The Good & The Bad That Can Be Ugly
So far, we have talked about anger’s negative effect on your life and on the people around you. Anger itself is neither bad nor good—it’s what you do with it that counts. There are many situations where your expression of anger might be justified. Being pushed or shoved, or being called names, is inappropriate behavior and can leave you feeling angry. Anger can also work for you and help you solve problems. The following are some of the good points about anger:
1. Anger gives you energy. If you are in danger, anger can provide you with the extra "boost" or "energy" you need to escape from a dangerous situation.
2. Anger helps you talk with others. By talking to others, you can avoid feeling increasing tension from your anger building up (like a pressure cooker). When your feelings flow freely, there is less likelihood of your building up hurtful feelings.
3. Anger gives you information. When you feel angry, it is an indication that something is wrong. It serves as a signal to start looking around and finding out why you feel the way you do and/or why you are having problems.
4. Anger can motivate you to take control of your life. It is good to feel that you are in control of your life and the situations in which you find yourself. When you feel out of control you are more likely to experience feelings like fear, rejection, failure, etc. When you try to control others it is a sign that you are losing control of yourself.
5. Anger can motivate you to take action toward resolving a problem. Taking constructive action to resolve a problem helps you feel competent and in control of yourself instead of helpless and victimized.
As you can see from these examples, anger can be helpful. Whether your anger is helpful or harmful depends on how you use or express it. People do not need to take their anger out on each other unnecessarily. Unfortunately, many people in our society have problems with their anger.
When you ignore your angry feelings and let them build up, you become like a pressure cooker and suffer from the negative effects of anger (see Figure above).
Some of the negative effects of anger include:
1. Anger stops you from thinking, feeling, and acting clearly. When you are angry you may "see red"—you do not think clearly before you act. You do not make good choices. When you are angry you are likely to do things that you later wish you hadn’t done. Anger creates "tunnel vision," which limits your ability to see other solutions.
2. You probably become angry more often than you have to. You may become angry whenever you are feeling embarrassed. When you are embarrassed, you may react by insulting or hurting others because your pride is hurt. lnstead of admitting you made a mistake and taking the çmbarrassment in stride, you may lash out at people physically and/or verbally.
3. Anger and aggression have a lot to do with each other. Even though it is okay to feel angry at appropriate times, excessive anger can build up. When you do riot take care of your anger, it can lead to aggression.
Remember that anger is a feeling, like joy, happiness, jealousy, and so on. Aggression, however, is completely different. Aggression is taking action against a person, an animal, or an object. Aggression is either physical or verbal. It is meant to cause pain or hurt the object of your aggression. When you are angry for a long time, you are more likely to become aggressive. Your aggression hurts others as well as yourself. All too often aggression results in violence.
4. When you become angry, people think of you differently. When you hold on to your anger for long periods of time and over many situations, people relate to you as grouchy, possibly threatening, somebody who is not pleasant to be around.
People will not trust you. They fear you may lash out at them either verbally or physically. Because you are angry, you feel bad and you may start to insult others as a result of your anger. When you feel bad or very angry, you may push or strike others physically: you commit an assault. The result can be that you do not feel good about yourself.
Few people like to be around people who are angry most of the time. Angry people usually have few friends, mostly other people who have anger problems. Angry people feed into each other’s anger. Misery loves company, but the company makes you miserable. Few people want to be around someone who may be verbally and/or physically abusive over even minor disagreements.
Anger is best dealt with at the time you feel it. If you feel angry about something you have choices. You can discuss it with the other person, or you can let the anger build up inside of you until it becomes aggression.
Some people’s anger grows until they explode into aggressive acts. They lose control and they punch someone, call others names, lash out blindly, break things, rape, molest, scream and yell, kick pets, or knife or shoot another person. Some of these examples, though extreme, happen on a daily basis. In most cases, the victim of the aggression was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The victim of aggression does not provoke the angry act. The angry aggressive person may not have even been mad at the victim of the outburst—the angry attacker simply chose to let himself lose control. Eddie’s anger problem (next page) demonstrates this point.
In some cases the victim and the attacker do not even know each other (for example in a riot or a mob scene). The person with the anger problem chooses to let himself lose all control. When anger builds and goes untreated, it can affect your life and the lives of others in a variety of ways. Uncontrolled anger never affects your life in a positive way. it eats away at you like a cancer.
-Cullen, Murray & Robert Freeman-Longo, Men & Anger: A Relapse Prevention Guide to Understanding and Managing Your Anger, Safer Society Press: Brandon, 1995.
Reflection Exercise #11
The preceding section contained information
about the positive and negative effects of anger. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
What are the positive effects of anger? Record the letter of the correct answer