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What Are the Pros and Cons of Anger?

By Eric Dean JD, MBA, MA, MA, LPC, CADC

Anger is an emotion that is both universal and misunderstood. Like any emotion, anger is not good or bad in and of itself. The amount, timing, and purpose of anger factor into whether it will be constructive. This post will review some of the pros and cons of anger:

Pros

  1. Anger Can Be A Strong Indication of the Perception of Unfairness  

Our emotions are signals that provide valuable information about what is happening in our environment. Asking yourself why you feel a certain way can help you gain awareness of your triggers. Oftentimes, anger is a signal to us that we perceive there to be an injustice happening. According to Alan Lambert PhD, associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, “[Anger’s] most reliable trigger is the perception of injustice, either to others or to oneself.” Being aware of potential injustices is the first step to addressing them and anger can facilitate this awareness.

  1. Anger Can Stimulate Positive Action

Anger can increase motivation and determination to engage in constructive actions, including rejecting unfairness and injustice. While many emotions, such as depression and anxiety, catalyze avoidance, anger encourages quick action and confident decisions. According to Lambert, “Anger is the only negative emotion that is part of the brain’s approach system, which means it motivates us to engage in goal-oriented activities.” Not only can anger stimulate positive action, but it can also promote collaboration among groups of people working toward a common goal or trying to overcome a shared hardship.

Cons

  1. Anger Can Fuel Aggression

While anger can stimulate positive action, it can also, if left unchecked, lead to unhealthy behaviors such as verbal or physical aggression. When we experience intense anger, the part of our brain (prefrontal cortex) in charge of logical thinking becomes hijacked and we become disinhibited and prone to making hasty decisions, which are exceedingly difficult to control. Lambert states, “Anger is notoriously hard to inhibit” and “…it can gather momentum and snowball.” Unfortunately, this can result in harm to others and behaving in ways that we later regret.

  1. Anger Can Induce Distorted Thinking

While anger can boost focus, it can also distort the bigger picture of what is happening. Because of the detrimental effect that anger has on our cognitive flexibility, we may not consider important contextual information and have limited ability to identify more nuanced solutions to the problems we face. Enhanced focus is detrimental when misdirected and anger interferes with our ability to identify when this is the case.  

  1. Anger is Addictive

Even though feeling angry can be an unpleasant experience, it still makes us feel more in control of a situation, which is especially appealing during times of stress and uncertainty. According to David Brin, PhD, anger is also associated with sanctimony or righteous outrage which “can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again.” As with most addictions, we may develop an unhealthy dependence on anger for short-term relief and a sense of control, to the detriment of our long-term well-being, peace, and stability. 

Therapy can help you determine whether your anger is helpful or hindering. You will learn how to harness its positive aspects and let go of the negative ones. Overall an outside perspective from a therapist can be helpful to facilitate awareness and help you gain a better understanding of your anger’s origins.

So, let’s get started – call Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990, or reach out online to schedule an appointment for therapy in Chicago. 

Reference

Heid, Markham. “Inside Your Brain’s Complicated Relationship With Anger.” Elemental, 25 Feb. 2021.

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