The Two Sides of Anger
We all get angry, right?
Even the most calm, even-tempered of us can be triggered by something or someone who pushes us too far or stretches our patience past its limits.
If asked, most people would list anger as a negative emotion. Something to be avoided or detrimental to our overall emotional health.
But, is it?
In today’s segment, I’m going to share a bit of a different perspective. That, maybe, there are occasions when anger isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it could even be considered helpful or healthy!
So, let’s start with the standard concept of anger as an unhealthy emotion. Of course, explosive, uncontrolled or aggressive expressions of anger would never be considered healthy.
Any type of emotion that seeks to hurt others through physical violence, intimidation or manipulation is never ok under any circumstance.
It’s also hard on your overall health and well-being because it drains energy and creates stress and chaos on your heart and adrenal systems.
That old expression “he’s so mad, he’s gonna blow a gasket!” is, unfortunately, closer to the truth than we’d like to admit, as sudden bursts of adrenalin from fits of rage have been known to cause more than a heart attack or two.
When it’s unhealthy, anger can be all-consuming, making it almost impossible for a person to think clearly or to see other perspectives. It can destroy relationships, create friction in workplaces or make it impossible for a person to move past unpleasant life experiences, especially if they feel they’ve been victimized.
But, the worst kind of anger is the kind that is internalized.
Being angry with yourself over past mistakes, lost opportunities or perceived failures can simmer and grow over time, making it impossible for a person to accept the lessons they’ve experienced and grow from them.
In my coaching practice, one of the tools, or processes, I often use to help clients who are experiencing this, is called an Energy Leadership Assessment. It’s a fancy name for a simple, but scientifically based process that helps a person identify the primary type of energy, emotions and perspectives they’re using to process the world around them.
This process has seven levels, each with a corresponding thought, emotion or action to describe them, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
As humans, we run the gamut of emotions every single day. We can be happy at home, but miserable at work or vice versa. We can start out low energy at the start of our day, but light up when we see an old friend or get some exciting news we weren’t expecting.
Few of us really pay attention to how often our emotions vary as we go through our day. If we’re in a highly stressful situation, we can experience all seven levels of energy in the same day, ping ponging our way from one emotion to another and back again.
Often, after taking the Energy Leadership assessment, my clients are surprised by the results, because they are usually unaware of the primary energy, thoughts and emotions that create the way they view the world or that are blocking them from moving forward with their goals.
Let me give you an example as to how anger, as a core emotion, fits into the equation.
Level One of Energy Leadership is called the Victim Level. It’s a level most of us flex in and out of throughout our lives, depending on life’s circumstances and coping abilities.
It’s core emotions are apathy, fear, guilt, worry, lack of self-esteem and/or hopelessness. In this level, we feel like we don’t have a choice. It’s a place of “You win, I lose” and “Why bother?”.
In Level Two, anger is the predominant emotion/energy. This level is about conflict, defiance, judgment, blame, resentment and stress. Not much better than Level One, right?
Except for one thing.
It turns out that anger can be positive when you’re using it as a catalyst toward positive change.
Remember that movie “Network” where Peter Finch’s character says “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”?
Anger is the antithesis to apathy, because anger can create action and action is the prerequisite for any sustainable change.
Its energy, when harnessed and re-directed toward making better and healthier choices, can be just the powerful driver a person needs to make life-changing decisions in their lives.
Anger can also sustain us, and keep us on track, when we feel we might falter and fall back into old patterns, like returning to an unhealthy relationship that promoted victim energy.
It says “I’m done! Things have to change and they have to change NOW!”
It also says “I’m worth more and I’m going to fight for what I want and need” so you can climb that Energy Ladder to a level where you don’t need anger to sustain you anymore.
You don’t always have to know where the fight will lead you either.
Sometimes, anger will need to share some space with faith and trust in knowing that wherever your intent to change takes you, that it’s going to be a much better place than the unhappy space you’re coming from.
Using anger as a catalyst is just the starting point though. It’s only meant to get you quickly on the road to building the skills and tools you’ll need to take the next step, which is to release and forgive the unhappiness you’ve experienced in the past.
Once you do that, you’ll find that anger quietly and quickly dissipates as it’s meant to.
It’s done its job, because you’re freer, more at peace and able to better weather the storms that life inevitably brings.
You’re finally able to give yourself the permission to live your life filled with compassion and patience, not only for others, but for yourself as well.
So, you see? Anger isn’t always the Bad Guy!
Used with positive intention and care, it can truly be a powerful and positive force in helping us create change in our lives.
So, my friend, until next time….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!