Expressing Anger: Good or Bad?

Anger is a part of the human experiencethat often gets judged immediately as bad or inappropriate.  Can being angry and expressing anger ever be goodor appropriate?  

The emotion anger is simply wanting things to be different than they are. There is nothing wrong with wanting things to be differentespecially in adverse life situations.  So anger in and of itself is not bad or good. How we use our behavior to express our anger can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, appropriate or inappropriate, or constructive or destructive. 

This feelingof angerstemming from a need for things around us or inside of us to be different or change is many times a natural, adaptive response to threats. Anger is the product often of our defenses that cause us to go into either “fight or flight.” In those cases, anger can motivate us to action. Anger is associatedmostlywith aggression, but that is only one way to express anger. Anger can also be expressed in assertive behaviorthat is not destructive to others or ourselves. How we respond in anger is our choice.

Anger springs often from our need to control the world around us. Ironically, most of the time our unchecked anger controls us and makes us its victims. When you choose to express anger in response to someone’s words or behavior, essentially the other person is controlling you without their even knowing about it. While you fume and fret about what they did or said, only you are experiencing the effects of your anger.Over time your anger held onto becomes resentment and then turns into bitterness. Bitterness then attacks the person experiencing it robbing him or her of the joy, peace and emotional well-being they need in their lives.

Anger affects us physically and has the potential to cause major physical and health complications. When you feel anger, your heart rate and blood pressure go up and the body produces more energy hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline.  Most people are aware that on-going, unchecked anger can eventually lead to such dangerous and even life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes, and heart disease.But few people take the time or energy to put the brakes on their anger to save their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.  

Anger can also be mentally and emotionally destructive. Anger consumes huge amounts of mental and physical energy, reducing our enjoyment of life, interfering with judgment and good decision-making, destroying relationships and careers, and killing self-esteem and self-confidence.  Expressedin healthy ways, anger can help us learn and grow from our experiences.

How does our anger originate? Anger can either be a direct primary emotion (caused by external events) or a secondary emotion (produced by internal events, how you perceive or think about events or feelings experienced). Many people have been trained to think anger is okay to feel and display -- rather than displaying feelings of hurt or vulnerability. Anger becomes their default reaction when anything threatens them or how they want their lives to be.  Expressing anger aggressivelyoften gives these people a false feeling of being in control of their lives, others or their world.

Often we have three choices in dealing with our anger:

Expressing angerin healthy ways. Trybeing assertive, not aggressivein expressing the anger you are experiencing. Stateclearly to others what you need or expect, without hurting others.  Don’t bepushy, but respectful of yourselfwith your boundariesandofothersand their boundaries.Aggression can lead to ruining relationships and taking the joy out of life.

Managingangerwisely.  You can cope in healthy ways with your anger by determining what is causing theanger, and redirecting the feeling toward constructive behavior.  Suppressed or denied anger can lead to self-destructive behavior, health problems, depression, and cynical or hostile attitudes.

Calmingyourself in the face of anger.  Beaware of your physical symptoms of oncoming anger, analyzing your reason for anger and taking steps to “take control” of your thinking, your behavior and your internal responses. This calming involves taking steps to lower your heart rate/breathing, calm yourself down and let the feelings subside.  Anger unchecked willsoon take control of the person experiencing itand throw their life into chaos.

Managing anger and expressing it assertively and in healthy ways is hard work. When anger and resentment become overwhelming, reaching out to others for help or professional assistance can be a wise thing to do. Don’t let anger control you. Learn to manage anger and use it productively in your life.