The Power and Positivity of Anger

Why anger is a good thing, and making friends with it is in your interest.


3/25/20243 min read

empty road
empty road

Anger is your friend

Anger is my favorite emotion. I know that seems like a strange thing for a therapist to say. But hear me out. Anger gives you important information, and it does so with enough energy that you can do something about. it.

The Purpose of Emotions

Anger alerts us to the fact that our values or needs have been violated in some way. That's what emotions do. They move us towards things that are good for us, or away from things that aren't good for us. Anger says that something is wrong--someone has violated our values or needs. Whether it's a personal boundary being crossed, an unfair treatment, or an injustice witnessed, anger tells us that something is wrong. And anger can be counted on to keep sounding an alarm until we hear it.

When I sit in nature and feel tension dissolve off of my body; I sit and play peek-a-boo with a baby and hear their laughter. I have emotions, body sensations, and thoughts that feel good. I want to do more of that.

But when I feel anger, sadness, or anxiety, it is a prompt to check to see if something is wrong. Sometimes we are habituated to a certain feeling in a situation--in the past a crowd of laughing people felt like ostracizing, so maybe someone doesn't want to speak in public, and definitely doesn't want to cut the anxiety of speaking in public with a joke. Sadness and loneliness might mean that we need more people in our lives, or to reconnect with our family or friends. But in our modern world, it is easy to find superficial quick hits to reduce that feeling in the moment. My favorites are chocolate and social media. And they're not a good long-term solution.

Anger can be trusted to keep telling us something is wrong. And eventually it makes us do something to feel differently. It can be seen as a compass guiding us towards what is important to us and what we need to protect. This is why people think it is a "secondary emotion", it is often ignored sadness, loneliness or other tough emotions that have not been managed, and now something has to be done. Anger is not secondary. It is a fundamental emotion that is experienced in every society across the world. It is a feature of our evolution as a species. It is there for a reason--to help us.

The key is what you do with it.

The Transforming Energy of Anger

Anger is a tough feeling, but it has energy that helps us move towards a resolution of the problem (maybe!). I would rather be angry than sad. When I am sad, I don't have a lot of energy, I struggle to figure out what is wrong (unless it is obvious), and usually don't think it can be fixed. When I'm angry, I have a lot of ideas. They're not all good, but I have a belief that something can be done to make it better.

The key is to work with the emotion and the energy as communication from my inner experience that I need to figure something out about my external circumstances. But I have to figure it out. I cannot let anger take over my mouth or my body. That's not always easy, but when I don't think I'm ready to act with measured words and actions, I can use the energy to brainstorm on my own. I can also dissipate the energy with exercise. And with that dissipation of anger, and the return of my compassion and empathy, I usually come up with creative options that can solve the problem for all of us.

A wise person told me once that I am not an angry person at heart--so if I find I'm "always angry" there's something in my life that needs to change. Since I took that message to heart, I have become an extremely content and happy person most days, for most of the day.

That's what making friends with your anger can do for you.

body of water near mountain during daytime
body of water near mountain during daytime