If there ever was an emotion that was hated it is anger. People are shamed because they are told anger is bad and they should not display any type of anger towards another person. If that is true, why do we have anger? Wouldn’t we have found a way to take it completely out of our lives if it was not useful in some way?
Emotions are useful tools for us to manage our lives and environments. Think about each of your emotions, they are trying to tell you something about your life. Happiness let’s us know that something pleasant happened, sadness tells us that we are grieving, excitement tells us that we are anticipating something good, fear protects us from an unwanted or unpleasant experience and the list goes on.
What about anger?
Anger is a protection emotion, it tells us that something hurt us, and we need to protect ourselves from it. Anger is considered a secondary emotion as its normally the first emotion that causes the pain we want protection from. Anger can back other people off because others do not want to be around an angry person, so it creates a little bubble for us to give us time to figure the problem and fix it. Which means that we must listen to our anger to find out what we need.
What is your anger trying to tell you?
To utilize your anger effectively, it requires us to slow down to figure out what is causing the pain. It could be that we do not feel like we are in control of the situation or that we do not have a choice in what is happening. It might be that a friend has betrayed us or is asking more from us than we can give. Each situation is different, take a breath, and ask yourself, what am I mad at? Then deal with the problem instead of reacting in anger to the situation.
Anger gets a bad reputation because people react in their anger instead of trying to problem solve what is hurting them. According to Ronald Potter-Efron, the author of Letting Go of Anger there are 11 different ways people react in their anger which he terms anger styles. These include: masking anger which is when people avoid it or hide their anger and other’s do not know they are angry; explosive anger, which is the quick, exaggerated, sometimes dangerous anger, characterized by a loss of control; and chronic anger which is where people stew in their anger for long periods of time.
On the other side is healthy anger. This anger tells us that anger is a normally part of life. It sends us a signal that there are real problems in our life. Basically healthy anger says, “Hey something is going wrong here, let’s do something about it.” Then it gives us the energy to take care of the problem. It also gives us the choice of how to react to a situation with a goal being to resolve problems instead of trying to express the anger. Most importantly, healthy anger is temporary as we can release it when we have solved the problem.
Next time you are angry, ask yourself what is my anger trying to tell me?
Trish Pauls, MA RP