No one likes an angry person yet it’s such a common feeling within all of us. Losing your cool and being described as having a ‘short fuse’ usually just means you’re unable to contain the negative feelings triggered inside you.
This kind of energy is deemed negative because it creates bad feelings inside of other people who are at the brunt of the anger and even cause the angry person to feel badly about themselves and the world around them.
But can this negative energy be used for good? Does it always have to be interpreted as a failing quality that affects people in a damaging way?
Anger is found in most animals capable of emotions which indicates that there is some evolutionary reason why we are able to feel this emotion in the first place.
This reason is survival. Our job is to react to situations effectively in order to survive and if we feel threatened, attacked, frustrated or powerless we need to let the pack know to back off or stop what’s happening.
But anger could play another important role in our lives. Researchers Jennifer Lerner and Dacher Keltner, studied the effect of anger and fear on risk-taking individuals and found that anger gives you the same outlook towards risk as happiness. What does this mean? An angry person has an optimistic view towards risk estimates. They are more inclined towards taking risks which effectively means you can use this inherent inclination to change your bad habits and adopt good ones, according to author and researcher, Dr. Marcia Reynolds.
Reynolds goes on to explain that, “the skill is to shift the focus of your anger away from external circumstances to instead focus on what you strongly desire to change within yourself. It is not your flaky boss or overwhelming responsibilities that make you scream at strangers while you drive. You should be angry that it has taken so long for you to realise that you have the power to change your circumstances. Use your anger to initiate the positive shifts you need to change your life.”
So how can we use anger positively and change our internal world and our perception of the external?
Being mindful of when you step into these angry feelings may seem hard but doing this in the moment is training you in positive self-awareness. It may not seem much but it’s an inner strength that will get stronger the more you use it. This inner strength will serve you throughout your life so in effect you are developing emotional tools that can help you relax. Learning to take yourself away from the situation and use breathing techniques to recover will help in many other stressful situations you encounter later on.
Anger is usually synonymous with arguments. If you find you’re quite attacking when you’re in angry, argumentative mode then it means you have an opportunity to practice more self-awareness. Techniques such as slowing down your speech, pausing and breathing, and lowering your voice can all help your mind calm down in the moment. You may even find the other person mimics you in order to relax the situation.
It’s also an opportunity to consider the other person and why they may have their point of view and do this without judgement. Perhaps they haven’t understood what you’ve said or they also aren’t being mindful of how you feel in the angry moment. These moments are a wonderful opportunity for self-development, self-awareness and empathy.
Anger is an essential emotion because it allows us to process negative feelings and eventually let go of a situation in our lives. When the anger is all-consuming and lingering, this is when it can be damaging to our well-being.
Channelling negative energy into something positive is the best way of coping with that feeling of rage. Physical activity is the best way to do this as anger causes our body to speed up. If you need to improve performance in anything physical such as running, swimming or any other performance sport, doing this in a more angry state will help improve personal bests.
The good thing about anger, especially if it’s performance related, is you can choose to use it to fuel your desire to perform rather than focus on mistakes. It can even help channel effective brainstorming and solutions. This way you are taking away the negative energy directed at the feeling of anger and focusing it more on a positive solution.
Anger may be a problem but know that it’s an essential part of being human and our emotional recovery. If you find you get triggered very easily it means you’ve integrated it more into your being than is necessary. But this doesn’t have to be bad. Truly see this an an opportunity to learn about yourself and your capabilities. Realise that it’s an opportunity to make a habit of drawing on your inner strength, create solutions to problems, understand others better and even motivate you performance-wise.
Anger doesn’t have to be so negative. Let it teach you to grow.