When is Anger Good for You?
I’m always getting moaned at for getting angry. The last time it happened was when the kitchen bin was over filled and the plastic bag had been pushed down the sides and hard to get.
I never exploded with rage or anything like that, but I did curse and expressed my anger with a heavy huff and buff as I dug my hands into the rubbish to grab the sides to tie up and take it away.
I took it as a natural reaction to a smelly and unpleasant experience, but my partner took it personally because she had just cleaned the kitchen and felt that my huff and buff was in somehow directed towards her, but of-course it wasn’t.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had our buttons pressed, which resulted in our anger rearing it’s ugly head, but stop! Is it so bad to get angry every once and a while?
After all, anger is indisputably a natural part of life, and in many cases expressing it can be healthy and beneficial. On a therapeutic level, it’s been widely accepted that repressing anger often leads to an accumulated affect and therefore exaggerated outbursts that negatively affect relationships and quality of life. While anger has been found to physiologically allow your body to release tension when its allowed to express itself.
Suppressed anger equals a hell of a lot of stress
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re encouraged to express your anger at everything, or at the drop of a hat! Chronic rage sustained over a long period of time, causes both blood pressure and cortisol levels to rise, which means you never get a physiological release. In this instance, stress experts suggest that people train themselves in the conscious moderation of anger. For example, physical exercise has been found to help release anger in a healthy way, and creative expression is another.
In the end, emotion is inherent in all human beings, but anger, in particular, has been vilified as the bad boy of them all. Suppressing anger is more common among women, who are either afraid to speak up and assert themselves or get caught up in being too nice and it’s not feminine to be angry. The results of suppressing anger can be depression, sulking or passive-aggressive behaviour.
And now for a science lesson
Anger is essentially a primitive biochemical response in our brain.
The brain has three significant and easily distinguishable components, which each have their role in keeping us alive and safe and is a product of our evolutionary development as human beings, over millions of years.
1. The Reptilian Brain
The original and smallest part of the brain is in charge of our primal instincts. Triggered without any conscious reason, logic or thought, our reptilian brain alerts us to fight, freeze or take flight, or when to get aroused! It’s primary concern is to keep us alive.
2. The Mammalian Brain
Working in conjunction with the reptilian brain, it takes care of our emotional memories and feelings. Think if it as our RAM chip, which accesses and assimilates significant interactions in our daily lives – in a matter of seconds. If anger originates anywhere in the brain, it’ll originate here.
3. And then there is the newest part of our brain, aptly called, The New Brain.
It solves problems and predicts the consequences of our behaviour and enables our self-awareness. Without it we wouldn’t to able to learn, think, reason, imagine, communicate, problem solve or understand the world around us. This is the aspect of the brain we engage to be ‘mindful’ of ourselves and our behaviour.
Thus the point of this quick science lesson is that we cannot rid ourselves of anger because its been inbred into our brains over millions of years, and we simply cannot help getting angry, so we may as well use it in our favour.
When Anger is Good for You?
1. Anger can motivate us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t do if it didn’t make us angry.
By turning our anger into positive energy, we can change the world. When we feel one of our core beliefs is being challenged, it’s our anger that will motivate us to address a situation.
2. Angry people are more optimistic people.
Referring back to number 1, angry people take control of the world around them and as a result see their glass half full, rather than half empty.
3. Angry people enjoy better relationships.
When we hide our angry from our partners, we’ll naturally become stressed and ultimately ill. Our partner wouldn’t know if anything is wrong because the issue would be suppressed and denied. Expressing our anger in a HEALTHY way, allows us to find the solutions that actually benefit and strengthen our relationships.
4. Anger gives us a better perspective into ourselves.
By opening ourselves to understanding why we get angry, we will inevitably go on a journey of self discovery. If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change in ways we could never imagine.
5. Anger actually reduces violence.
Although anger often precedes physical violence, it can easily be viewed as a means to reduce violence. Going back to the science lesson above, the reptilian brain alerts us to either take flight, fight or freeze. Anger is the warning signal, that gives us the warning to take the necessary action to make the right decision. If you increase your self-awareness to recognise your states of arousal, you can avoid an unnecessary outburst (and hence any progression towards violence) and implement strategies to de-escalate yourself or a situation. This is a skill-set necessary not only for yourself, but for your environment.
6. Angry gets us what we want.
We know tantrums in children often works, and this can be applied to anger too. The negative aspect of this is emotional bullying and tyrants in the workplace. But, anger can also be seen as a practical negotiation tool. I remember years ago in my first job after leaving school, one week our wages never cleared on time and I listened politely as the bank teller explained to me why she was unable to give me my wage for the week. My colleague followed me and angrily told the teller in no uncertain terms that he wants his money now. He set a boundary down and I was genuinely amazed that he promptly got his money without delay! It taught me a lesson very early in life that politeness or ‘being nice’ doesn’t necessarily always work. While you can’t just lose your rag and expect to get everything you want, you can use anger as a useful tool, to get what you want when it’s justified.
To learn more about your anger and how to use it in your favour, check out the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM). With nearly 30 years of experience in the field of anger and stress management, you wouldn’t get any better information from anywhere else.
You can contact the team at BAAM by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 0345 1300 286. Open from Monday-Friday 9am-5pm they are happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively check out these websites for more practical advice on beating stress and anger.