Anger’s impact makes it useful


Stefan-Xp [Public domain]

Anger's ability to convey information and have an impact on those around you makes it one of the most important emotions to understand.

It’s that all-encompassing burn that tunnels your vision, convulses your muscles and spits from your lips. Anger in its most primal state is something to behold. It’s not pleasant, but it’s something all of us experience at one point or another.

What causes that feeling of rage and how we deal with it are very important to our social interactions. Anger actually conveys some of the most information of any emotion. It says you’re not ok; it forces change and provokes a response.

When you get angry, people listen.

The other day I was playing street hockey with some of my friends. I’m not a big guy: only 5’9” and about 135 pounds. Street hockey is a game for big people.

The whole game I’d been bullied: hit into walls, shoved from behind, elbows skinned, knees bruised. I was starting to get annoyed.

So when someone almost twice my size slammed me against the wall, splinters scraping into my arm, I finally lost it.

Due to good taste, I can’t actually relay the conversation that happened, but it was heated. I hardly knew what I was saying. I did know that it wasn’t kind or nuanced. The full brunt of my uncut, illogical anger was on display for everyone to see.

Luckily, the incident didn’t escalate any further. It could have very easily become a fight, but it didn’t. Instead, me and the offending party actually had a somewhat constructive discussion. I told him that the violence felt unnecessary, and he told me that hockey is a physical game. We actually came to an understanding.

The rest of the game was very enjoyable.

Obviously, it isn’t always this simple. For example, if you’re a woman, your anger is not perceived the same way as male anger.

Another issue that arises is when anger is not expressed face-to-face. When you get angry at someone you can’t see, it turns into ugly things like xenophobia and war.

But when anger is resolved in a direct manner, it can be quite constructive. Anger forces hard conversations to happen – conversations we might not otherwise have.

Think about it this way: evolution has made us the dominant species on Earth. Obviously, we are pretty cognitively advanced. Our emotions serve a purpose as far as keeping us alive. From an evolutionary standpoint, anger has to have some purpose.

I think that purpose is to serve as a pressure valve. When an issue gets so big that we just can’t deal with it, an angry outburst can be just the thing to motivate us into action. It resolves social issues that might just keep getting pushed to the side otherwise.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that anger shouldn’t be viewed so negatively. Yes, it can cause bad outcomes, but the answer isn’t to repress it. The answer is to understand its place and use it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email