Anger is sometimes unfairly assumed to be a wholly dangerous state. But when under control, it’s possible to have constructive outcomes.
Anger is activating and mobilising. When you’re angry, you feel as if you’re doing something about what’s triggering your stress. You feel there is a response you can make, a way of expending energy toward resolving the distressing situation. It can get you to take action and do something about the problem.
“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” – Malcolm X
Anger is invigorating. The “e” in emotion stands for “energy.” Anger produces an instantaneous surge of adrenaline, which causes your pupils to dilate, your heart to race, your blood pressure to elevate, and your breathing to accelerate. If you’re really angry, even the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! Your liver responds by releasing sugar, and blood shifts from your internal organs to your skeletal muscles, causing a generalised state of tension. You’re energised and ready for action. Remember, though, that emotions are short lived; they come and go. So, it’s imperative that you strike while the iron is hot and use the angry energy to your benefit before it evaporates.
Anger serves as a catalyst for new behaviour. The motion part of emotion has to do with motivating behaviour. There are some things you want to change in your life. But often the fear of the unknown overtakes the desire to move your life in some new direction. So, you do nothing – that is, until you get mad enough about the way things are that you spring into action.
Anger is an antidote to impotence. Impotence feels lousy. You can be impotent in how you deal with the world around you; your relationships, your job, your finances, your health, your weight, the loss of loved ones, and so on. You feel weak and inadequate, not up to the task at hand. Then you get angry and suddenly you’re infused with a sense of empowerment, a feeling of strength, confidence, and competence. You’re standing straight up to the frustrations and conflicts you’ve been avoiding. Anger is a can-do emotion: “I can fix this problem,” “I can make a difference here,” “I can be successful if I try.”
Does this mean that all of your anger is inappropriate or destructive? Not at all. In fact, in measured doses and expressed in the right way, anger can be appropriate and effective, helping you to take action, solve problems, or in some way better deal with the situation at hand. Anger clearly has a place in your emotional repertoire.
However, a big difference exists between feeling annoyed or somewhat angry for a brief period and having strong feelings of anger that simmer for hours. When it is intense and prolonged, anger can result in incredible amounts of stress and damage to your overall well-being. Understanding how you create your anger and knowing how to reduce that anger are the keys to anger control.