Many people vilify anger.
They say it's a destructive force, a weakness or something morally wrong. Thus, they try to avoid, suppress or fight it every chance they get. But this aversion to anger weakens people. It robs them of the guidance, revelations and protection that anger can offer.
The truth is that anger can be a powerful ally.
Anger is An Early Line of Defense
Anger can signal a violation of your personal boundaries.
Anger can alert you to a potential breach of your boundaries and gives you the energy to speak out. Thus, it can aid in defending yourself against exploitation, manipulation and mistreatment. It's there to help you communicate your needs, be selfish in a good way and ensure that no one takes advantage of you.
When your girlfriend asks you to do something illegal or morally reprehensible, you might get angry at her to protect yourself from going against your conscience. Getting angry at her might give you the energy to not go along with the excuses and rationalizations she offers and stand firm on what you believe is solid moral ground.
Thus, anger can be a powerful tool to protect yourself and fend off the exploitation of others.
Anger Highlights What Needs To Change
If you get angry at the same thing or person repeatedly, it can be a sign that change is necessary. In these situations, most people try to change other people or external circumstances. But often, this is an ineffective approach. You can't change other people and you have no control over most circumstances.
Instead, it's a much more promising approach to change yourself.
You can do this by taking responsibility for solving whatever makes you angry. Your partner isn't washing the dishes regularly? Do the dishes yourself. Other people trigger you with mean comments? Build a more resilient mindset. You're angry at how much time you waste? Understand why and align your actions with your values.
Anger shows you what needs to change and makes it easier for you to take responsibility for making that change happen.
Anger Reveals Your Values
The angrier you get at something, the higher the likelihood it's connected to something you value highly.
This means that you can use anger to identify your values. If you find yourself getting angry about something frequently or very intensely, it might mean that you value it highly and might need to devote more time to it.
If you get angry at your girlfriend for not putting things where they belong, you might value orderliness very highly. If you get angry at someone for leaving trash in nature, you might value taking care of the environment and if you get angry at people who propose radical changes, you might value stability and predictability.
Thus, by investigating your reasons for being angry, you can get a firmer grip on your values.
Anger Allows You to Understand Yourself Better
Similar to revealing our values, anger allows you to learn about yourself.
When you get angry, you often lash out for reasons that have nothing to do with what you get angry about. Instead, your anger often reflects the things you avoid, ignore or leave unaddressed. Thus, it can point you to the uncomfortable truths about your life that you try to keep hidden, out of sight or pretend don't even exist. In this way, anger is like an annoying notification that you can't turn off and that keeps reminding you about all the things you'd rather not think about. By investigating these things, you're very likely to understand yourself a lot better than you currently do.
For example, when you get angry at your girlfriend because she's messy, you might think that you want things to be tidy. But, if you probe deeper, you might discover that you get angry because you have trouble communicating your needs effectively or because unaddressed resentment from the past poisons the present.
Paradoxically, you can facilitate healing by learning what makes you angry, why it makes you angry and what you could do about it. The goal of reflecting on your anger is not to explain your anger away but to understand the deeper reasons for it. This understanding gives you insights into yourself that allow true healing to take place.
As you've seen, anger can be a powerful ally for living a better life.
It can protect you from mistreatment, aids you in changing what needs to change, reveals your values and allows you to understand yourself better.
But leaving it at that would only be half the story because the naysayers metioned at the beginning of this article have a point: anger can really be destructive.
In the next blog post, we'll cover why that's the case.