Anger is tricky. It’s another one of those emotions that are “uncomfortable” and we’re often taught not to feel it:
“Don’t be mad-it was an accident”
“I already said I was sorry-why are you still angry about that?”
“That incident was years ago-you can’t still be mad at me for that!”
Anger is seen as being out of control or a problem of not “just letting things go”. Certainly, anger that is held in, not acknowledged or dealt with can cause issues. Left unchecked it can cause unnecessary pain and hurt relationships. Sometimes it can lead to violence or impulsive behavior. Too often though, we think of it as one of those pesky emotions that we wouldn’t have to deal with if we were just more forgiving, better adjusted or if those around us would just treat us better.
Regardless of how you or I feel about anger-it is a necessary emotion that has a purpose. Most theorists consider it a primary emotion, one that all humans are programmed and wired to experience because it helps us. The problems that stem from anger usually occur when we try not to acknowledge it. This stifling of anger is done for many reasons. It is an emotion tied into gender expectations, depending on culture. For many women it is considered “unladylike” and inappropriate to express anger, while it is perfectly acceptable for men to experience the emotion, within reason. Also, some people may feel out of control or the physical sensations are so extreme they try to avoid it at all costs. Some of us are taught it isn’t “nice” to be angry-especially if we want to yell or confront the people or situation that has provoked us.
So what is the purpose? What good does anger serve, especially if we have been trying to stamp it out for so long? Simply put, anger drives us to change. It lets us know that our desires and/or needs are not being met and we either have to change what we want or change the situation causing us to not get these things met. Sometimes we view this anger as selfish-we envision the toddler having a tantrum because they can’t get the toy they want. However, anger can cause positive change. Perhaps we perceive an injustice to ourselves or others. Maybe we believe we were treated unfairly or disrespected. This anger may prompt us to discontinue a toxic relationship or change jobs.
How we express the anger we’re experiencing makes all the difference. Yes, we may feel like ramming our car into the car that cut us off in traffic, but it doesn’t mean we have to do it. It also doesn’t mean that ALL anger is bad and we should never express it. Anger is a catalyst. It is an alarm bell telling us change has to occur. We may not always want to hear what it’s telling us-but we always need to listen.
Sometimes, unchecked anger can lead to bigger problems. Processing the emotion and it’s cause can be difficult-especially when it feels all encompassing. Sometimes, we have suppressed the emotion for so long, we feel unable to experience it in a healthy way. Is overwhelming anger causing you to feel out of control? Does it feel like there is more anger than you know how to handle? A licensed mental health counselor may be able to help. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced psychotherapists.