Someone cuts you off in traffic, so you flip them off.
You miss the putt on the green and you throw your golf club down.
You got a scratch in your new car, just weeks after you bought it.
You got diagnosed with cancer even though you live a healthy life.
Your partner says they want a divorce after 25 years of a good (or so you thought so) marriage.
Getting Angry Is Natural
Dance was my life in high school. The summer before my senior year my team was in Emporia, Kansas at dance camp, the last camp of my high school dancing career. I was determined to be named one of the coveted NDA All-American dancers that summer, it was my last chance.
I was up until 2:00 AM dancing my ass off, practicing every night in hopes of being selected to compete in the All-American routine. On day four, I was nominated to compete in the routine which was held the final day of camp.
The competition consisted of one, three-minute dance routine. The twenty nominees all danced at the same time, while eight judges decided our fate.
After the music stopped, I thought to myself, “I nailed it!” After what seemed like 5 hours of the judges deliberating, they began calling the names of the winners to step forward. As they called the tenth and final name…it wasn’t mine.
My teammates knew how hard I wanted this, and I could see the disappointment when their faces met my tear-filled eyes look at them from the stage. My tears though were not due to sadness, I was PISSED AND ANGRY!
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Everywhere we look right now we are seeing messages of being positive. YES, I think the messages are beautiful and I often spread them as well; I honestly believe in the power of positive thinking. However, I have also said, “It’s ok to not be ok”, and I also believe it’s OK to be angry from time to time when life pisses you off.
Anger has a negative connotation compared to its counterpart happiness. Anger is often associated with negativity, aggression or violence. Whereas happiness is associated with positivity, love and laughter. There are books on anger management, not happiness management.
All emotions are appropriate in certain doses. Certain levels of anxiety and stress can push you. Sadness can be healing by filling you with gratitude for what you have lost. Anger can help motivate you and propel you forward. Although, chronic anger that leads to rage can be detrimental to your well-being.
In the world of psychology, anger is a secondary emotion. A secondary emotion is an emotion that is driven by other feelings. What this means is that when a person is feeling angry, they are also experiencing other emotions that are causing them to feel angry. Anger can be an easier emotion to express because it can energize you, it can ignite you, or motivate you.
Harry Mills, Ph.D. said, “It is important to recognize that the effect of anger can be either positive or negative. If years of unresolved anger reach the boiling point and motivate you to leave an abusive relationship, your anger has saved you from additional abuse. On the other hand, if you use your anger to frighten others into doing what you want them to without considering their needs, you are allowing your anger to coerce and control others and you are no better than a bully.”
When Anger Can Be Beneficial
- Physically: Anger actually helps you cope with stress by releasing tension in your body. Have you ever screamed in your car when no one could hear you or scream into a pillow? There is a physical release of endorphins when you scream. By doing this you are actually calming your nerves. (I’m not suggesting yelling AT someone, this would be when you are alone)
- Motivation: Anger serves as a positive motivator. You might be angry the scale says a certain number and commit to losing weight, or as Dr. Mills mentioned above, motivating you to remove yourself from an abusive situation.
- Anger Drives You Towards Goals: You didn’t get what you wanted and you got pissed? Anger is a trigger and pushes you to try harder. You didn’t get the promotion at work, so you work harder, or you perhaps shift direction and get a new job.
To be clear, it’s ok and natural to feel and express your anger, but not in a destructive way or to lash out at others. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But not when it gets out of control and turns destructive.
Tips to keep anger from becoming destructive:
- Breathe: If you notice your anger is sticking around just a bit too long, breathe. Yes, you breathe to stay alive, but what I am suggesting is DEEP BREATHING. Just take 3 deep breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth, and if you are in a place you can close your eyes even better. The deep breathing allows more carbon dioxide to enter your blood which calms down parts of your brain.
- Laugh: Redirect your attention to something that will make you laugh. Turn on a comedy skit, reach out to someone in your life that could lighten your mood, or you can even try laughter yoga. Denver Laughs is a Yoga Club that teaches Laughter Yoga to help with stress. There are also a ton of YouTube videos about it , so you can try it out in the comfort of your own home.
- Exercise: Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers produced in response to physical discomfort. However, they also play an important role in reducing stress, anxiety and anger. Even taking a walk to get your body moving can help.
When you’re feeling angry, express it [in a non-destructive way] then take the time to reflect and understand why you are angry. Next, be proud of yourself for expressing yourself authentically, then choose healthy ways to move out of your anger to keep it from turning into rage or becoming destructive.
If you need help, there is no shame in that! Learning to control anger can be challenging for some, so don’t be afraid to seek help if you need support.
The truth is, anger is natural and you don’t need to feel guilty about getting angry from time to time. It’s a genuine emotion and you are probably guilty of toxic positivity if you tell the world that you never get angry. After all, even the Dalai Lama said, “If a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong.”
Remember, You Got This!