Anger in numerous dictionaries is defined as a strong feeling that makes you want to hurt or inflict pain to someone or oneself due to displeasure caused by certain actions or set of events. Historically, anger has triggered many holistic responses to various events making “Anger: The Emotion” highly undesirable. My understanding to anger is, it is perfectly okay to feel angry, what you do with that anger (in response) is what matters the most.
Being Angry has a negative reputation when compared to positive emotions such as happiness, enthusiasm, and hope. Perhaps the lack of respect for anger is rooted in social, cultural, and religious reasons, as well as the obvious manifestation of its often-destructive outcomes, such as aggression and violence. Hence, Anger has become the problem child in the class of emotions. In fact, many believe we would be better off without anger as an emotion. However, more and more social, and evolutionary psychologists, brain scientists, and mental health professionals are suggesting anger has valuable qualities and can be beneficial to the human condition.
From an evolutionary perspective, all emotions are appropriate in certain circumstances when experienced at an optimal degree, providing the resources to effectively operate toward a desired goal. For example, certain levels of stress and anxiety push us to perform at a high level. Sadness can be cathartic, filling us with appreciation for what we have lost while signalling to others we need support to recover and heal. Similarly, mild to moderate anger can help us positively move forward—yet, of course, extreme, or chronic anger can be detrimental to our well-being. For that matter, anything to extreme or chronic levels is detrimental to mental balance.
Anger is not just aggressive reaction. It often provides us with information that allows us to better engage with the world around us (as well as ourselves). It is a natural feedback mechanism devised by human emotions which helps in course correction and enhances the feelings of being alert. To this end, the following is a brief list of benefits which can be garnered from “Being Angry”. There are many more to be listed.
ANGER PROMOTES SURVIVAL
Evolution talks about emotions evolved to keep us safe. Our fight response, which evolved so we could defend ourselves from an enemy or danger, stems from anger. Anger is embedded in our primitive need to live and protect ourselves against aggression. Anger drives people to be extremely vigilant about threats and sharpens our focus. When we are threatened or attacked by a predator, anger is automatically activated and pushes us to fight back and act quickly and forcefully to protect ourselves. This was the original purpose of anger as a emotion, however this particular usage ahs massively reduced as humans have made material improvements in living and societal conditions.
From a survival perspective, we defend ourselves when we retaliate and make other people fear us. Back in the medieval times, anger guards us when someone wants to hurt us. It gives us the strength and aggression to help us overcome a stronger enemy. In day-to-day situations, anger serves as a positive force to motivate us to stand up for ourselves and creatively find solutions to the challenges we face. As Richard Davidson says, anger “mobilizes resources, increases vigilance, and facilitates the removal of obstacles in the way of our goal pursuits, particularly if the anger can be divorced from the propensity to harm or destroy.” Many times, it has energized me to perform better and resolve problems
Personally, When I feel like things are out of place, I can get angry. If things are not the way they are supposed to be and need to change, anger propels us to do something and motivates us to find solutions to our problems. Anger is triggered when we face an obstacle or individual (or something else) that blocks our needs. It prepares us to deal with the obstruction or problem in our path so we can get to where we want to be.
ANGER DRIVES US TO OUR OBJECTIVES
Anger pushes us to pursue our desired goals and rewards. When we don’t get what we want, anger is triggered and indicates we have moved away from our desired objectives. Anger tries to eliminate whatever prevents us from realizing our desires. It energizes and pushes us to act in service of achieving our goals and working toward our ideals.
ANGER INJECTS OPTIMISM
Surprisingly, anger can trigger optimism. It can encourage us to focus on what we hope to achieve, rather than merely focusing on the pain, insult, or victimization. The anger system is geared toward what is attainable, not the impossible. When we are angry, we often feel positive about our ability to change the situation, empowering us to act and move from an undesirable position to a desirable one.
Anger serves as a social and personal value indicator and regulator. It is activated when our values are not in harmony with the situation we face. Accordingly, it makes us aware of our deep-seated beliefs and what we stand for.
ANGER PUSHES US TO REACH A DEEPER SELF
Anger is generally a very apparent emotion and at times can be volcanic. Yet—like a volcano that is formed when magma pushes up through the earth’s crust from below, depositing lava on the surface—there are many forces that push anger to surface, such as fear and defensiveness. It might be a fear of losing control or fear of being alone, rejected, abandoned, unloved, etc. Anger provides insight into ourselves, as it is the layer of deeper issues that are most hidden. Therefore it is important to trace the trail of anger and dig down to find and address its source. Only after addressing the blockage that leads to anger can we free ourselves from the misery it sometimes induces.
ANGER CAN LEAD TO SELF-IMPROVEMENT
Anger can make you a better person and can be a force of positive change. It provides insight into our faults and shortcomings. If looked at constructively, this can lead to positive outcomes. Just like motivation, it can lead to self-change. For instance, if one knows certain things make them angry, they can work on these triggers to improve their response to them and, by doing so, improve their quality of life and relationships.
FEELING ANGER ENHANCES EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Individuals willing to embrace uncomfortable emotions such as anger, rather than avoiding or repressing them, have greater emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent individuals do not resist anger, instead utilizing its “wisdom” to gain its positives. As a result, they have highly flexible emotional response systems and are more adaptive and resilient.
Conclusively, despite an unfavorable reputation, the concept of constructive anger is gaining more empirical support from researchers and can have a beneficial role in our lives. Anger is an integral part of our fight-or-flight mechanism. It had a survival necessity in the past and has some positive value in the present, too. The motivation and action that is powered by anger can move us toward reaching our goals. It pushes us to fix the wrongs we see in the world and make it right.
I would like to end by using a metaphor: Anger, like a fire, is a primal force. When left unchecked, it can be destructive, yet when managed and used wisely, it can be a beneficial and powerful instrument that leads to enlightenment.