A frequent question I am asked as a psychotherapist is “Is it good to feel angry?” It is clear that anger is uncomfortable emotion, which many prefer not to feel. Yet, Anger is normal emotion and is just one of the passionate feelings we can experience. It can be a slow smoldering feeling burning us up inside, like a slow cooker, or it can be a fierce boiling feeling ready to explode at any moment like a volcano. The feeling is simply an internal reaction to an external event. It is an internal emotional mechanism that provides us with a feedback in regards to our position relative to our goals as well as our situation, our value system and our needs in any given time.
The emotional value system is a very powerful mechanism that is very “binary” in nature. By “binary” I mean 1 or 0, BLACK or WHITE, YES or NO, GOOD or BAD, etc. The emotional system values an event based on a very simple and primitive principle. The principle is to MINIMIZE THREAT OR DANGER AND TO INCREASE PLEASURE AND REWARD. This evolutionary basic system was designed for survival purposes. And as such, this emotional system is very reactive and impulsive, while IT focuses on the here and now. This is why anger has very narrow lens and often makes us lose sight of other’s need and totally focus only on our immediate hurt or danger. It is astonishing to realize what fanatical sense of justice or injustice we have when we are injured entity.
In addition, the value judgment of the emotional system has a clear bias. It tends to focus more on the negatives than on the positive. This negativity bias developed as a result of our evolutionary process. From an existence perspective, it is clear that negativity has great survival value for any living organism. One must pays greater attention to possible dangers than to possible rewards. We could not allow ourselves to take danger lightly, otherwise will die. As living creators, we had to become oversensitive to threat or risk and therefore, overemphasize negativity. As such, if an individual acts in a way that increases the chances of survival and reproduction, then that behavior is adaptive, while through natural selection process, it becomes innate. This is why we adapted the negativity bias.
However, in our highly developed modern society, survival and reproduction are no longer the main challenges in life and they have been evolved to things like learning how to socialize and cooperate with others; our family, our partner, our kids and our co-workers etc. Other challenges include more of a self-fulfillment, goals, career achievements etc. As such, in today’s world, the negativity bias can be counterproductive and cause us much distress.
Once you understand the emotional system, and the way it operates, including its negativity bias, you can use the anger feelings as your guiding system, or as I like to call it your GPS or alarm system. Anger serves as an indication that something very important is being happening and therefore, we need to stop and process it carefully. Obviously, we are very sensitive to what is being brought up, or it wouldn’t cause us such a deep reaction. Yet, even though, our emotional system pushes us to react and resolve (release) the uncomfortable emotional energy that we experience, it would be wiser and more beneficial for us to slow down and NOT react. Even though difficult to do, we need to learn and practice to be patient and try to engage our rational mind to act in a way that is beneficial for us in the long run. If we can hold on long enough to our anger without reacting, while engaging our rational mind, then we may manage to make decisions about what to do with our anger without being destructive.
To the question “Is Anger Good?” My answer is “absolutely, Yes.” Anger is a tool that we can use to help ourselves. If we use it constructively, then it serves as a gift. If used destructively, it serves as a poison.
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