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Is It OK To Get Angry?

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Is It OK To Get Angry?

Is It OK To Get Angry?

A post from our Anger Management blog

      Written by Ronnie Peterson
In a recent conversation, a friend confessed to feeling extremely angry and frustrated. Problems in both her professional and personal life kept her constantly on the edge of fury, and she was tired of it.

Anger is a very exhausting emotion, and it can cause a considerable amount of stress if you try to suppress it, or ignore it, like she was doing.

This friend had no outlet for her anger, and kept it under a tight leash to avoid confrontation in her personal or work life. She, like most people, believed that anger is a harmful emotion that should be suppressed or avoided. What most people fail to realize, is that it isn't anger that causes harm, but rather your reaction to it.

I sat her down to explain how anger was natural, especially when a person is faced with adverse situations that are out of their control. She felt trapped by the problems in her work and personal life, and anger was a perfectly natural response to that.

Anger Takes a Physical Toll

 We all have intensely physical reactions to all of our emotions. Most people underestimate just how much stress these emotions can cause. A recent study found that the heartstrings actually break when a person experiences intense grief. Sadness causes physical damage that takes time to heal; in some cases, it doesn't heal at all. Anger too takes a toll on our body, causing us to react unreasonably.

Here's a brief glimpse of what happens when a person is furious:
  • Your muscles become stiff and tense, fingers curl, and your palms form into a fist.
  • The brain releases neurotransmitter chemicals known as catecholamines, which gives you a boost of energy that lasts for several minutes. (That's why anger feels so empowering)
  • The heart rate and blood pressure accelerate, causing you to feel restless and warm.
  • Breathing rate increases rapidly.
  • Blood rushes to your face and extremities, preparing them for a violent physical outburst.
  • Your mind becomes hyper-focused and doesn't consider anything else. This is why it is so difficult to get people out of their state of blind rage.
  • In this state of hyper-awareness, the brain releases more neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline, both of which get your body to a heightened state of arousal. That can trigger the fight response.

Anyone who has experienced anger has felt these symptoms intimately. It's just how the human body is designed to respond to this emotion. After the anger has been addressed, you will experience some exhaustion and guilt, especially if the reaction was reckless or unkind.

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The Body Works Against You

We control anger through reason and sound judgment, but reasoning is the responsibility of the brain's prefrontal cortex. Anger originates in the amygdala, which is a portion of the brain responsible for responding to threatening stimuli. The moment it senses a threat to your well-being, it sends out an alarm and kickstarts your body's fight or flight response.

Unfortunately, the cortex reacts too slowly for this instinctive response; it's why the person becomes angry and reacts before the reasoning part of their brain can tell them otherwise. While this isn't an excuse and people can control their responses, this control doesn't come instinctively. It is something we, as reasonable human beings, learn how to master over a lifetime.

Poor Ways to Channel Anger

 There are many positive and productive ways to channel anger, but it's easier to give into your natural fight or flight response. Sometimes, people just can't control it and react aggressively. This usually involves blurting out an insult or saying something hurtful which can have a negative impact on your personal and professional relationships.

Here's a look at negative ways people channel their rage and fury:
  • Suppressing or shying away from it, which can cause stress, depression, and even lead to self-harm.
  • Breaking things or physically attacking someone out of rage.
  • Shouting or verbally attacking someone.
  • Being passive-aggressive.

All of these reactions do more harm than good. There are better and healthier ways to channel anger that don't involve harming yourself or others.

 Examples of Productive Expression

 Anger is an overpowering emotion, so it's important to make sure you recognize it, accept it, and find ways to channel it. For example, if being angry makes you want to punch someone or break something, head to the gym and vent that anger on a punching bag. That will release your pent-up aggression and be a good exercise at the same time. Here are some great examples of how anger or frustration has been channeled into something powerful:

  • #Metoo Movement – Sexual assault is a serious violation of personal dignity, safety, and freedom. Many women, children, and men have experienced it and have been forced into silence. That has led to righteous anger, which triggered the recent MeToo movement on social media. People from all over the world channeled their anger and pain by sharing their sexual assault story and removing the stigma. The MeToo movement led to convictions and countless victims healing after years of silence.
  • Racism – Sometimes big companies can create tone-deaf ads that convey their message poorly. That's exactly what happened with recent Dove ads where they present a before/after scenario with a black model as the "before" and a white or light-skinned model as the "after". This incited rage all over social media and made people aware of subconscious racism. Dove immediately pulled the ads and rendered an apology, but the awareness was necessary and made it possible.

In both of these examples, the anger of the masses was channeled into something productive and positive. This can also take place on a much smaller scale; all it requires is a certain amount of personal commitment.

Learning to accept her anger and channeling it in productive ways had a big impact on our friend. Of course, even as she mastered control over her anger, the personal and professional problems didn't miraculously disappear; life doesn't work that way! But learning how to manage her rage gave her more power to deal with them. She is now calmer, more level-headed, and less stressed. A situation that seemed so out of control now seems like a temporary obstacle in the road of life, which is exactly how it should be.

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