Anger is seen as a negative emotion. It’s seen as an emotion that we definitely don’t want to feel. And if we do, then it’s seen as an emotion that we must diminish (stat!) or dismiss. It’s seen as a scary emotion—an emotion that has cruel, harmful consequences. While this is true in some cases, anger is actually vital. Even more so, anger can be a good thing. A positive thing.
“Anger gets a bad rap because at its worst, it can be incredibly destructive,” said Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a psychotherapist and relationship expert in Washington, D.C. We think of window-shattering shouting, raised hands and physical fights.
We also think of hate, said Anita Avedian, LMFT, CAMS-IV, the executive director of Anger Management 818, which has 10 locations, and the author of Anger Management Essentials workbook for adults and teens.
We think of aggression. However, anger is simply the feeling; aggression is the behavior, Avedian said.
Anger resides on a continuum, said Cheryl Beatrice, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in anger management in Westlake Village, Calif. “It starts with irritated and annoyed and works its way through to rage.”
“All feelings serve a purpose,” including anger, Derhally said. The key is to use anger in healthy, productive ways (more on that below).
Why Anger Is Actually Good
Anger can spark good deeds. Anger can inspire us to take action against injustice, Derhally said. It can inspire us to donate our money, time or other resources to important causes. It can inspire us to start companies and non-profit organizations that make a difference in people’s lives. It can inspire us to work to right all sorts of wrongs.
Anger can tell us when we’re being mistreated. For instance, if you’re angry because you’re being treated unfairly at work, you channel that anger into finding a new job, Derhally said. If you’re angry because your partner is consistently treating you unfairly, you channel that anger into ending the relationship, reflecting on what you really want and searching for a different partner.