Anger is good for you*

Yes that’s right, the healthy expression of anger is good for you and can play an important role in your life.

*Of course it goes without saying that a major caveat to that statement is that expressing anger is only good for you if it is expressed in a respectful and safe way and that the expression of anger does not result in harm to either ourselves or to anyone else in our lives.

Understandably people have many negative associations with anger as an emotion. As a result, they may not feel comfortable in expressing it, or know how to express it, or even be able to acknowledge when they feel angry.

The British psychotherapist Sue Parker Hall has carried out extensive clinical research around anger.

In her work she outlines the ways in which anger is positive and can be constructive in people’s lives. These positive aspects of anger include the following:

  • Plays an important role in developing and protecting who we are as individuals
  • Can provide us with important messages about our present environment such as a need to protect ourselves within certain situations or aspects of our life
  • Can signal that an important need is not being met in our lives. For example a need to be heard within an important relationship
  • Can move us to confront challenging situations
  • Can help us to establish appropriate boundaries in our life
  • Learning how to express anger within a relationship in a positive and healthy way can greatly improve relationships
  • It can provide us with the energy to make difficult decisions and to bring about positive change in our lives
  • It is a key stage in the grieving process
  • The expression of anger can be instrumental in overcoming depression

She also clearly outlines how anger is completely different to rage, but how anger is often misunderstood and confused with rage.

When anger is being expressed it will meet the following criteria:
The emotion of anger will result in a person experiencing a medium state of emotional arousal. It will be in response to an event or situation in the here and now, and the response will not be out of proportion to the event or situation. Of critical importance, anger is always expressed in a respectful way for a positive purpose.

If what is being expressed does not meet all of the criteria just outlined, then it is actually rage that is being expressed and not anger.

Rage has the following characteristics:

  • It is disrespectful and destructive to self and others
  • Doesn’t solve a problem but makes it worse
  • Can be hot and explosive or cold and apparently ‘reasonable’
  • It is an unconscious process that cannot be managed through willpower or through attempting to change our thoughts or attitudes

Sue Parker Hall proposes that through a supportive and healing relationship with a counsellor “the expression of anger is encouraged while destructive rage needs to be transformed”.

Find out more about Sue Parker Hall and her work by visiting her website http://www.sueparkerhall.co.uk.

Sources:
Parker Hall, Sue (2009). Anger, Rage and Relationship. East Sussex: Routledge.
http://empathic-anger-management.co.uk/
http://www.sueparkerhall.co.uk

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