Anger often gets a bad rap. It’s the feeling that we often judge as “wrong” or “bad.” But that judgment doesn’t give us more control. Denying anger inevitably ends with blow ups. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. For a long time anger was usually only seen to me (and everyone else) when it was big … inaccurately big. I couldn’t see my anger at the lower intensities, so it eventually boiled over.
This was happening because I had unhelpful judgments about how I “should” feel. I thought anger was essentially bad. “Good” people didn’t get angry. So I spent a lot of time trying to be agreeable to an inauthentic degree and of course, eventually I failed.
It took time, pain and the wisdom of others. But eventually I realized that anger itself is not bad. It’s not something that has to be avoided, denied or swept under the rug. It needs to be seen, accepted and managed. And the feeling of anger (not actions of it) absolutely serves us in several important ways.
- Anger is information. Like I said in my post about what to do instead of judging yourself harshly, anger is valuable information if you can see it, rather than judge it. Feeling angry means you need something: a break, more space, support, some novelty or change in routine. It’s your signal that you don’t like something, that you’ve reached a limit, or you need to protect yourself in some way.
- Of all the feelings we can have, anger is often the best at getting our attention. Anger can be uncomfortable. But sometimes we need a little discomfort to snap us out of self-invisibility so we can be more present. Angry actions are never correct. But contained feelings of anger are information. (Proactive rituals of mindfulness are far better.) And the feeling of anger is sometimes the one thing that can break through your autopilot and bring your attention back to your self and your needs.
- Anger lets you know you need to take action. It must be managed mindfully, but anger can be motivating and energizing. When you think of anger as a signal, instead of something wrong, it can be a helpful prompt for action or decision-making. Large actions against injustice are a great example of this. Human and civil rights movements against oppression have all been catalyzed when a threshold of anger across a population was finally crossed.
- Anger helps you keep your needs and limits in focus. The whole idea of self-visibility was created because it really is easy to lose track of your self, your needs and your limits. Those things are ever evolving and need monitoring. But we don’t have a dashboard or control-panel with blinking lights to do that. Our feelings are that dashboard. Anger is one of your most important indicators that resources are depleted or a threshold has been crossed.
- Anger lets you know you have power. Yes it can be used for good, or it can be damaging. But when you stay visible, and use the feelings of anger or frustration as the cues they are meant to be, anger gives you a visceral reminder that you do have power. The physiological experience of anger includes arousal chemicals that truly are energizing. They help you feel your power. If you can stay connected to yourself, in real-time, this information is invaluable. It snaps you out of the illusion of powerlessness.