Anger Does Have A Purpose

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As humans we have the ability to feel a range of emotions from happiness to sadness to disgust. We also have the ability to feel anger. Anger though sometimes gets a bad wrap even though anger is an important emotion. What becomes the issue is how anger is expressed and whether it is constructive or destructive, not anger itself.

Anger can motivate us! – Every once in awhile you may hear someone talking about using anger in your favor by using it to motivate. Research actually backs up that thought. It does show that anger can push people towards reaching goals in the face of adversity. When used well constructive anger can make you feel strong and powerful in pursuit of reaching your goal.

Be more optimistic 🙂 – Yes, strange to say but yes people who are angry tend to be more optimistic.

Help relationships – In general society encourages us to keep our anger locked inside even though anger can let us know when we feel we have been wronged and provides us with a way of communicating it. When hiding anger in a relationship, it can be harmful because the person doesn’t know what he or she has done wrong and will keep doing it. That doesn’t help anybody. So if the expression of anger is accurate and used to find a solution instead of blame and vent a relationship has the potential to be strengthened.

Anger as an agent of change – We get angry for a reason and if we take the time to notice why then we have the potential to learn how to improve our lives and gain insight into ourselves.

Reducing violence – As a social sign that something needs attention and maybe needs to be resolved, people are often motivated to try calm the angry person.

A good negotiator – There is some evidence that anger can be a negotiation strategy, but it isn’t that simple. It needs to be justifiable anger to work.

Lower stress on the heart and help manage pain – So far these have only been shown in laboratory studies.

While anger does serve a purpose and benefits us, society has influenced our expression of anger which plays a role in its expression. With that said it is worth taking the time to look at how gender impacts the expression of anger.

A 166 study based on meta-analysis of gender differences, and moderators of differences in emotional expression from infancy through adolescence revealed a small but significant gender difference. Girls showed more positive emotions and internalizing emotions than boys. Boys on the other hand showed more externalizing emotions. Of coarse gender differences were impacted by age, interpersonal context, and task valence, highlighting the importance of contextual factors in gender differences (TM Chaplin, A Aldao – Psychological Bulletin, 2013).

Gender socialization may affect how men and women handle anger. In general boys/men have been encouraged to express anger more overtly while girls/women have been encouraged to keep anger down in the US culture. In men anger is often seen as a “masculine” thing so that when men get into fights or express anger physically it is “manly.” On the other hand, women are encouraged to think that anger is unpleasant and unfeminine which can lead to misdirected anger coming out in passive-aggressive maneuvers like sulking or destructive gossip. It has been put forth that neither way of expressing is particularly healthy. Rather everyone needs to learn to be clear and forthright when they are angry and learn to use problem-solving when working with their anger.

A study done at Southwest Missouri State Univeristy (2000) looked at the impact of perception by genders and how that translates into expression. Since perception between men and women are different their reactions are different. Looking at the surface level, men tend to embrace anger and use it to their advantage while women tend to view anger as counter-productive. However, in day to day interactions, both genders appear to take advantage of their anger just as frequently.

So what might be a healthy and constructive way to express anger? What does constructive anger look like? One definition contains three parts: the object or person of the anger is present; the anger is justifiable and proportionate to the wrong; and it is expressed in manner which leads to problem solving rather than just venting or beating someone up.

When thinking of anger remember that it isn’t a “bad” feeling. There is a point and purpose to anger so take advantage of your anger to learn, grow, and thrive.

Resources and References:
American Psychological Assocation – When anger’s a plus
PsyBlog – The Upside of Anger: 6 Psychological Benefits of Getting Mad
Psychology Today – The Benefits of Anger
Greatest – The Surprising Health Benefits of Anger
Healthy Place – The Benefits of Being Angry
Huffington Post – When Anger Is Good For You
American Psychological Association – Anger across the gender divide
Science Daily – Comparison Of Anger Expression In Men And Women Reveals Surprising Differences
Europe PubMed Central – Gender Differences in Emotion Expression in Children: A Meta-Analytic Review

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