Is anger a negative emotion? When does an “angry person” need anger management? Is it possible that anger may be necessary – even productive?
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
Current research seems to support this view – but only when people are actually “holding on to anger”. Internalizing or repressing angry emotion is often unhealthy – both physically and emotionally. Expressing anger appropriately is far different from rage or fury. Scientists are finding that anger is both necessary and healthy. An article in the March/April 2014 edition of Psychology Today (www.PsychologyToday.com) provides ample evidence for a more positive view of anger. This article, “Go Forth In Anger”, by Joann Ellison Rodgers, shows how anger evolved throughout human history to fuel ambition and creativity. Rodgers states that
Researchers are amassing evidence that anger is a potent form of social communication, a logical part of people’s emotional tool kit… (that) fuels optimism, creative brainstorming, and problem solving by focusing mind and mood in highly refined ways.
Rodgers reviewed several important research findings, which show many useful purposes for anger:
* Anger gives people a sense of control (they control their destinies more than less angry people).
* Anger can promote cooperation (it’s expression can encourage agreement)
* Optimism may result from anger (improving a focus on possible rewards, especially compared to fearful avoidance)
* Anger can be practical (our brains are “…fine-tuned to go after the gettable, not the impossible”)
* Leadership is enabled by anger (it can motivate performance, but not when the anger is too explosive)
* Ambition and creativity (energized by the hormones released by anger)
It seems pretty clear – anger is necessary, productive, and fundamentally survival-based. So when does that angry person you know need anger management? Here are 8 important indications of destructive anger that becomes a form of self-sabotage – and is often destructive to significant others:
1. Aggressive behavior that’s expressed in an exaggerated manner (out of proportion to the situation)
2. Physical fighting, bullying behavior, and physical abuse of others
3. Explosive rage that results in destruction of property and other reckless acts
4. Verbally abusive behavior that results in emotional harm to others
5. Frequent arguments with others – often including expressions of rage, which prevent constructive discussion of differences
6. Road rage (indicated by dangerous driving behavior, yelling and cursing at other drivers)
7. Frequent, angry blaming behavior toward others
8. Relationship and work problems due to angry behavior
These are the indications that anger management is necessary. A qualified psychologist, counselor or psychotherapist will help to determine the best course of action. There are anger management groups, workshops, self-help support groups – and private, confidential therapy for individuals and groups of men and women.
At the Relationship Center of South Florida, we hope that you will allow your natural, positive feelings of anger guide you toward creative, productive solutions. Anger can be a powerful force for resolving many difficulties. If it gets out of hand, we can help people to channel these forces in a more healthy and constructive manner. We would love to hear from you. Please let us know about your positive or negative experiences with anger in your life.
When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.