The Good-ness of Anger

Who hasn’t gotten angry? Anger is such a pervasive emotion that it touches everyone’s life. We get angry with the driver that cut us off in rush-hour traffic. We get angry with our boss, our spouse, our children, and the checker at the supermarket. We get angry with the people who perpetuate injustices in this world.

Unfortunately, we oftentimes take a simplistic approach towards anger. “I want it to roll off my back like water off a duck,” we say. We then try and replace our anger with phrases and behaviors designed to calm us. (See Frank Costanza’s attempt at “Serenity now!”) But does this work? Does this get to the heart of the problem?

For clarification, I think there can be some benefit to strategies like counting backwards from 100 by threes or leaving the room to calm down. We need to take responsibility for our actions. Far too often, we abdicate our power by claiming that we cannot control our feelings or behaviors.

Yet, emotions happen for a reason. That’s why we cannot simply dismiss our anger. What is unhealthy is not the fact that we get angry…it is how we express our anger. We can think of our emotions as road signs. They inform us (and others) about a change in situation, and can give us clues to how we are reacting to it. Trying to not be angry thus only minimizes, or even dismisses, the underlying concern. I get upset at the driver who cuts me off because he was dangerously close and almost caused an accident. I get angry with my spouse because I felt unheard and mocked. These are real and legitimate concerns that cannot (and should not) simply be ignored. The challenge is conveying these concerns and my feelings in a way that allows others to be receptive to what I’m upset about.

In our next post, Tyler will walk us through various ways anger is expressed. Stay tuned…

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