No one likes an angry person yet it’s such a common feeling within all of us. Losing your cool and being described as having a ‘short fuse’ usually just means you’re unable to contain the negative feelings triggered inside you.
This kind of energy is deemed negative because it creates bad feelings inside of other people who are at the brunt of the anger and even cause the angry person to feel badly about themselves and the world around them.
But can this negative energy be used for good? Does it always have to be interpreted as a failing quality that affects people in a damaging way?
The Positivity Within The Emotion of Anger
Anger is found in most animals capable of emotions which indicates that there is some evolutionary reason why we are able to feel this emotion in the first place.
This reason is survival. Our job is to react to situations effectively in order to survive and if we feel threatened, attacked, frustrated or powerless we need to let the pack know to back off or stop what’s happening.
But anger could play another important role in our lives. Researchers Jennifer Lerner and Dacher Keltner, studied the effect of anger and fear on risk-taking individuals and found that anger gives you the same outlook towards risk as happiness. What does this mean? An angry person has an optimistic view towards risk estimates. They are more inclined towards taking risks which effectively means you can use this inherent inclination to change your bad habits and adopt good ones, according to author and researcher, Dr. Marcia Reynolds.
The Secret to Using Anger in a Positive Way
Reynolds goes on to explain that, “the skill is to shift the focus of your anger away from external circumstances to instead focus on what you strongly desire to change within yourself. It is not your flaky boss or overwhelming responsibilities that make you scream at strangers while you drive. You should be angry that it has taken so long for you to realise that you have the power to change your circumstances. Use your anger to initiate the positive shifts you need to change your life.”
So how can we use anger positively and change our internal world and our perception of the external?
Identifying Your Rage is the First Step
Being mindful of when you step into these angry feelings may seem hard but doing this in the moment is training you in positive self-awareness. It may not seem much but it’s an inner strength that will get stronger the more you use it. This inner strength will serve you throughout your life so in effect you are developing emotional tools that can help you relax. Learning to take yourself away from the situation and use breathing techniques to recover will help in many other stressful situations you encounter later on.
Use Anger to Learn Productive Conflict
Anger is usually synonymous with arguments. If you find you’re quite attacking when you’re in angry, argumentative mode then it means you have an opportunity to practice more self-awareness. Techniques such as slowing down your speech, pausing and breathing, and lowering your voice can all help your mind calm down in the moment. You may even find the other person mimics you in order to relax the situation.
It’s also an opportunity to consider the other person and why they may have their point of view and do this without judgement. Perhaps they haven’t understood what you’ve said or they also aren’t being mindful of how you feel in the angry moment. These moments are a wonderful opportunity for self-development, self-awareness and empathy.
Use Angry Energy For Motivation
Anger is an essential emotion because it allows us to process negative feelings and eventually let go of a situation in our lives. When the anger is all-consuming and lingering, this is when it can be damaging to our well-being.
Channelling negative energy into something positive is the best way of coping with that feeling of rage. Physical activity is the best way to do this as anger causes our body to speed up. If you need to improve performance in anything physical such as running, swimming or any other performance sport, doing this in a more angry state will help improve personal bests.
The good thing about anger, especially if it’s performance related, is you can choose to use it to fuel your desire to perform rather than focus on mistakes. It can even help channel effective brainstorming and solutions. This way you are taking away the negative energy directed at the feeling of anger and focusing it more on a positive solution.
Use Anger as an Opportunity to Grow
Anger may be a problem but know that it’s an essential part of being human and our emotional recovery. If you find you get triggered very easily it means you’ve integrated it more into your being than is necessary. But this doesn’t have to be bad. Truly see this an an opportunity to learn about yourself and your capabilities. Realise that it’s an opportunity to make a habit of drawing on your inner strength, create solutions to problems, understand others better and even motivate you performance-wise.
Anger doesn’t have to be so negative. Let it teach you to grow.
No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.
People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.
But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.
If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.
Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.
Pain Is Our Guardian
Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.
In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.
Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.
While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.
Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.
No Pain, No Happiness
You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.
In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy
In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.
This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.
Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering
Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.
This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.
Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.
Allow Room for the Inevitable
Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.
Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,
“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”
Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.
The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?
While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).
Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse
Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.
To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.
You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!