A Case for Healthy Anger

Generally speaking, our society prefers to focus on how we can cultivate “positive” emotions and attitudes: joy, gratitude, peace, forgiveness and kindness. But the truth is sometimes we feel other emotions. Sometimes we’re moody, sad, frustrated, worried and even angry. The reality is that there is a time and a place for every emotion we might feel and it’s important to express these emotions in a healthy, beneficial way.

Understanding Unmet Needs

Unmet Needs and Anger

Image Credit: Elijah Henderson

Anger, in particular, can actually serve as an important warning sign that one of our perceived needs isn’t being met. What does this mean? Perhaps we feel insecure in a relationship or as though we aren’t being accepted or that we might even be in danger whether emotionally or physically. If these needs of security and belonging aren’t being met, we might respond from a place of anger. As a result, anger would be an important emotion to pay attention to in that moment so that you and those around you can address any unmet needs.

Seeking Change and Seeking Control

One other benefit of anger is that it can inspire change. Pursuing the notion of unmet needs further, when anger is channeled appropriately it can actually influence actions and improve situations — not just for yourself, but for others as well. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) points out that the women’s suffrage movement in America was fuelled by a healthy anger that spurred an entire cultural movement. In other words, anger can actually provide control and a sense of purpose in times of uncertainty.

Anger Does Not Always Lead to Violence

Anger and Peace

Image Credit: Joey Thompson

It’s important to point out that anger does not always lead to violence. In fact, in situations of everyday anger, healthy confrontation and expressions of frustration can lead to a deepening of relationship and mutual understanding. In other words, constructive anger typically involves both parties and in the best case scenario, the angry person is heard and responded to appropriately.

The Physical Benefits of Expressing Anger

Did you know that beyond emotional, societal and relational benefits of expressing anger in a healthy, constructive way that there are physical benefits as well? In fact, unresolved anger can trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response system, leading to feelings of anxiety, panic and heightened arousal.

Some other effects of unresolved anger include:

  • headaches
  • digestion problems
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • heart problems

Expressing your anger in a healthy way not only reduces emotional stress but physical stress as well.

All in all, it’s important to recognize that anger is a real emotion that needs to be expressed; bottling up or ignoring it doesn’t help it go away. Next time you or your teen are feeling angry, try engaging in a physical activity like taking a walk, talking to someone or identifying the root of the issue. Always remember that, if you need it, mental health professionals can help you deal with complex emotions as well.

Feature Image: Christopher Campbell