Anger: What is it good for?

Actually, anger is good for something. Check out this excerpt from our workbook “Managing Our Anger, Managing Our Lives,” which explains the purpose of anger:

“Anger can be defined as a normal human process. When we break anger down, we understand that its origins are primitive and rooted in survival. Anger is a response to a perceived threat, and its purpose is to help us fight or defend ourselves when we are in danger. However, anger can be triggered in our daily lives, oftentimes by misperceived threats. Is encountering a bear in the woods the same threat as being questioned by your spouse about leaving dirty dishes in the sink? It depends on who you ask. The threat is obviously greater with the bear, but in both situations the same anger response can be elicited.”

Anger is the brains way of ensuring survival. Its purpose is to help you defend yourself during a dangerous situation. The problem with anger, however, is that oftentimes it is misplaced. Sometimes your brain can be mislead to perceive a threat as serious when it actually is not. Instead, it reacts to everything. Logically, you may know that you are not in actual danger, however, the part of your brain that is designated to help you survive (the amygdala) does not. The amygdala overhauls your logical thought system. This causes you to react in ways that you do not want to or may later regret.

There is hope, however. By being more mindful of anger, you can make a change. The first step to gaining control is to notice (or to become more aware of) the feeling of anger. Once you can do this, then you can take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is this a real or misplaced threat?
  2. What emotion am I actually feeling (under my anger)?
  3. Should I take a break right now to cool down?
  4. What may be the negative consequences of my anger if I react?

Once you do this, you can slow down your anger process, reduce impulsive behaviors, and make healthier choices. Furthermore, if you learn to recognize your anger, you can slow down the process of anger and also learn to control your behavior when angry. This makes anger less intense and much more manageable. Remember, practice is essential in creating change. Practice this tool in order to build awareness and start gaining control over your anger. If you are interested in more tips and strategies, you can also take our anger management eCourse or purchase our workbooks.

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