Why does Anger help us?
I took my nephew on his 13th birthday to go see Disney-Pixar’s new movie, Inside Out
My birthday was the week before, and I turned 53. A 40 year difference between us, and yet I enjoyed the movie just as much as my nephew.
This story shares the concept of how we all deal with basic human emotions like joy, anger, fear, disgust and sadness. Inside Out portrays these emotions as actual characters in the movie.
I seem to be resonating a lot with Anger lately.
Meet my friend Anger
We see the spectrum of emotions expressed by people at work, home and at school every day. Recently I’ve noticed a change in myself that seems a bit disturbing, where I feel that I am relying too much upon my old friend Anger.
So is it good for us to feel angry? Because I can be sitting quietly reading a newspaper, minding my own business, when Anger pops up out of nowhere and I loose all sense of calm and I -FLARE- off because of something silly like “what do you mean no dessert” …
I think of myself as a nice, friendly approachable person. Yet it feels really good sometimes to let off some steam. YEAH, to -FLARE- up.
So should I be worried?
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar posted an article from her blog entitled How Can Anger Help You Live A More Meaningful Life? where she states, “It might seem a little strange at first, but thinking about anger less as something inherently ‘dangerous’ or ‘bad’, and perhaps more as just a signpost can sometimes unearth some really important stuff. And in that way, perhaps anger can even become a kind of ally in your life…”
Well I feel better now. My anger is just a signpost for something. But what?
EQI.org published an article Things to know about anger and their electricity analogy makes sense.
Anger is a powerful emotion. It can be used either in productive or counter-productive ways. It can lengthen or shorten our lives. It is like electricity. It can run large equipment or it can electrocute you.
Here are more things to know about anger:
1. It is a powerful survival tool
2. It is a response to pain (physical or psychological)
3. It is a source of energy
4. It is a secondary emotion
5. When we are angry, the brain downshifts to a lower evolutionary level
6. Prolonged anger is unhealthy
7. Repressed anger is also unhealthy
Nature has developed the emotional state we call “anger” to help us stay alive. Anger sends signals to all parts of our body to help us fight or flee. It energizes us to prepare us for action. Many years ago we were threatened by wild animals who wanted to eat us. Now we more often feel threatened by other human beings, either psychologically or physically.
When we feel energized by anger, we might ask ourselves how we put this energy to the most productive use. As with the use of other forms of energy such as electricity or oil, we might want to use it efficiently, not wastefully.
So now I feel better knowing that my ‘signpost’ is a powerful survival tool. But what does it mean that anger is a secondary emotion?
It seems like my wife knows how to ‘push my buttons’ better than anyone else. Once I -FLARE- and my wife get’s this semi-smile on her face and thinks to herself “THERE SHE BLOWS” it is at this point that Anger seems like a primary emotion.
But Anger is a secondary emotion, because it is a signpost to a primary feeling. That primary feeling is what is felt immediately before we feel angry. We always feel something else first before we get angry.
EQI.org goes on to state that, “We might first feel afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured. If any of these feelings are intense enough, we think of the emotion as anger.
Generally speaking, secondary feelings do not identify the unmet emotional need (UEN). When all I can say is “I feel angry,” neither I nor anyone else knows what would help me feel better. A helpful technique, then, is to always identify the primary emotion.”
Jacqueline Howard of the Huffington Post published an article called, Getting Angry is Actually Good for You. It’s Just Science, wrote “It turns out that anger is an essential human emotion. Dr. Aaron Sell, an anger researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology, told HuffPost Science in an email, “We evolved an anger system to protect and enforce our own interests against those of other people.”
So take comfort in knowing that expressing Anger isn’t always a bad thing. In fact it can be a good/healthy emotion to express from time to time. So let it out, don’t keep it in. Just remember don’t let Anger get the best of you.
Simply remembering that we have a choice helps us feel more in control.
I’d like to summarize by sharing some really solid thoughts from the EQI.org group that I have found helpful, for example, to identify when I am feeling provoked by my wife, or traffic delays, or an unreasonable co-worker. Once I realize that I am being provoked, and see it for what it is, I feel more in control of my response.
Studies show that people feel better and are healthier when they have a sense of control over their lives. Part of developing our emotional intelligence is learning to channel our anger in productive ways to help us achieve our goals rather than to sabotage them. Keeping our goals clearly in mind at all times helps us accomplish this.
Here are some suggestions for responding to your anger:
1. Ask what you are afraid of.
2. Ask what feelings preceded the anger.
3. Ask what other feelings you are feeling.
4. Ask what you are trying to control.
5. Ask what you can control.
6. Consider your options.
7. Choose the one which will bring you the most long term happiness.
Here is a technique to adopted by following this advice that I sometimes use to help me cope with Anger (provided I haven’t already gone past the point of “there she blows”).
When I catch myself starting to say “I feel angry” or “I am starting to get really upset,” I think instead, “I feel really energized.”
Then I ask myself how I want to channel my energy to its best use. It is a simple little technique, but sometimes it has made a big difference in how I feel and how I respond.
If Anger is hanging around too much as a signpost and you are too stressed and unhappy, then these institutions are available for help:
- The National Anger Management Association –
- Anger Management Institute – http://www.angerinstitute.net/
Here are 107 facts about the new Pixar movie Inside Out
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