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Why Shouldn’t I Stay Angry?

Some reasons to manage anger for a healthier life.

Key points

  • Anger is a useful emotion, but it can become toxic.
  • Cultivate awareness of when and why you're angry.
  • Aim to keep your anger productive and make sure it doesn't take over your life.
 Yogendra Singh/Unsplash
Source: Yogendra Singh/Unsplash

Lately, everyone seems to be angry. We hear it in the lyrics of songs, from the actions of celebrities and politicians, and from citizens frustrated with the government.

Being angry is a way to make our voice heard, to fight for our rights, and to let people know that we cannot be taken for granted. It is a common belief that anger protects us and that it can be our best weapon against being treated poorly. I will admit that being angry is appealing. It feels empowering to communicate to others that we’re angry because we feel like we are taken more seriously. Before we were angry, no one listened. Nobody cared what we had to say until our voice was raised and took a forceful tone. Now, people know we mean business.

While the root of our anger is often justified, the actions that follow our emotions can have harmful consequences. That’s what makes anger a tricky tool to use in our relationships with others and in fighting for our rights. Often, it seems like a good idea when we are feeling angry to act on it, but later we have regrets. Or, even if we don’t, others let us know how our anger has affected them or our relationship with them.

Below are some factors to consider when determining when and how to express your anger. It’s important to remember that anger is not a bad emotion, but depending on the way that it is expressed, it can either result in good outcomes or extensive damage.

Reflect on why you are angry.

There are lots of reasons to be angry, both in our personal lives and in the world at large. This does not mean that we have to be angry about them, though. Anger becomes less meaningful when we use it as our reaction to everything we find upsetting.

Because anger can be empowering, letting us know when something is not right, either in our world or in society, choosing carefully what to become angry about protects its value. For example, yelling at the barista because they got your beverage wrong may not be worth your anger, whereas getting angry at your partner because they aren’t considering your feelings in a big decision is important to get angry about. When we weaponize our anger over many small things, it becomes our default reaction. Others may not take us seriously because they perceive us as being angry frequently, and we walk around feeling emotionally triggered.

Thinking about the best reasons to be angry is what truly gives us power. We are in control of our anger rather than it being in control of us.

Understand how anger affects you physically and emotionally.

When we are triggered, and we become angry, it can happen quickly. Before we know it, we’ve lost control, and we are emotionally reactive. Many people say they are exhausted after having an angry outburst, experiencing fatigue, headaches, a racing heart, elevated blood pressure, and higher body temperature. They may also be tearful, feel sad, have regrets about their reaction, or be anxious about what happens next. Understanding how our body and brain respond to intense anger is important for our physical and mental health.

There are circumstances in which it is important to acknowledge that something has caused us to be angry and to identify what that is. In those moments, before you react, take note of how you’re feeling physically and identify other thoughts and feelings that you were having. I call this being “mindfully angry,” and it can make the difference between using anger well versus letting anger take control. If you can do this, you may not experience the physical and emotional aftermath of uncontrolled anger.

Understand how your anger affects others.

While we all have the right to become angry, and we know that anger is an important emotion to acknowledge, anger that becomes uncontrolled can be toxic not only to you but to others around you. It is critical to understand that our emotions are not only about us, but they affect our relationships with others. While others’ opinions of us should not dominate our thoughts, they do matter to the extent that we want healthy relationships. When we are angry with others, we need to think about how to effectively communicate our feelings to maximize our chances of being heard and understood. Too much intense anger often leads to others shutting down and neither wanting to continue to listen to us nor seeking a better understanding of our perspective.

The bottom line is that we can be attuned to our anger without letting it escalate to a level that affects us physically and emotionally. And we can let others know that we are angry with them without it negatively affecting our relationships. Anger doesn’t have to be intense for us to get our point across, nor does it have to fracture our relationships to resolve our conflict. Anger can be done well when we stay in control.

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