I find it strange that anger is considered a negative emotion.
For clarity I'll mix and match some ideas. If you derive pleasure from
hurting someone, could you say it makes you feel happy, or joyful? This
is a positive emotion that creates a negative environment.
We can waffle and say that it is an action derived from a personal hurt,
etcetera. I don't buy that. Some people are just mean, and like it.
I have a lot of anger. I don't beat my wife and kids. I do say
scathing and horrible things to certain people. People who almost run
over a child crossing the street, people who act superior to others for
no other reason than an arbitrary title or amount of money. The list of
those goes on.
Anger, to me, get's things done. The sense of hesitation, fear,
sometimes even consequence disappear, and I am left with the ability of
There are reasons to avoid getting angry.
It make you feel bad (I guess. I feel bad when I get angry and can no
longer use someone to my benefit), it makes you do stupid things without
noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive.
As a result "normal" people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask
their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it's an infectious
disease that without proper treatment will kill millions.
But like all emotions anger has its purposes, which can be used to good
1. It Can Drive You
I rarely hear people say that anger is a positive energy. Sometimes I
hear people talking about using anger as a motivating force by 'turning
anger into positive energy', and even I have done this in explaining my
own anger. In fact anger itself is a kind of positive energy and a
powerful motivating force. Research has shown that anger can make us
push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers.
How often have you seen an apathetic person achieve their goals? When
we see something as beneficial, we want it more when we're angry. So,
when used right, constructive anger can make you feel strong and
powerful and help push you on to get what you want.
2. Angry people are more optimistic
It may sound like an odd thing to say, but angry people have something
in common with happy people. That's because both tend to be more
Here's one such article*:
"Effects of Fear and Anger on Perceived Risks of Terrorism
A National Field Experiment
The aftermath of September 11th highlights the need to understand how
emotion affects citizens' responses to risk. It also provides an
opportunity to test current theories of such effects. On the basis of
appraisal-tendency theory, we predicted opposite effects for anger and
fear on risk judgments and policy preferences. In a nationally
representative sample of Americans (N = 973, ages 13-88), fear increased
risk estimates and plans for precautionary measures; anger did the
opposite. These patterns emerged with both experimentally induced
emotions and naturally occurring ones. Males had less pessimistic risk
estimates than did females, emotion differences explaining 60 to 80% of
the gender difference. Emotions also predicted diverging public policy
preferences. Discussion focuses on theoretical, methodological, and
policy implications. "
3. Anger can benefit relationships
Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged by someone else and it's a
way of communicating that sense of injustice. But society tells us anger
is dangerous and we should hide it. What does this do to our personal
Research has shown that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be
detrimental. The problem is that when you hide your anger, your partner
doesn't know they've done something wrong. And so they keep doing it.
And that doesn't do your relationship any good.
The expression of anger, if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution
rather than just venting, can actually benefit and strengthen
4. Anger provides self-insight
Anger can also provide insight into ourselves, if we allow it.
A sample of Americans and Russians were asked about how recent outbursts
of anger had affected them. 55% claimed that getting angry had let to a
positive outcome. One top of this one-third said that anger provided an
insight into their own faults.
If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do
to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change.
5. Anger reduces violence
Although anger often precedes physical violence, it can also be a way of
reducing violence. That's because it's a very strong social signal that
a situation needs to be resolved. When others see the signal they are
more motivated to try and placate the angry party.
If you're still not convinced that anger might reduce violence, imagine
a world without anger where people had no method for showing how they
felt about injustice. Will they jump straight to violence?
6. Anger as negotiation strategy
Anger can be a legitimate way to get what you want. There's some
evidence that anger can be used as a negotiation strategy, but it's more
complicated than that. You can't just lose your rag and expect to win
everything you want.
Anger is likely to work best when it's justified, if you appear powerful
and when the other side's options are limited.
In the right circumstances, then, it's possible to both get mad and get
Deadly sin or constructive emotion?
I say anger can reduce violence, benefit relationships, promote optimism
and be a useful motivating force, but it can just as easily be
That's the wonder of human emotions: happy isn't always good and angry
isn't always bad (although it may feel that way). An unhappy person is
also more likely to spot mistakes and an angry person is highly
motivated to act. We need reminding that even scary and dangerous
emotions have their upsides, as long as they are used for the correct
The likely features of constructive anger are:
* that the person who caused the anger is present,
* that it is justified and proportionate to the wrongdoing,
* and it is expressed as the first step in trying to solve a
problem rather than just venting bad feeling.
People seem to unconsciously understand the benefits of anger. One study
found participants who were about to play a game requiring them to be
confrontational were more likely to listen to angry music beforehand or
think back to things that have made them angry. They then went on to
perform better in the task because they felt more angry.
Used right, anger can be a handy tool. But use with caution as people
find anger the most difficult of all the emotions to control.
*1. Jennifer S. Lerner
2. Roxana M. Gonzalez
3. Deborah A. Small
4. Baruch Fischhoff
+ <http://pss.sagepub.com/content/14/2/144> Author Affiliations
1. Carnegie Mellon University
2. Jennifer Lerner, Department of Social and Decision Sciences,
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail:
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