Anger often gets a bad rap. It’s the feeling that we often judge as “wrong” or “bad.” But we can still get really angry… Scary angry at times. I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself. Just ask my husband. For a long time anger was only visible 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 judgments about how I “should” feel. I thought anger was essentially bad. Good people didn’t get angry. I spent a lot of time trying to be agreeable to the point of passivity. 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. But anger is absolutely a power that serves us in many 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. Sure getting angry is not the ideal way. (Proactive rituals of mindfulness are far better.) But 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 (and a Mindfulness Bucket ™ to help you stay visible) 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 frustration as the cue it is 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.
Jessica is a psychotherapist, relationship and addiction expert, and creator of The Visible Self ® and VisibleU™ system. Over the last 17 years she has helped hundreds of busy adults create healthier habits and more satisfying relationships.
Jessica received her Master’s in Applied Psychology from New York University, and completed mediation training at the Columbia University School of Law. She has held numerous clinical roles, managed clinical operations for a national EAP, and advised executives on employee-relations concerns at Fortune 1000 companies. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and a master instructor of mindful living …their Border Collie/Pointer-mix “Abby”.