . I ask what action if any I can take. New anger can be sorted now . Old anger only lives in your mind and eats away at your happiness . let it go like old clothes. I still get angry but I try not to keep it with me. Mindfulness techniques help focus on the now. I say – Not my problem – in my head quiet a lot too.

  4. I listen to music very loudly. This is always my go to when I’m angry. I think in some way, I’m trying to block out what has just happened or what I am thinking, so possibly not the healthiest way to deal with anger, but I do find it therapeutic. I’m like you. A festerer. I don’t lose my temper often, but when I do…well it’s best to keep out of my way haha! I think exercise is an excellent way to deal with anger though. Probably the best way.

  5. I am a mixture of festering and letting go. If it is something extreme, I may feel bummed for a few days, and like you, find things to do to help me release some of the steam, but once I have a chance to fully understand what happened and put it in perspective, I forgive my assailant and move on. I know that depending on the offense, forgiveness can be a hard concept to grasp, but forgiveness is more for you than the perpetrator. It releases the power that they have over you and frees you to move on.

      • I’m a religious lady and pray a lot. Especially when I face situations that are bigger than me. One thing to keep in mind, forgiving doesn’t mean you are forgetting or that you are accepting them back with open arms. It means you are releasing the hold that person’s behavior had on you, and their ability to control your emotions and take over your life. Who has time for that? By forgiving them, you are taking control of the situation and releasing the hold they have on you. Shake it off and move forward a little bit wiser 🙂

  6. I am like my gas fireplace. Throughout winter (or period of otherwise frosty temperatures), there is always a tiny spark there, primed and ready, though it can usually be ignored. Then one day something will happen to flip that switch and my anger can blaze into an obsessive heat as long as there is fuel to keep it going. My immediate family knows that when this happens it is best to watch from a distance, however, others might make the careless decision to stand too close or worse, attempt to touch the glass. If I see that there was a conscious effort to make amends once I have confronted the issue (even if the words ‘I’m sorry’ were never spoken), I will usually flip the switch again (though the pilot light will remain ever ready), but if there is no apology… let’s just say I have a long memory.

    • Oh my gosh me too. Fool me once… Well, you’ll never get the chance to fool me twice because I’ll remember what you did the first time and I’ll keep you at arms length. Not a healthy way to be.

  7. I used to be numero 1…and now I am numero 3…completely chilled and if I feel I am not I walk and then shut myself away and write and that’s it really but well done Suzie on getting yourself back in control without reaching the point where the touch paper is lit and goes boom…

  8. You make good points. I’m trying to be better, I rarely get angry, but I’m trying to assess and change how I deal with things.
    A main one for me too, is reminding myself that there is always good to counteract the bad, I just need to be aware of it, because sometimes I have an inability to see what is right in front of me.

    • That’s one of the things that I find most difficult when I’m angry – I often become so insular that I am focuses on that one thing. Looking at the positives really helps and it’s definitely something I’m going to do more often…

  9. fascinating post. I loved reading it. I am in the first group, flare up quickly, and get over it quickly, I do own that I really do have an Irish temper, but I am proud of my Irish heritage (second generation American here). Anyhow. I get angry quickly, I calm down quickly and I apologize quickly, but, I do tend to clean while angry. Scrub walls, scrub floors, and sometimes, if it is a major situation I write, but I also pray… just for clarity of thought so that I can either own my responsibility or try to see what the other person is going through. Not always victorious, or do I get over it, but, I try. Hope you are feeling better today. ❤

  10. You’ve covered all the techniques I use and more, Suzie. I especially need to talk to someone I trust and keep moving with physical activity. If I can’t sleep I get up and read and that usually helps me get through the night. And most of all, like you, I move on – working on forgiveness for my sake as well as the person or situation so I can reclaim my serenity.

  11. I tend to be a festerer, too. I always find that writing out my feelings helps me feel less hopeless/helpless. I’ll definitely try a couple of your other techniques next time as well. Thanks!

  12. I rarely get really angry; more a small snap and then guilt for even that and I apologise and move on. I find if I can try and see why something has annoyed me and set it against the stuff that delights me, then usually it is irrelevant and I get a grip on myself. Occasionally I can feel myself being to bubble but that’s so much hot air that it rarely gets going far. I’ve too much going for me to spend time fizzing with wasted energy

  13. Thanks Suzie, these are very constructive tips, I’ve also found some of the points you mentioned useful in calming oneself in any stressful situation. I would also add drawing to the list!

  14. I think I straddle groups 1 & 2. I will fly, but calming down doesn’t come easy. And then the festering begins. If there were degrees in over-thinking and analysing, I’d have a Master’s. I’m definitely better than I was, with more tools in my armoury for improving both the length of my quick and the festering time, but I can’t ever imagine joining Beloved in Group 3!

  15. Thanks so much. I really needed to know that I am not the only one who lets things fester and boil over.

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