In this developed modern country that we live in there appears to be something wrong with admitting you are angry. Unless it is about a big, big issue such as the environment, being angry appears to be a sign of weakness, being out of control or worse, abusive.
Before we look at whether it is ok to be angry, let’s look at how we get angry, what makes us angry and what anger is for.
How we get angry
Broadly we get angry one of 2 ways. We are either aggressive – we all know what it feels like to be on the end of that – or we are passive-aggressive. Passive aggression is where I try to hide from you, and myself, that I am angry but it leaks out in my behaviours. Behaviours such as sulking, withdrawing, sarcasm, backstabbing and provoking arguments that I can blame on others.
Most of us have some aggressive behaviours and some passive-aggressive behaviours and, while it is not necessarily a conscious choice, we use whichever ones get us what we need. Normally that is power in some form.
What makes us angry
Anger, in its essence, is a way of protecting us. Imagine being attacked, you need anger to fight back. However, in the strange modern world we inhabit many of us are scared to admit our vulnerability. In other words we are scared to admit we are scared, hurt, sad or shameful, and to cover that up and appear less vulnerable, we will be angry.
Therefore, just because someone is angry that may not be the whole picture.
We can get angry because we don’t feel respected, valued, appreciated or respected. We can get angry when we take something personally even though, when we look back, what was said or done was perfectly innocent.
We get angry when we are tired, hungry and when other people crash our boundaries and many, many more reasons.
What is anger for?
As explained above, it is essentially to protect us and therefore is for defence. It is a sign that something is wrong and is an emotional way of starting to do something about the wrong that has happened.
Anger also gets stuff done. Because it scares people they get out of your way and it can be a huge driving force for good and for bad. Think of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. In their own ways and in their own time they have been very angry men.
Anger is one of our core feelings and we all experience it. It is what we do about it and what we do with it that matters.
Many of us have been conditioned to not talk about our feelings and so when we feel angry we stuff it down inside ourselves and pretend it will go away. The reality is different and it stays there until a moment of tiredness or weakness and comes out at inappropriate times and is usually directed toward the wrong people.
Which brings me onto a third way of being angry. Assertively.
We all get angry. By gently and assertively expressing how you feel at the time you do not abuse others, you do not store it up for another time and you don’t act passive-aggressively.
Someone who is assertively angry is likely to be emotionally intelligent, aware of their relationships with stress, self esteem and their feelings. They are likely to be someone who knows that it is not a sign of weakness to talk about your feelings. In fact those that cannot or will not are the ones that are not strong enough.
Is it OK to be angry? I think so, but I’ll leave you with a quote from Aristotle.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”