Sunday, April 13, 2014

Get Angry, It’s Good for You

Anger is a maligned emotion and this is truly unfortunate because anger, properly brought to bear in your life, is one of the best emotions you have.  Too often we’ve been led to believe that anger is the emotion associated with violence, criminality and even death. Please stop giving anger a bad name because it’s really quite good for you and your life.

Think of all the ways you have been told to divorce yourself from this vital aspect of your persona. You hear about how the former Charlie character on “Two and a Half Men” was constantly getting drunk or stoned out of his mind and that the actor who played him had a real anger problem. That’s one. Now think about how many violent acts are committed in anger by kids in schools, movie theatres, housing developments and even in public transportation situations.

Displaying anger can get you thrown off a airplane, handcuffed in the back of a police car or sent to a psychiatric ward for observation. Many times, you won’t be questioned whether you have a right to be angry because, in this sensitive society, people tend to overreact to angry people. Sometimes this overreaction leads to a heightening of the anger and it’s just gasoline on a smoldering ember and before you know it there’s a full-blown inferno going.  

What’s wrong with this photo? Oh, sorry, it’s not a photo but a situation. Open your mind’s eye and view it as though it were a video and watch carefully as the escalation takes place and who is getting hotter under the collar, the angry person or those interceding? Hands on angry people will probably be a prominent feature of the video you’re screening.

Think about what’s happened in your life in terms of not using anger appropriately because it can be an appropriate emotion. I’m not advocating wholesale beatings, or personal physicality of any kind. What I am asking is that you consider where anger could have come to your aid and helped you through a bad situation that could have had a better outcome if you had exercised your right to be angry.

Sports fans, too often, see anger in action at a sporting event where, for the fans, alcohol often plays a nasty role in initiating it. That, however, is something I would lay directly at the feet of those operating the venue and selling the alcoholic beverages to excess. Unfortunately, while anger is a good emotion, when it’s mixed with a sufficient quantity of beer, the rational part of anger goes out the window and the devil comes in.

Athletes at these events, too, especially in hockey where angry outbursts are anticipated with glee and no game would be complete without a demonstration of testosterone fueled fisticuffs.  Baseball has the batter rushing the pitcher’s mound after a close ball and the entire field running to the aid of a pitcher who is being menaced.

Managers regularly scream at the umpire when a call doesn’t go their way. How much of this latter example is really theatre for the fans and not real anger? But, I suppose, when your million-dollar job may be on the line you can get pretty worked up if the game is heading for a loss. The only defense an umpire or referee has is to loss the offender out of the game. Also theatre, possibly, or a ploy to get more time for the team to regroup.,

Why do we watch these sports with dueling athletes or race cars where crashes are part of the thrill? You could say it’s a way of getting our own anger out in an acceptable manner. We may be vicarious anger releasers. Perhaps we want to let it spurt out for all the times we held it back—times when a bit of anger might have motivated us.

Where’s the positive side of anger? Ever get a bill that wasn’t correct and instead of calling up the cable company or the grocer or whoever you decided to just swallow it because it would just be too frustrating? Anger could have come in handy there.

Did the plumber charge too much on that bill he sent to you? Going to pay it or get angry at yourself and end up beating yourself up? Call that plumber and, using a reasonable tone, ask if there’s been a mistake. Anger can get you to make the call, but a calm voice takes over from there. Of course, you could just pay it and let the plumber walk all over you with the bill.  Is that what you want? Don’t you have better use for your money?

Being angry can just mean you’re willing to stand up for yourself but you’ll do it in an appropriate way. It can be done and you can benefit from it. Are you angry because someone slighted you? Tell them in a way that will allow them to see what they’ve done and that you don’t want to tolerate that type of behavior.

Anger, in other words, is a motivator just as anxiety can be a motivator and a performance enhancer. Oh, didn’t think a little anxiety was good, too? Ask a motivational psychologist and they’ll tell you that no anxiety may mean no motivation to do well or succeed on a task. Just the right amount of anxiety can get you to study, practice or whatever you need to succeed.

Let’s have a good word for anger in its place and let’s all try to use it creatively.