Are You Effectively Using Your Anger? Or Is It Using You?

Person in classroom wearing shirt, cardigan, and tie presses head against blackboardWhen angry, often what people want to do most is smash, change, or otherwise influence the thing that “caused” their anger. This can lead to impulsive behaviors or a sense of powerlessness upon recognizing their inability to effect change. Anger can be used efficaciously when harnessed and appropriately directed. Read on to learn how.

We must first recognize when we are too angry to act. This requires us to calm down enough to assess our level of anger. You are, in fact, too angry to act if you can’t begin this step. If you are “seeing red” and can think only of doing some sort of harm to yourself or someone else, calming down is the first and necessary step.

Another sign that we are too angry to act is if our thoughts focus on vengeance. Contrary to what many people believe, “getting even” does not level the playing field. We can see that on grand, global scales as well as in the microcosm of family violence that vendetta-fueled anger only makes a bigger mess.

Used effectively, anger lessens pain and hardship rather than adding to it.

Yet another sign that you are too angry to act effectively is when you are unable to clearly vocalize why you are angry and how you would like to respond in a healthy manner. Being able to articulate your anger demonstrates healthy space between the energy of the emotion and one’s thoughts about the triggering event.

Now we can proceed to the next important step. To effectively use our anger, we must have a pure, clear intention backing up our motivation to act. Again, if the goal is to cause harm in any way, your intention isn’t clean. To access a clean intention, look to how your skills, passion, and energy can culminate in making your voice heard.

“Making your voice heard” is analogous to shouting. That’s often what we do when we’re angry. We want to be heard, we need to be heard, so we raise our voice. In this way, we learn to advocate for important values and truths. When we step up to be heard, we can use the power and energy supplied to us by our anger. With this harnessed energy, we don’t actually shout (unless maybe you are picketing, which might require you to shout), but we do raise our voice—metaphorically speaking—through the power of our conviction to have the truth be heard.

The form of anger I’m referring to originates from a place of empathy and a desire to act compassionately. Too often, we sit idly by and do nothing, despite the anger we feel toward some injustice we see on the news or hear about at work. When we allow ourselves to fully feel this anger, it can enliven us to act. Understand that anger is the message that tells us something we’re witnessing or experiencing does not serve our highest interests. To break free from our complacency is, in fact, the first step of self-advocacy.

The power behind efficiently harnessing anger can turn into a laser focus. It can also remind us to stay cognizant of what we can control, the source of genuine power. Rather than manipulate or bully, focused anger carries with it a quality of healing. This focus can remain so long as we recognize that the anger we feel is not meant to cause harm or add strife to the world. On the contrary, this anger is the anger of justice being spoken loud enough to be heard above the din of distortion and ignorance.

If you need help managing your anger, seek the help of a qualified therapist.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Joshua Nash, LPC-S, therapist in Austin, Texas

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Siobhan

    Siobhan

    November 12th, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    I would love it if I had that ability to let my anger actually propel me into positive forward motion, but alas, that never quite works for me… I always feel that when I let my anger get the best of me, that takes control of everything and I have a hard time working through it. I guess it hurts me so much usually that I get to where I can’t get anything accomplished beyond that point.

  • Savannah S.

    Savannah S.

    November 12th, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Even when I am at my worst and the most angry I refuse to let how others see me or how I act be ruled by that anger.
    I would much rather take a few steps back and away from all of it before making a decision that can’t then be changed

  • paulette

    paulette

    November 14th, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    I always see that anger as such a negative thing that I have difficulty with thinking of how I can allow this to move me forward in a positive way.
    I guess that if I could find a way to channel it into something good instead of only something bad then that could definitely help. But truthfully I always feel like I just need to experience the anger that I am feeling and then let it all go.

  • Brayden

    Brayden

    November 16th, 2014 at 5:44 AM

    It is terribly difficult to let anything good in when you are hyper focused only on the bad :(

  • Oliver

    Oliver

    November 19th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    There are thousands of people all over the world who are right now struggling with the fact that they have allowed their anger to take over and they are using this in a way that is hurting many other thousands of people.

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