Anger can be a catalyst for change and growth.
Awareness, Choices, Controlling our Emotions, Emotions, Growth, Mindfulness, Personal Resonsibility

Seeing Red: Is There an Upside to Anger?

Anger is treated like an evil force in nature. Dark. Destructive. Scary.

Psychologists describe it as an emotional response to a real or imagined “wrong” or injustice or when things don’t go the way we’d like, and we resist present-moment reality. Typically, it’s experienced as a secondary emotion when our feelings are hurt, and we feel inadequate or fearful. Our attention is turned inward which can leave us feeling vulnerable and distressed, quickly transforming into anger.

The upside of anger is that experts say it helps in many ways as a built-in alert system in response to what we find wrong in our environment, other people, and us. When used sensibly, it’s a tool for feedback and can motivate us to make changes for adversities and injustices. It can also provide a surge and feeling of power and control, offering a sense of temporary safety and quickly prompts movement and resolution. Again, not all bad. Anger at what we see, think or feel can be a catalyst for change and growth.  

“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind.”

Lewis Mumford

Most of what we learn in life about emotions and corresponding behaviors, we learn early-on at home. That’s our foundation, which certainly isn’t permanent and can be altered, adjusted, and amended as we become adults. So, like any emotion, our parents and family environment provide our first glimpse in handling anger.

I didn’t learn healthy ways to process or express anger having been raised in a home that was a mostly happy environment but didn’t offer healthy ways of handling anger, because they didn’t have them. A generational curse at work. A lack of skills by their parents, and grandparents and most likely, their great grandparents. You can’t teach what you don’t know.

I saw one parent bury everything until they reached a boiling point they could no longer contain, and they’d unexpectedly burst, and one who’s painful and traumatic early childhood left them exceptionally reactive when exasperated or emotionally overwhelmed. So, the cycle continued and by not being taught healthy ways to express anger, I “learned” to feel anger was a bad thing to avoid at all costs.

Is all anger bad? Well, in a world where positive psychology gets the attention on how to be more mindful, improve your mood, and feel calmer and more centered, researchers Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener, authors of The Upside of Your Dark Side, offer a positive perspective on anger. They say, “that to be successful and fulfilled you need to embrace not only your nicer and more cheerful emotions, but also accept and learn to work constructively with your darker ones.” There is an upside to anger, and they explain “anger is best viewed as a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations.”

“Anger can be a beneficial source of emotional information that focuses attention, thinking, and behavior toward a surprising number of effective outcomes.”

Todd Kashdan and Robert Biwas-Diener

I believe like anything in life, it’s not the anger but how we process and express it that makes it good or bad. It’s a protective human attribute. Let’s stop avoiding anger and embrace it as the tool it was designed for – feedback and motivation for change. Taking time to learn how to listen to what our anger’s trying to tell us and learning ways to effectively and productively transform it into a constructive tool, is advantageous and time and energy well spent. ❤

Keep it Simple,

Just Teri

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