6 Surprising Benefits of Anger

Benefits of Anger

In recent years, researchers and health experts have recognized that anger, when used constructively, is an important, useful, and even beneficial emotion to well-being. It appears that anger, which can be destructive, also has a vital energy to it that motivates us to action, helps to improve communication in both personal and professional relationships, and promotes optimism, among other benefits.

Yet, for many people, anger is a fraught emotion. It can be misused to dominate and intimidate others in both work and personal relations—while others deny they have any angry feelings at all, as it may be too uncomfortable or scary to feel them.

Anger can facilitate greater cooperation and harmony in relationships. If the anger is justified, expressed constructively, and the response is appropriate, misunderstandings and conflict are often resolved. Click To Tweet

Anger is a powerful emotion that requires some skill to manage. On the one extreme, unchecked externalized anger can turn to violence and aggression; and on the other, repressed, internalized anger can cause depression, health problems, and communication difficulties. Somewhere in the middle, feeling and constructively expressing anger are essential and necessary to health and well-being. Let’s take a look at several ways anger helps you.

6 SURPRISING BENEFITS OF ANGER

1. Anger Helps Us to Survive

Scientific research recognizes that anger has played an important evolutionary role in ensuring survival. Our primal “fight” response stems from anger. Anger motivates us to vigilantly detect threats and sharpens our focus. When our safety is at risk or we are attacked, our anger is automatically activated and drives us to defend ourselves, sometimes quickly and forcefully. Anger essentially alerts us when someone or something wants to hurt us and provides the aggression needed to overcome a stronger attacker.

2. Anger Motivates Us

Researchers have discovered that anger is associated with what’s called approach-related motivation. They assert that there are two basic motivational forces that underlie all behavior—the impulse to approach, or move toward something desired, and the impulse to withdraw, or move away from unpleasantness. Approach motivation comprises emotions, cognitions, and actions that are driven by the wish to achieve desirable results.

As it turns out, research shows that anger significantly activates the left anterior cortex of the brain, which is associated with positive approach behaviors. Conversely, emotions such as fear and sadness activate the right frontal cortex, which is tied to the more negative, withdrawal motivational system, marked by inhibition, timidity, and avoidance of some kind of punishment or threat. Thus, anger can potentially provide you with the energy that may be necessary to take action towards achieving certain goals or to correct difficult or unjust situations.

Of course, the physiological arousal that happens with anger is motivating too—a quickened heartbeat and breath, as well as tense muscles. They prepare one to take critical action. A more passive or calm emotional state does not have the same impact on the body.

3. Anger Gives a Sense of Control and Optimism

Anger provides us with a sense of control and corresponding optimism. Anger propels us to use our individual power, alone or collectively, to inflict costs or withhold benefits to get what we need. Individuals who constructively experience and express their anger are in a better position to fulfill their needs and control their destiny than those who suppress their anger.

Harvard researcher Dr. Jennifer Lerner, who studies emotion and decision theory, found in one study that anger and risk assessment were associated with optimism and risk-taking, whereas fear was associated with pessimism and risk-aversion. Additionally, the study noted that angry people are more similar to happy people than fearful people in how they assess risk outcomes! Now that’s a surprise.

In another study, Lerner examined Americans’ reactions to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and discovered that angry feelings evoked a sense of clarity and control on a large scale, helping to reduce fear, ultimately allowing people to come together for a common cause. Interestingly, those who became angry were less prone to anticipate future attacks, while those who were fearful worried about future attacks.

In short, when we are angry, we can feel more optimistic about our ability to change a particular situation. This empowers us to take action and move from an undesirable position to a desirable one.

4. Anger Increases Cooperation

Anger can facilitate greater cooperation and harmony in relationships. If the anger is justified, expressed constructively, and the response is appropriate, misunderstandings and conflict are often resolved. The constructive expression of anger in personal relationships is healthy and necessary. It allows for greater emotional intimacy and/or cooperation.

A study published in Society for Personality and Social Psychology determined that too quickly moving to forgiveness is not healthy, stating, “Sometimes expressing anger might be necessary to resolve a problem—with the short-term discomfort of an angry but honest conversation benefiting the health of the relationship in the long-term.” Conversely, failing to express anger in a relationship can be destructive, according to one research study.

This can apply to all different types of relationships. Ultimately, expressing our anger constructively teaches people to respect us.

5. Anger Can Lead to Self-Improvement

Anger can serve as an opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth. Anger can be an indication that there’s a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. A willingness to look at the source of our anger can be beneficial. Being both curious about and constructive in exploring our anger can provide insight into our faults and shortcomings, and lead to character development and greater self-esteem.

One study examined how participants’ recent expressions of anger had impacted them.  More than half of the 747 participants responded that getting angry ultimately led to a positive outcome, and a full third of them observed that their experiences of anger had provided useful insight into their own faults.

6. Feeling Anger Expands Emotional Intelligence

Ultimately, having a willingness to embrace difficult emotions such as anger, rather than avoiding or repressing them, is a sign of emotional intelligence. When a person is emotionally intelligent, they do not resist anger, but instead, welcome it with curiosity and caution. Anger is potent, after all, and needs to be treated with care. People who practice this are more emotionally resilient as a result.

One study observed that “people who prefer to feel useful emotions, even when they are unpleasant to experience, must understand emotions and seek to regulate them in strategic ways.” The study also asserted that those who tend to only want happy feelings do not exhibit the same level of emotional intelligence or resilience. There’s a benefit to feeling and dealing with the unpleasant aspect of anger.

Working Through Anger

Science is still learning about how using our anger constructively helps us to be safe and healthy in the world. If you struggle with aggression and destructive anger or you have trouble expressing anger at all, talking to a mental health professional can help. Brain SPECT imaging can also provide valuable insights, as research shows that mild traumatic brain injuries can lead to aggression and violence in some people.

Destructive anger issues, intermittent explosive disorder, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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