Is anger ever a good thing? Most of us perceive anger as a negative and detrimental emotion and from our early years, we’re taught to keep anger in check. But is ‘anger’ a misunderstood emotion? Could anger, in proper context, actually be a good thing?
While most of us are instilled with the values of love, forgiveness and compassion, anger does have it’s place and value in our lives, as long as it’s consciously kept in check and expressed in a positive way (yes, anger, a negative emotion, can be used toward positivity)
When managed properly, anger can improve certain aspects of our lives and here are three ways that productive anger can be a valuable means to better emotional well-being.
First, we need to understand the difference between ‘constructive anger’ and ‘destructive anger”:
Constructive anger has no one single definition, but it does have common elements, such as:
- Constructive anger is controlled. Instead of immediately expressing anger when first instigated, take time to think about the situation and determine whether your anger is appropriate. Thinking about your response first will help you avoid destructive anger.
- Constructive anger is justified. Do you actually have a reason to be as angry as you feel, or could you be overreacting to the situation? Did you do anything that could have contributed to the problem? Is the level of anger you feel proportional to the situation? Considering these questions will help you avoid regretting your anger later.
- Constructive anger is shared. If you are expressing your anger and the object of your anger isn’t even present, you are wasting your breath and most likely just working yourself up. If you have a legitimate reason to be angry, it should be discussed face to face with the person. In addition, the other person should be given a chance to explain, share his perspective, and eventually apologize without being attacked further.
Destructive anger on the other hand, is usually hot — it’s often loud, aggressive, sometimes violent and usually very negative. Destructive anger comes from a feeling of rage and vengeance, even if we don’t outwardly acknowledge that fact.
‘Constructive anger’ has none of those elements because it is more controlled and cultivated — it’s about solutions and a desire for action, or some form of change or healing for the better.
So how can constructive anger help us?
Constructive anger can motivate us to take action
Have you put on weight and it’s really bothering you, but you just keep eating and gaining more weight? At some point, the anger you’re feeling toward yourself will motivate you to actually do something about it.
Have you watched TV and seen commercials about starving children around the world? You see them and you get upset…but you don’t actually do anything. The feelings of sadness festers inside you and one day, you realize you’re angry — not angry at someone, but angry about the situation. This constructive anger motivates you to get more involved in ending world hunger.
Constructive anger may start out as a feeling of sadness, but once it morphs into a feeling of being mad, it can get you up and moving, doing, helping and solving.
Constructive anger can bring about social change
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of faith and an ordained Minister. He was also angry. But, he didn’t use destructive anger — he used constructive anger to bring an end to a social injustice.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King mobilized people not through yelling in a rage, but in speaking up and out about a wrong — he took his anger and motivated others to join him in the pursuit of equality.
At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Constructive anger can strengthen relationships
In most of our relationships, anger is almost always unavoidable. We’re all only human after all, so at some point, there will be hurt feelings, hostile words and resentment. We must be ever mindful of how we handle anger in relationships because lashing out, yelling, blaming, getting physical…those reactions will do serious harm to our relationships. But, expressing our anger constructively and with conscious intention can actually heal and improve our relationships.
Whatever issue is causing a feeling of anger, it’s imperative to stay calm, reasonable and focused on the key issues — lashing out with “you never, ever listen to me and I’m getting so tired of your……………..!” will never solve anything.
Once you feel the anger, take a breath and give yourself time to relax and calm down — there’s a very good reason for the adage “sleep on it — everything will look better in the morning.” Taking a step back to let yourself process the feeling of anger and gives you time to really think about what it is that is making you angry, why and, how to resolve it.
Using anger constructively is a way to clear the air in your relationships and help to re-balance them. No one likes to scream and yell and certainly, no one likes to be screamed at. Hence the adage “you get more flies with honey.”
Don’t let anger get the best of you. All of us experience feelings of being mad or upset at one time or another. The key is to recognize that a raging, uncontrolled anger is a very destructive emotion and that constructive anger is a means toward positivity. If we take our anger and use it to heal, improve, solve…then we’re using it to achieve something good.